Sea Otter Classic XC MTB Beginner Course Needs Better Signage


April 30, 2008 by ladyfleur

Mr. Frost,

I’m writing this to express my displeasure about the errors in the course markings for the XC Beginner Womens course at this year’s Sea Otter Classic.

I’m sure that you are aware of the two intersections on the course where “10 mile Off-road Tour” signs led racers off course. But let me clarify that I am talking about the signs at the junction of Pilarcitos Road and Lookout Ridge Roads and a second set at the junction of Trail 44 and Skyline Road. At both locations there were yellow signs that said “10 mile off-road tour” and red and white signs that said “xc race” with “20 miles” a handwritten on them.

Sea Otter 2008 crop

I will not focus on how it made me or fellow racers feel about the race or the race organizers. I encourage you to read race reports to understand its impact. Links are provided below.

Nor will I focus on correcting race results. The race times of racers who took the first cutoff were obvious and thus corrected at the event. And since taking second cutoff merely reduced the course by about 1.5 miles, there was no way to untangle those times.

Rather, I will be very specific about what I’d like to see in the future:

  • Station course marshalls with flags at intersections where two courses diverge. Signs are not enough and there really aren’t that many places where courses diverge.
  • Use cones to “block” likely erroneous turnoffs, especially in high speed areas like flats or descents. For example, on Pilarcitos Canyon Rd past the Lookout Ridge turnoff. No one should have to look for much less stop to read signs in places where one choice is no one’s course.
  • Station course marshalls at intersections which cut the course. While I believe the racers who did not take the turn at Trail 44 did so accidentally, not having a course marshall there leaves it wide open for cheaters to cut over a mile off the course. No one with a race number should have been riding on the stretch of Skyline between Trail 44 and Oil Well Road and I saw a 4-5 when I approached Trail 44.
  • Stop referring to the Beginner short course as a “10 mile race”. The motionbased data found on your site lists it as 12.8 miles and that doesn’t include the portion of the race on the race track. Not only does that cause racers problems in pacing themselves, it makes them question whether they’re on the course when their bike computer reads 12 miles. Plus it does not give proper credit for effort. Women, clydesdales and juniors have enough trouble getting respect from the faster riders as it is.
  • When race awards for a field are postponed due to protests or corrections, award them at the start of the next award ceremony. Not only did I have to wait until Saturday to get award for a Friday race, I had to wait through over an hour of awards for Saturday morning races (Sport men, Sport women). It just added to the feeling that the Beginner racers don’t matter as much.


Sea Otter is a unique experience for cyclists. It’s a rare time when all cyclists–roadies, mountain bikers, downhillers, BMX–gather to watch the pros, check out the latest gear and even race the same courses the pros they do. It’s special and irreplaceable. Unfortunately, I’m finding more and more people using the term “Sea Otter’d” meaning disallusioned, disgusted or otherwise unhappy with their Sea Otter experience.

I understand that there is so much going on at Sea Otter it must be a logistical nightmare. And I understand you can’t please everyone all the time. But I’m asking you to please make some of these small changes to show respect to the recreational racers who come from far and wide to make Sea Otter their only race of the year.

Thank you for hearing my requests.

Janet Lafleur
Mountain View, CA

Some Race Report Links:


6 thoughts on “Sea Otter Classic XC MTB Beginner Course Needs Better Signage

  1. ladyfleur says:


    Thanks for your e mail.

    We are looking at all the items you mentioned – although it does seem odd that only two groups read the wrong arrows.

    At the end of the day, a basic tenet of racing is that the athlete must know the race course – it is their responsibility.

    Having said that, we are looking at making the courses a bit more “fool proof” from a signage perspective.

    Thanks again for providing us valuable event feedback.

    Be well.

    Director of Athlete and Sponsor Services
    Sea Otter Classic

    • ladyfleur says:

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate that you will consider my requests. However, I take exception to two of your comments:

      “although it does seem odd that only two groups read the wrong arrows.”
      Did you talk to the race officials in charge of the results? They “corrected” results in at least 5 of the 7 categories that did the 10 mile race–W 30-39, 40-44, 45+, SS, clydesdales. And they missed one in the U18 girls where the winner is still listed with an impossible 49 min time.

      “a basic tenet of racing is that the athlete must know the race course – it is their responsibility.”
      And it is the responsibility of the race director to ensure that the course is actually marked for all categories. At two points on the course, 10 mile XC racers faced a pair of signs where neither described their race. Given these choices: “20 mi XC race” and “10 mi Off-road Tour” and knowing you were doing a 10 mile XC race, which would you have chosen? This is not the case of a few distracted riders missing a difficult turn.

      I’m asking you to review more carefully what actually happened here. Talk to the race officials on site. Read the reports of racers and spectators (http://www.velobell topic.php? id=1487&forum_ id=13 ). We all want Sea Otter to continue to be the premier celebration of cycling on the West Coast, if not the US.


      • ladyfleur says:


        I was on-site and actually looked at the turn and signage in question. The red arrow says cross country – the 10 mile arrow does not say cross country anywhere on it.

        No, actually it is the rider’s responsibility to follow the correct red arrow for cross country – as the arrow said. In all my years of race promotion I have never followed an arrow that had a distance on it –

        I appreciate your frustration and we can both chalk this one up to a lesson learned.

        Be well.

        Director of Athlete and Sponsor Services
        Sea Otter Classic

  2. ladyfleur says:

    OK, even if you have no sympathy for the riders who followed the 10 mile signs, would you consider the effect on the racers (like me) who DID follow the red arrows to ride the complete course?

    You not only failed to provide a course marshall at Trail 44 & Skyline to prevent people from cutting the course, but instead put up a sign that encouraged people to take a > 1 mile shortcut. Unlike the shortcut at Pilarcitos & Lookout Ridge, this shortcut was short enough to go undetected in the race times, but long enough to significantly affect results. And the racers who cut the course probably didn’t even have a clue they had done anything wrong.

    I’m really disappointed that you cannot admit that your course marshalling and signage was inadequate to ensure a fair race.


    • ladyfleur says:

      Actually, I did – those are the lessons learned with the beginner race.
      Thankfully we had no problems with the other 3 cross country races.

      Director of Athlete and Sponsor Services
      Sea Otter Classic

  3. […] I wrote my first letter of complaint ever to the race director. I let him know the impact on us as racers, but focused on what I wanted […]

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