MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — The 24th edition of the Sea Otter Classic gets under way Thursday with a host of first-time exhibitors, increased race registration, new events and a greatly expanded e-bike presence.
Expo sales for the April 10-13 fest, presented this year by new title sponsor Subaru, are up 25 percent this year as new exhibitors have signed on and returning suppliers and sponsor expanded their exhibition space, noted Frank Yohannan, Sea Otter's founder, president and CEO.
"What it's telling me is that a lot of young companies are either optimistic about the industry and what this year has to offer, or they recognize that Sea Otter is such an important event that they need to be there," he said.
On the racing side, athlete registration is up 13 percent from last year—"and last year was a very good year," Yohannan noted.
New to the race schedule this year is the SRAM Enduro Hosted by Lapierre, bringing the hotly popular mountain bike discipline to Sea Otter for the first time. A field limited to 200 will ride three timed stages at Fort Ord National Monument, with untimed transition stages in between that must be pedaled—no shuttles allowed.
For the less competitively inclined, the Specialized Grand Fondo—consisting of 49- and 96-mile road routes and a 24-mile mountain bike ride—is stronger than ever with about 1,600 riders registered among the three rides, up more than 10 percent from last year, according to Yohannan.
E-bike demos were a new feature at last year's Sea Otter, and they're back in an expanded form for 2014 with separate test tracks for electrified road and mountain bikes.
This year's fest is also serving as the U.S. launch pad for the Bosch electric pedal-assist system, the dominant e-bike platform in Europe. The German company, a Sea Otter sponsor this year, will have more than 25 bikes with the system available for dirt and road demos. Haibike, Lapierre, Felt, Gates Carbon Drive and NuVinci are among the brands that will show Bosch-equipped e-bikes.
"Us bringing Bosch in as a sponsor has been a positive," Yohannan said. "I think we will be able to tell where the e-bike growth is going during and after Sea Otter. The e-bike component hasn't made a huge impact yet [in the U.S.], but I think the potential for it is huge. I think we'll see that probably in 2015."