Team aims for the win at Sea Otter – Rally Cycling

Rally Cycling is heading back to the Sea Otter Classic for the festival of cycling that’s bigger than ever before. The women will take on both the criterium and road race on October 7 and 8. 

With a thirty-year history, the Sea Otter Classic is the most prestigious festival of its kind in the United States. Held annually at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, the four-day event can be considered as the world’s largest celebration of cycling. 

Team director Andrew Bajadali returns to the event having had a successful relationship with the classic. Bajadali won the men’s open race in the 2007 edition and has always been a great admirer of what he calls a “mainstay in American bike racing.” 

“The race is unique in that it’s also a festival for bike enthusiasts and industry representatives for product releases and testing,” Bajadali said.  

The event has always showcased the very best American bike racers. From road pros to gravel enthusiasts, MTB adrenaline junkies to enduro athletes, everyone is welcome.  

The mission of the race – to make people’s lives better through participation in sport and celebrating an active lifestyle – is very much in-tune with Rally Cycling’s own health and wellness message. 

Sea Otter Classic criterium  

The PRO/Open Women’s criterium will be a 50-minute race around the 2.4-mile long Laguna Seca racetrack on October 7. The course starts and finishes at the Tire Bridge and takes in the track’s iconic corkscrew bend. New Zealand national crit champ Olivia Ray will be lining up in the fern jersey, and gunning for her sixth criterium win of the season. 

Sea Otter Classic road race

The PRO/Open Women’s Road Race starts on October 8 and tackles a 54-mile route starting at the Tire Bridge and finishing on a climb up Barloy Canyon Road. The riders will head out to the stunning Fort Old National Monument and do multiple laps of a rolling circuit before heading back uphill.

Bajadali has strong hopes for the two races. “Our objectives are simple: go out on a high note by winning one or both races. We’ll have a full team, so my expectations are big.”

A memorable 2021 

The Sea Otter Classic will be one of the team’s last races of the season, so what better time to reflect on what has been a unique year for the team. Bajadali will come away with his own memories from his first year directing for the women’s program. 

“For me, what comes to mind are those moments when your team is all on the same page, motivated, fearless and hungry. These are the moments when results come easily. We had this at points during the year, but the goal is to strive for this always.”

With the team striving for Women’s WorldTour status, 2022 looks like it will be an even bigger year for the riders. 

Sea Otter facts

Another one of the Classic’s missions is to promote environmental protection. The festival takes its name from the indigenous mammals that call the Pacific coast home. What better way to celebrate the sea otter than by teaching Rally Cycling fans a little more about the local wildlife. 

  • They have the densest fur in the animal kingdom with up to one million hairs per square inch, toasty ♨️
  • Just like a pro cyclist, they eat a quarter of their own weight in food every day ?
  • You may notice that they sleep on their backs and look super cute whilst doing it ?
  • When they rest as a group, it’s called a raft and they hold hands to stay together ?
  • They are one of only a few species of animals that use tools. Could our mechanics be out of a job? ?
  • Sea otters are a keystone species and help to keep carbon dioxide levels low by eating sea urchins. Thanks, guys ?

Sea Otter Classic 2021 roster
Madeline Bemis
Holly Breck
Krista Doebel-Hickok
Heidi Franz
Sara Poidevin 
Olivia Ray
Emma White

— Oskar Scarsbrook to rallycycling.com

This isn’t Italy, this is Sicily – Rally Cycling

The Giro di Sicilia is back on our racing calendar after the pandemic led to its cancellation in 2020. Running from September 28 to October 1, the four-day Mediterranean island contest is arguably the most anticipated men’s stage race of the fall block. 

General classification hunter Gavin Mannion will be returning to race in Sicily, having helped former teammate Brandon McNulty to overall victory in 2019.

More than 85% of Sicily is made up of hills and mountains, a feature that makes it the ideal challenge for Mannion.

“I was hoping there would be a Mount Etna stage again, but the last few days are plenty mountainous even without using the volcano,” says Mannion. “There are some significant climbs near the end of the final stages that will really shake up the racing and make it interesting.”

It’s been a busy racing block for Mannion, but the Massachusetts all-rounder is relishing the opportunity to take on a race that suits his skill set. 

“I feel good. I feel like I’ve recovered well, and I am now looking forward to testing my form in a race that suits me a bit better than the Tour of Britain and Volta a Portugal.”

Mannion has recovered well in the run-in to his return to Sicily

Mannion and his teammates will face stiff competition in the forms of Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler (both Movistar Team), Romain Bardet (Team DSM), David de la Cruz (UAE-Team Emirates) and local hero Vincenzo Nibali (Trek – Segafredo), all set to race.

How Sicily is different to Italy 

It may only be separated from the Italian mainland by 3km of water – patrolled by mythical creatures – but the shoe is very different to the boot. 

“Being an island with a big volcano that dominates the landscape. It’s a unique place to race,” says Mannion.

The island was an independent kingdom for 745 years up until 1816 so it does things a little differently to the Italian mainland. This storied history is reflected in the awe-inspiring ancient Greek ruins that can be found on the island. It has its own language too, with an impressive nine dialects. 

This variety is because pre-independence, Sicily had been under Byzantine, Arab, Roman, and Norman rule, making the island one of the most culturally diverse areas in Italy. As a result, locals see themselves as Sicilians first and Italians second.

The difference between the two land masses is also reflected in the cycling landscape. 

“Sicily’s definitely different from the rest of Italy. It’s kind of the wild west out there,” says Mannion. “The roads go from nice Italian pavement to suddenly bombed-out, pothole-filled crazy descents, so you’ve always got to pay attention.” 

Mannion’s daunting description of the Sicilian road surfaces is something the team will be unable to escape, particularly on the mid-section of stage 3 as the peloton tackles the Pollina climb. 

For more information on the Mediterranean island and race details, we’ve cobbled together some fast and thought-provoking facts for Rally Cycling fans.

Quick Sicilian fact-file

  • Mount Etna is an active volcano ?
  • The island has 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites ?
  • It’s home to the largest opera house in Italy ?
  • Sicilian’s eat ice-cream sandwiches for breakfast (brioche and gelato) ?
  • The sonnet was created on the island ?
  • Sicily is home to the ‘Shark of Messina’ Vincenzo Nibali ?

Stage by stage  

9/28 Stage 1 | Avola – Licata (179km) Rolling
The opening stage begins with an undulating start to the day before the route cuts inland to climb Ragusa Ibla. From there the race heads back to the coast before an expected bunch sprint on a slightly uphill finishing drag. 

9/29 Stage 2 | Selinunte (Castelvetrano) – Mondello (Palermo) (173km) Medium mountains
A succession of energy-sapping rolling roads and a few sizable hills lead to the final short but steep categorized climb in Carini. From there, the approach to the finish in the Sicilian capital of Palermo is incredibly technical which ought to favour a breakaway.

9/30 Stage 3 | Termini Imerese – Caronia (180km) Medium mountains, uphill finish
Stage three is raced on typically rough roads. The route starts with a diversion inland before returning to the Tyrrhenian coast for the run-in to the final 4km climb. With 12 switchbacks, it’s a dizzying and steep finish.  

10/1 Stage 4 | Sant’Agata di Militello – Mascali (180km) Mountainous
The final stage truly lives up to the island’s mountainous billing. The first half of stage 4 takes in the Portella Mandrazzi climb before heading up the Sciarra di Scorciavacca ascent in the foothills of Etna for the finale. A fast descent then delivers the peloton to the race’s final destination of Mascali.

Giro di Sicilia roster
Nate Brown
Charles-Étienne Chrétien
Ben King
Gavin Mannion
Kyle Murphy
Emerson Oronte
Keegan Swirbul 

How to watch

Comprehensive race coverage from every stage at the Giro di Sicilia can be found on Eurosport Player and the GCN+ app. 

Following Sicily, the team will return to the mainland to race Gran Piemonte on October 7.

— Oskar Scarsbrook to rallycycling.com

A North American’s guide to the Tour of Britain – Rally Cycling

You may not know this, but a lot of the articles on the Rally Cycling website – including the one you’re currently reading – are written by British authors. Therefore, we have a unique insight into the race that Kyle Murphy recently described as the team’s “biggest goal” of the late-season, the Tour of Britain.   

Running from September 5-12, the race will take on one of its hilliest routes to date as it travels from the southwest of England all the way to the north of Scotland. For a country roughly the size of Alabama, Britain sure does pack in some fantastic cycling, centuries of history and tonnes of culture. 

This is a guide to the Tour of Britain for Americans – written by Brits – and will lay out some of the reasons this year’s edition can’t be missed.

Why the Tour of Britain is such a big deal 

Much like the recent Joe Martin Stage Race in the US, the Tour of Britain is the UK’s first UCI stage race in more than two years. The last edition was won by Mathieu van der Poel in 2019 and with a total elevation of 18,914 meters, a wide range of stage profiles and a massively strong field, this year’s edition promises to be even more explosive. 

Follow carefully because this may get confusing, but the route of the Tour of Britain passes through three different countries.

Britain (an island), the British Isles (an archipelago) and the United Kingdom (a country) are three entirely different entities, but their names are often used interchangeably, which can be incredibly confusing.  

In fact, ‘Britain’ refers to a geographic landmass – the island on which you’ll find the countries of England, Scotland and Wales. These three countries and Northern Ireland make up the country known as the UK. The race this year has stages in all three nations, and there’s a hard-to-understand regional accent to contend with almost every day, not to mention the ancient Gaelic languages in Wales and Scotland. So, the riders will be “welcome” in England, “croeso” in Cymru (Wales) and “fáilte” in Alba (Scotland).

This year’s Tour of Britain is an ideal warmup for the UCI World Championships in Belgium. The 2021 road races from Antwerp to Leuven follow a relentless undulating route, much like the profiles to be tackled at the Tour of Britain. This is why the likes of multi-talented superstar Wout Van Aert (Team Jumbo-Visma) and 2018 winner Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick Step), have come to tune-up their legs on the characteristically heavy, rolling roads of Britain. 

The rest of the start list is also just as strong. This year will be a homecoming for the Tour de France’s green jersey winner, Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick Step), as well a chance for young talents like Ethan Hayter (INEOS Grenadiers) and Tobias Foss (Team Jumbo-Visma) – and our men in orange – to match themselves against the world’s best. Rally Cycling alumni Michael Woods (Israel Start-Up Nation) is also on the start list and our own Joey Rosskopf is one of five national champions lining up. 

Finally, since its modern revival in 2004, there has never been a North American overall or stage winner. In fact, there has never been a podium for an American rider. Americans Philip Zajicek and Chris Jones finished in fourth place in 2005 and 2012 respectively, and Canadian Christian Meier finished seventh in 2010. Could 2021 be a landmark year at the Tour of Britain for our American and Canadian contingent? 

British slang quiz

For a country that boasts the literary talents of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen, Britain has some bizarre words and phrases. To get Rally Cycling fans talking the lingo, we’ve made a multiple-choice quiz. You can find the answers at the bottom of the page, below the team roster.  

What is someone doing if they are “taking the mickey?”
Taking a ride on the subway ?
Mocking someone ?
Kidnapping a mascot from Disneyland ? 

What is a “good old chin wag?”
A long conversation with someone ?
A shave from a barber ?
An uppercut ?

What is a “bodge?”
An improvised repair job completed in a hurry that will likely fail ?
A small bird native to the Scottish coast ?
A type of play in soccer ⚽️ 

What will you get if you order “chips” in Britain?
Potato wedges

What is a “pea souper?”
A traditional Welsh breakfast dish ???????
A thick morning city fog ?
A restaurant with a terrible menu ? 

Stage by stage 

9/5 Stage 1 | Penzance – Bodmin (180.8km) Undulating
The opening stage sees the riders tour the county of Cornwall. It’s an undulating stage with a slight uphill rise inside the final kilometer. 

9/6 Stage 2 | Sherford – Exeter (183.9km) Hilly
The hilliest stage of the race with the riders climbing a total 3,499 meters. There will likely be fireworks on the run-in to Exeter.

9/7 Stage 3 | Llandeilo – National Botanic Garden of Wales (18.2km) TTT
Stage 3 enters Wales for a team time -trial on a relatively flat course. The finish is across from a beautiful dome-shaped, 110-meter-long greenhouse.

9/8 Stage 4 | Aberaeron – Great Orme, Llandudno (210km) Hilly, uphill finish
Another stage in Wales, the longest day of the week, involves some serious climbing including the category 1 Eidda’s Well and steep uphill finish on the Great Orme peninsula. 

9/9 Stage 5 | Alderley Park – Warrington (152.2km) Sprint stage
Back into England for day five, the stage to Warrington is the first obvious chance for the sprinters. A hilly start to proceedings quickly gives way to a flat run-in to the line. 

9/10 Stage 6 | Carlisle – Gateshead (198km) Hilly
A perfect stage for riders who are gearing up for the hilly World Championships in Belgium, stage 6 in the far North of England may be the most exciting of the lot. 

9/11 Stage 7 | Hawick – Edinburgh (194.8km) Hilly
The penultimate stage starts on the Scottish Borders and finishes in the country’s picturesque capital. This could be a day for the breakaway so look out for Rally Cycling orange up the road. 

9/12 Stage 8 | Stonehaven – Aberdeen (173km) Sprint stage
The final stage of the race is an entirely Scottish affair. The closing kilometers are on a straight road right next to the North Sea. It promises to be a truly stunning finish in a fast-paced bunch sprint. 

Tour of Britain Roster
Robin Carpenter
Colin Joyce
Gavin Mannion
Kyle Murphy
Joey Rosskopf
Nicholas Zukowsky 

How to watch 

Comprehensive race coverage from every stage at the Tour of Britain can be caught on Eurosport Player and the GCN+ app. 

British slang quiz answers

What is someone doing if they are “taking the mickey?”
Taking a ride on the subway ?
Mocking someone ?
Going to Disneyland ? 

What is a “good old chin wag?”
A long conversation with someone ? (like a post-race debrief)
A shave from a barber ?
An uppercut ? 

What is a “bodge?”
An improvised repair job completed in a hurry that will likely fail ? (something our mechanics never do)
A small bird native to the British coast ?
A play in soccer ⚽️ 

What will you get if you order “chips” in Britain?
Potato wedges

What is a “pea souper?”
A traditional Welsh breakfast dish ???????
A thick morning city fog ? (“it’s a right pea souper at the start of this stage”)
A restaurant with a rubbish starter menu ?

— Oskar Scarsbrook to rallycycling.com