Sea Otter Classic - Fuego XL 2023

Sea Otter Classic - Fuego XL 2023

 Episode 89 of the Dirty Chain Podcast featuring Dylan Johnson

As anticipated, the 2023 Sea Otter Fuego XL was an exciting and highly competitive race, with some of the world's best off-road cyclists gathering to compete. The first in the Lifetime Grand Prix series of races, the course was set in the scenic hills of California. The race was challenging, with technical features and steep climbs that tested the riders' skills and endurance.

Coming in at just under 70 miles and 9000 feet of elevation gain, the course featured several decisive sections, which the riders encountered twice with the Fuego XL being a two lap race. From the start, the race started with a punchy climb out of the Leguna Seca Raceway that immediately put pressure on the field. While not the longest or steepest of climbs, the top racers saw well over 500 watts for around the first two minutes of racing. 

Out of the raceway, the course consisted of a varied mix of single-track and fire roads, all of which were loose and dry with lots of rough wash out due to the heavy rain fall earlier in the season. Rarely flat, the racers constantly battled the up and down terrain. Hurl Hill climbing out of Couch Canyon in the first five miles was the first of the major climbs on the dirt and saw gradients of over 20%, causing separation in both the men and women's fields. 

Easily the most iconic and also challenging of sections occurs toward the end of each lap as the racers make their way back toward the Leguna Seca Raceway. Lookout Ridge Road is a steep and exposed climb, creating the perfect conditions for attacks. Spectators line the sides of the trail and cheer on the riders as they grind up the segment that hits well over a 15% gradient with several hours of racing already in their tired legs. 

The Sea Otter Classic Fuego XL proved once again to be not only an exciting race but also the perfect start to the Lifetime Grand Prix. Despite the challenging terrain and conditions, this year's race was blazing fast, with the top pro men finishing in just over four hours and the top pro women finishing close behind in just under five. Keegan Swenson out-sprinted Russel Finsterwald for the men's overall win, while Sophia Gomez Villafane took the win for the women. 

Fuego XL Full Results

Check out the Dirty Chain Podcast episode 89 where they caught up with pro cyclist, Dylan Johnson, to hear about his experience racing the Fuego XL.