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Team CLIF Bar's Winter Stoke Meter is HIGH!
Chris Benchetler getting it good. photo - Peter Morning
Team Clif Bar Blog
Apr 21, 2005
Sea Otter (unabridged)

You know how folks get to go on ‘Ride-Alongs’ with the police every once in a while?  Always sounded kinda interesting to me to make like a cop for an evening.

To my delight, I recently ended up down at the Sea Otter Classic doing a ‘Ride-Along’ with the pro race announcers. Rick Sutton, Mr. Sea Otter himself, attended the Team CLIF BAR Evening with Hans Rey event a while back and asked if I’d be interested in doing some announcing work at Sea Otter. Sounded to me like Rick had lost his mind, but that was no reason not to do it.

I ended up working with some of the best announcers and broadcast folks in the biz. Dave Towle, Richard Fries, Larry Longo, Tom Simpson, Heather Szabo, Chad Peterson and Mark Langowiski were all on-hand to show me the ropes. I was the back-up. The ‘Sixth Man’ in case Richard or Dave got hit by lightening or attacked by a tiger. Glen Stilwell somehow kept the whole crazy crew in order throughout the event, and Naked Man (I think that’s his real name) worked the sound board and apparently also drives the gigantoid truck around.

I saw firsthand that race announcing is a non-stop gig that requires a significant amount of energy and knowledge. It’s not easy to talk all day and actually say things that an audience will find interesting. I was endlessly impressed with how the announcing team worked together and riffed off each other to keep the commentary buzzing and fresh.

Here’s a quick list of some of the lessons I learned while living the plush life of a race announcer:

• No matter how nice and warn the rest of Monterey is, the main announcing booth at Sea Otter is basically a wind tunnel. Perfect for testing the effectiveness of the fancy jackets Adidas dressed us up in. But pretty scary when a big gust blew Richard all the way across Laguna Seca to the bottom of the Dual Slalom course where, luckily, he got caught in some snow fencing and the emergency crews were able to retrieve him.

• When the ‘Thank You’ list includes a local high school math club, let’s get those little mathletes out to the Time Trial course so they can keep track of the times. We could’ve used them. Math is hard.

• There are areas at the bottom of the downhill course that may look suitable for parking large, heavy pick-ups, but don’t be fooled. Turns out the ground has a quicksand-like quality. One truck was in up to its front grill – and that’s pretty far in when you consider the 8” lift kit. When I went by later, either someone had eventually pulled the truck out or it had sunk completely.

• When Chad says, “Let’s take my car,” it might sound like a time-saver, but don’t forget to factor in that Chad doesn’t know what kind of rental car he has and he doesn’t really recall where he parked it. “It’s silver with Nevada plates,” may work at 7am when there are only a few other cars in the lot, but at noon when the lot’s full, the game changes significantly. It’s pretty amazing just how many silver cars are actually out there. I thought pink was the new black, but I guess it must be silver.

• Before spending all day with a microphone in-hand announcing to a large audience it’s probably not a good idea to listen to music containing an excess of profanity. On the drive to Monterey, I found myself listening to a chorus of “Die, M_____ F_____, Die,” and quickly asked that we put on another CD. I envisioned calling the race finish on the main stage, broadcast by radio across Monterey County, and when Dave energetically screams into the microphone, “THE FINISH IS EXPLODING!  THIS SPRINT IS TAKING NO PRISONERS!  DYLAN, IT’S YOUR CALL…”  And, I say something like “THANKS, B____. THESE M_____ F______ are F______ FLYING!” Then, I’d never work in the industry again.

Race announcing is fun. I’m hooked. Need a race announcer, just give me a ring and I’ll shake this crazy Team CLIF job so quick it’ll spin heads. But that’s our little secret, OK?  Don’t tell the Blog Mafia Jeff and Stephen.

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Le Sensation American
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