This multi-day festival at Blue Mountain will showcase the best cycling in Ontario, with thrilling races and lots of opportunities to get dirty.

Words | Cara Williams.  Photos | Clay Dolan

Racers climb the infamous Grey Road 19 (a.k.a Castle Glen)

Last spring, three local riders got together to discuss the idea of bringing a cycling festival to The Blue Mountains. Rather than starting a festival from scratch, Chris Robinson, Simon Williams, and Jesper Wahlberg scoured the world for existing large-scale cycling properties that would translate well to the Escarpment.

Avid cyclists are certainly familiar with Monterey, California’s Sea Otter Classic bike festival, but few have had the pleasure of attending, or competing, until now – thanks to Chris, Simon and Jesper, this legendary cycling festival is headed north of the border as ‘Sea Otter Canada’ lands at Blue Mountain Resort July 4-7, 2019.

Ben Reasbeck at Blue Mountain

Founded in 1991 by mountain bike pioneer Frank Yohannan, the first Sea Otter Classic was a local race for early adopters of mountain biking. It quickly grew into the largest cycling festival in the world and garnered attention from large players in the bike industry. Now in its 29th year, the Sea Otter Classic attracts upwards of 10,000 athletes, 75,000 fans, and 450 vendors representing over 850 brands during the fiveday California event, and has recently expanded to Girona, Spain.

The multi-day festival at Blue Mountain will showcase the best cycling in Ontario with thrilling races and lots of opportunities to get dirty. Sea Otter Canada has fun for the family with bike demos, pump tracks, industry superstars and opportunities to test out the latest and greatest cycling products. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Sea Otter Cycling Canada Inc. to introduce our celebration of cycling to the Canadian market,” said Frank Yohannan, president and CEO of the Sea Otter Classic. “Reaching more cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts has been the longstanding goal of Sea Otter. Blue Mountain is the perfect location for us to be able to expand our reach to the Canadian cycling community.”

Katie Button in Three Stage

To create the best possible experience, the team has devised a plan for each individual event to showcase the varied biking terrain accessible on the Escarpment. Expect to see many of the same events and activities as the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA: Mountain Bike racing (Dual Slalom, Downhill, Enduro, XC Short Track and Pump Track); Road Cycling events (Criterium, Gran Fondo, Gravel, Hill Climb and Stage Race) along with Hub & Spoke recreational rides and an 8-hour XC Relay that climbs trails around the expo area will blend racing with family fun. In addition, children’s activities, an expansive product expo and entertainment program are just some of the highlights for the whole family to enjoy at Sea Otter Canada.

Racers climb Side Road 9 near Redwing

“For the road community there are the tried and true event options,” explains Jesper. “The Gran Fondo and a CRIT Race will be quite the spectacle as the course runs right through the main stroll at the Village at Blue. An exciting gravel route has also been developed and will see participants take a gnarly dirt road up the Escarpment, before hitting some of the best and most scenic gravel roads in all of Ontario.

For the hard-core road racing community, Sea Otter has set up an option that includes all five road events to be completed as a stage race, believed to be the only stage race available in Ontario.

Alan Lo, Matt Sharp, Nancy Shackell Newman and Glenn Wark on Grey Road 119 near Loree

To showcase the best the Blue Mountain area has to offer, Sea Otter Canada will host local elite riders to ‘take down’ the current KOM’s (King of the Mountains) and QOM’s (Queen of the Mountains) on two of the most feared climbs in the area: Scenic Caves on the road and The Grind on the mountain bike. Both are classed as H3-level climbs, with average grades of over 9 percent for roughly two miles.

Haily Dolan at Kolapore

During the festival, expo and race, over 250 brands will be present offering fleets of demo bikes, demonstrations, as well as meet-and-greets with pro athletes. There’ll also be an emphasis on local food and craft breweries along with live concerts, and cult classic bike movies like “Hellof the North” will be screened under the open sky. For those looking to bring the family, Sea Otter Canada offers a kid-zone and a junior pump track. Plus, Blue Mountain has endless options of family activities ranging from pools, the Mountain Coaster and Zip Lining experiences, just to name a few.

Alan Lo, Matt Sharp, Nancy Shackell Newman and Glenn Wark climbing Grey Road 19

Whether you’re a roadie, mountain biker, downhiller or e-bike lover, there will be exciting events and endless action for the whole family. |E|

To learn more about the festival and register, visit