Anna Yamauchi is a rookie on the women’s scorecard of the 2023 Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda, one of 20 new women competing in the seven-race off-road series for a share in a $250,000 total prize purse. Before the first bumps and barges on the singletrack at Sea Otter Classic’s Fuego XL 100K this Saturday, Yamauchi is already an imposing contender for the second running of the Grand Prix.
Imposing for her technical abilities on a mountain bike more so than her stature, the 5-foot 4-inch California native parlayed her love for skiing into a newfound joy and job on the bike. In her third year of racing bikes, she’s soared to the win this year in Bakersfield at Rock Cobbler and podiums at Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona and Cactus Cup.
In 2021 she won a collegiate mountain bike race in Monterrey, and last year she was 13th at Sea Otter’s Fuego XL 80K MTB, but was not among the riders taking part in the Life Time Grand Prix. This year, she’s a contender for the longer Fuego XL and top points in the Grand Prix.
“Sea Otter, I have done before, and I can be strong there. I grew up on loose, sandy gravel in Truckee, so it’s similar,” Yamauchi told Cyclingnews about lining up in Monterey, a little more than 140 miles north of where she attends California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
“After finding some more success this season with two second places at BWR AZ and Cactus Cup, I’m excited to bring this momentum and confidence into Sea Otter while racing against a stacked and fast field! Should be a whole lot of fun and eager to start the Grand Prix season.”
The US-based off-road racing series expanded their invitation-only roster from 60 to 70 athletes for 2023, the numbers divided evenly for pro women and pro men competing across seven events. Riders tally series points at each race, the best results from five of the seven counting towards the final standings.
“Life Time is the best testing ground to learn from the best girls in the US. Being so new in the sport and being able to race at such a high level is a great opportunity. To race the Grand Prix was something I couldn’t pass up,” she said.
Last year at Fuego XL, which was 20 kilometres shorter than this year’s 100km distance, Yamauchi rode between big-time competitors that included Katerina Nash, Kaysee Armstrong and Sarah Sturm, who finished just in front of her, while other Grand Prix riders Melisa Rollins and Emily Newsom followed behind in her dust….
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