Day 2 of the Sea Otter Classic ushered in another day of sunny weather. The MTB Time Trial put two new racers - Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles/Kenda) and Ralph Naef (Multivan Merida) on top of the podium while the SRAM MTB Omnium leaders, Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida), and Jean Christoph Peraud (Orbea) got to hold on to the leaders' jersey for another day.
The SRAM MTB Pro Gravity Omnium gets underway tomorrow with the roadies making their debut in the SRAM Pro NRC Circuit Race. The qualifying round of SRAM Invitational Dirt Jump Competition kicks off at 3 pm.
Below is a sampling of today's stories:
Mary McConneloug Makes Up for Lost Time
Naef Balances Pain and Perfection for His First Win at Sea Otter
By Wendy Booher
Monterey, CA - When she missed her start time in last year's Sea Otter Classic MTB Time Trial, Mary McConneloug (Seven Cycles/Kenda) slid down the overall results faster than luge racer going for Olympic gold.
"I came up two minutes late to my start and all that time was added to finishing time," said McConneloug. "I think I would have finished second or third that day but they put me in forty-second or something."
Today McConneloug made up for lost time by finishing first in Day 2 of the SRAM MTB Omnium. McConneloug executed a near flawless race on a course that exposed racers' finely tuned skills and strategies.
"I got two laps in before I raced and I felt like I got a couple of good lines," explained McConneloug. "There were some very thick, muddy sections, some boggy sections; you kind of needed to know where there were mud pits and where the ground was going to be a little more solid. It was easy to slip out and easy to lose a couple seconds with the wrong turn so it's going to be exciting to see the results."
Top five results for today's Women's MTB Time Trial are:
1. Mary McConneloug (SEVEN CYCLES/KENDA) 00:04:27
The 132 tires that rolled over the course during the Women's MTB Time Trial dramatically altered the surface so that by the time the men's race started, it was an entirely different course with deeper ruts, thicker mud and more skittish lines. Newcomer, Ralph Naef (Multivan Merida), rode a commanding race oscillating between perfection and pain to win his first event ever at the Sea Otter Classic.
"It was really hard at the start and you push "full gas" but you don't know how fast you are," said Naef. "You just feel really bad and there's pain in your legs. I didn't feel really good but in the downhill I had the perfect line and that was good because here in this downhill it's not so easy. If you make one little mistake like you go 10 centimeters on the side, you'll go in a hole and get dumped. It's also a little bit of luck because it's not so easy to hold the line here."
Despite a crash that put a couple seconds into his time, power-monger Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) managed to slide into fourth place in today's Time Trial.
Top five results for today's Men's MTB Time Trial are:
1. Ralph Naef (Multivan Merida Biking Team) 00:03:45
The leader board remains the same after Day 2 in the SRAM MTB Omnium:
The MTB Omnium continues tomorrow with the Men's Heat 1 starting at 12:30 for the MTB Short Track. Women's Short Track goes off at 1:15 with the Men's Heat 2 starting at 2 pm. For results, schedule, and more info, visit: www.seaotterclassic.com
Gravity: It's Not Just a Good Idea, It's the Law
SRAM MTB Pro Gravity Omnium Preview
By Chris Milliman
With an eye on the weather forecast and another on the course, gravity riders are preparing for the opening of the 2006 Sea Otter Classic SRAM MTB Pro Gravity Omnium with no small amount of trepidation. With the Dual Slalom, Mountain Cross, and Downhill courses already sodden from the heavy spring rains, racers are being forced to adjust to challenging conditions, which themselves are in a state of constant flux. But no matter the weather, the Omnium will showcase the likes of gravity stars Jared Graves, the reigning Sea Otter Omnium and Downhill Champion; Nathan Rennie, the defending Sea Otter Dual Slalom Champion; Jill Kintner, 2005 Mountain Cross World Champion; and Mick Hannah, the 2004 Sea Otter Omnium, Downhill and Dual Slalom Champion.
While the Dual Slalom and Downhill courses continue in their traditional locations, the newly relocated Mountain Cross course presents a unique set of challenges. Minimal elevation change and a plethora of soft spots in track. Pedaling and staying out of the soft stuff will be the name of the game in Sunday's Mountain Cross finals.
"It's like a big BMX track," said mountain cross World Champion Brian Lopes of the new mountain cross course. "There's a lot of pedaling and not much elevation change. The mud is super soft and it pretty much stops you in your tracks if you hit the wrong line, the course designers did the best they could with the conditions and location. The soil around here is just soft and then you add in the rain and it's going to be a soft track."
The steep sections of the Downhill course remain reasonably unaffected by the soggy conditions, but every other part, including the notorious uphill drag, continue to confound racers as they attempt to figure a method for navigating the deep mud. However, with overnight rain forecast for the Laguna Seca area, riders could well find the course muddier still through Saturday's practice sessions.
"Some of the course is a bit better today," said Specialized Bicycle's downhiller Anneke Beerden, "but it is still really muddy on the flatter sections. I'm going to run my mountain cross bike because the speeds are going to be slow. But if it rains, I think everyone will have to run mud spike tires, that mud is very thick and perhaps some rain could thin the mud and make it easier to pedal."
Perhaps least affected by the NorCal monsoons, the Dual Slalom course remains a massively popular central axis for the Sea Otter Classic. With more than the usual mud flying, the well-worn berms and jumps, much unchanged over the past decade, will again host those specializing in gate racing. Heats and Finals kick off Saturday afternoon.
Pro NRC Circuit Race Preview
By Rob Jones, Canadian Cyclist
On Saturday it is the turn of the road racers to take the spotlight in the SRAM Pro NRC Circuit Race. The 2.3 mile circuit on the Laguna Seca Speedway features a challenging 300 foot climb, followed by the notorious Corkscrew descent. Riders also have to contend with wind and possibly rain, which could making cornering treacherous. The women will do 22 laps (50 miles / 6500' of climbing), starting at 9:00 am, followed by the men's 31 lap (70 miles / 9000' of climbing) race at 1:00 pm.
Top teams from across North America will line up for the chance to take this prestigious victory. Among the favourites for the men's race in the 111 rider field are the powerful Health Net presented by Maxxis squad, led by Gord Fraser and Karl Menzies; the local California Kodakgallery.com/Sierra Nevada Pro Cycling Team, with Ben Jacques-Maynes and Dominique Perras; and a last minute 'ringer': Tour de France star Levi Leipheimer from the Gerolsteiner professional team. While Leipheimer is here without team support, he certainly cannot be discounted.
In past years, this race has usually come down to either a solo winner or a small lead group which sprints it out at the line. Team tactics play a crucial role in the race, with teams often sending a rider off the front early in the race as a 'rabbit', while the team leader stays protected in the peloton. Leipheimer won't have this option and, as the marked man in the field, will have to rely on superior strength and race savvy if he hopes to pull off a win.
Clif Bar & Co. and Sea Otter Classic Partner to Fight Global Warming
By Karen Kefauver
Monterey, CA - Under sunny skies Friday morning at the Sea Otter Classic, the world's largest bicycling festival, Jake Heitman wandered amongst the 250 vendors showcasing the cycling industry's latest clothing, parts and accessories. In the Sea Otter Village, one booth in particular caught his eye. At the Clif Bar tent, next to the heaping plates of energy bar samples, Heitman discovered a way to support a cause he deeply believes in: the fight against global warming.
Throughout Sea Otter's four-day celebration of bicycling, Clif Bar is selling "Cool Tags" for $2 each. Each Cool Tag funds enough clean wind energy to offset approximately 300 miles of car travel. The green tags will be used to fund new wind turbines that reduce the need for electricity generated by burning CO2-causing fossil fuels such as coal.
"I believe this is a really good cause," said Heitman, 27, who is visiting Monterey for the weekend to race in the cross-country and downhill mountain bike events. "Two dollars is a small price to pay to help undo damage to the environment," said Heitman a resident of Yakima, Wash.
"The Cool Tags have been really popular with athletes," noted Dylan Seguin, who runs Team Clif Bar, a professional cycling program. "We have noticed an increasing commitment from athletes to preserve the environment."
Clif Bar & Co. and the Sea Otter Classic have joined forces to purchase enough clean wind energy from NativeEnergy, a renewable energy firm, to offset nearly 748 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from 10,000 athletes and 50,000 spectators traveling to and from the Central California event. CO2 is the major cause of global warming and participant travel surrounding the event creates the vast majority of the carbon dioxide that results from staging the festival.
"We are really pleased to focus on green initiatives as a way to mitigate any negative impact we may have on the environment," said Sea Otter's President, Frank Yohannan. "It's always been part of our Sea Otter culture. We fully intend to grow our environmental protection measures as our event continues to grow."
"Sea Otter is a good match for us," said Clif Bar founder and owner Gary Erickson. "We like to play in the great outdoors. It's where we do our sports and we want to protect it," said Erickson, who noted that his company shifted to making nearly 70 percent of its products organic.
In addition to the purchase of clean wind energy in order to reduce the event's ecological footprint on the Laguna Seca Recreation Area and the adjacent Bureau of Land Management property, Sea Otter Classic is also encouraging carpooling (3 or more people per vehicle), bike commuting and onsite recycling. Reserved parking is set aside for pedal powered vehicles, carpools and hybrid vehicles.
"We will continue to build our green measure with Clif Bar," said Sea Otter Classic President Yohannan. "It's what we want to do for the local community and for our event."