Monterey, CA - Norway's Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) opened up a gaping lead in Day 1 of the MTB Omnium today at the 2006 Sea Otter Classic, the world's largest cycling festival. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist got to work right away in the first lap with a strong effort in the first climb, which motivated her to step on her pedals even harder. The few "heavy days" Dahle claims to have packed in her legs this past week - first with a win in the World Cup season opener last weekend in Curacao and then in today's race - seem to have bolstered both her strength and focus to stay out in front.
"It's always a matter of the way I'm thinking: that I always have to be on the limit, like don't lose a second just because I want to relax for five seconds," said Dahle. "It's a matter of thinking 'Am I doing a 100 percent right now?' and then the next meter 'Am I doing 100 percent?' It gets comfortable when I do the first uphill and I feel strong; it gives me a little more mentally."
Thick, muddy conditions for both the men's and women's race slowed pedal strokes a few RPM's and while Mother Nature let us know who's boss, it was fitness, strategy and a little home turf advantage that helped France's Jean Christoph Peraud (unattached) forge an equally yawning time gap between first and second place in the men's MTB Omnium. Peraud's mud-prone training ground south and a little east of Paris likely gave him a slightly winning edge on the Super XC course where normally fast sections got technical due to the mushy terrain.
"I made my move on the first lap and then I was joined by two racers," said Peraud. "We rode like that for the whole race and then the other guys dropped back on the last lap so I decided to try and make my move."
Jean Christoph Peraud surprises even himself by finishing first
Peraud caught officials - who didn't realize Peraud was in the lead - by surprise as he passed through Start/Finish on his final lap. Without a bell call to signal his last lap, Peraud finished the race practically on fire as he crossed the line in first with a full head of steam. Now wearing the leader's jersey in his second Sea Otter Classic, Peraud has already taken inventory of his competition and concluded that he will need to watch out for "everybody."
To stay ahead of "everybody" for both the men and women, Dahle will need to keep away from second-place Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain/Business Objects) and third-place Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB Team) while Peraud will have to stay in front of second-place Bart Brentjens (Giant) and third-place (and current Australian National Short Track Champion), Chris Jongewaard (Australian National Team).
The MTB Omnium continues tomorrow with the MTB Time Trial starting at 9:30 a.m. for the women and 10:30 a.m. for the men. For results, schedule, and more info, visit: www.seaotterclassic.com
About Sea Otter Classic LLC
The 16th Annual Sea Otter Classic is a four-day 'Celebration of Cycling' held April 6 - 9, 2006 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey, California, USA. Considered the world's largest cycling festival, the event will host nearly 10,000 professional and amateur athletes and 50,000 fans. The Cypress Youth Fund is the Sea Otter Classic's philanthropic arm. The fund provides funding to organizations that benefit their communities in the areas of youth, sport, education, and environment. More information can be found at www.seaotterclassic.com, or by calling 800-218-8411.