National XC Champion, Georgia Gould, started off 2007 with a Pan Am championship title
image courtesy of Paul McKenzie
The Sea Otter XC course
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MONTEREY, Calif. Super D becomes the latest addition to the SRAM MTB Races for this year's Sea Otter Classic, A Celebration of Sport. Super D, which is a hybrid of downhill and cross-country requiring not only power, but also a finely tuned descending strategy to win, will launch four days of mountain bike racing starting Thursday, April 12. Next up on Friday will be the Time Trial, followed by Short Track on Saturday and finishing in grand finale style with Cross Country on Sunday. The Sea Otter Classic will be held April 12-15, 2007 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey, California, USA.
Super D will appeal equally to cross-country and gravity racers alike since both disciplines influence the outcome of the race. National Super D champ, Adam Craig, is expected to defend the Stars-and-Stripes jersey while "gravity goddess," Marla Streb, is expected to go after a jersey of her own. Since having a baby last year, Streb has allegedly vowed to clinch one more national title before retiring from racing.
The shorter events leading up to Sunday's Cross Country race have always produced minimal time gaps that get closed, stretched, or widened during Sunday's race. While it helps to have a team to stave off attacks during Saturday's Short Track event, the race's white-hot speed doesn't leave much time for shuffling strategies. Nonetheless, the field will be wary of the powerful "blue train of LUNA" and one racer in particular will require special attention. Georgia Gould stunned fans with a breakout year in 2006, first by winning the National Cross Country Championship and then following that with a string of cyclocross victories throughout the season. Perhaps in pursuit of global dominance, the self-effacing Gould has been methodically checking off the regions she's conquered so far, starting with North America and now the Western Hemisphere. For her first major race of 2007, Gould collected victory in the Pan Am Championships, held in Argentina during the third weekend in March.
"For the first race of the season, it was a little nerve-wracking because you don't know how good your fitness is," said Gould. "The course was really cool, there was a little bit of a start loop on the first part of course, which had a two-minute downhill and then went into a grinder climb. I thought it would be really important to get into the singletrack first because I knew that a gap would open there so I tried to get myself to the front and never look back."
Gould shares the distinction of being named Pan Am Champion with her new teammate, Chloe Forsman, who earned victory in the women's U-23 category. Forsman comes to the LUNA Women's Mountain Bike team to fill shoes left vacant by Jimena Florit, who retired from pro racing at the end of last season.
2004 Olympian Todd Wells looks forward to a return trip to the Olympics in 2008
image courtesy of Paul McKenzie
In the elite men's contest, 2004 Olympian Todd Wells was just one kilometer away from his own Pan Am championship when mechanical failure derailed his hopes. Instead, Wells settled for a bronze medal behind winner Geoff Kabush and runner-up Seamus McGrath. Wells returns to Sea Otter this year for his seventh time and as one of the more experienced vets, Wells knows better than many competitors what goes into racing at Sea Otter.
"You don't want to give too much energy away in those early races because the XC is the big event on the last day," explained Wells. "The weather is usually rainy which makes the STXC really sloppy but the XC holds water really well so there's not much to worry about there. The XC is the longest XC we race all year but it's also probably the fastest. That means drafting is really important. You want to make sure you get in a good group because of the draft but you don't want to waste too much energy because it's such a long race. You have to have something left in the tank for the last climb up to the track."
With the Olympics just on the horizon in 2008, the Sea Otter Classic Cross Country race will set the stage for past, present, and hopeful Olympians to match skills, speed and power against some of the most talented mountain bikers in the world.
"It is amazing to go to the Olympics," said Wells. "I didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal when I went but I was pretty much blown away. It's amazing to be part of an event that is bigger then just about everything else in the world. No one remembers who won the World Championships a few years after it's over but everyone remembers who won the Olympics. Especially for mountain biking being somewhat of a fringe sport, the Olympics are top."
To see Gould, Forsman, and Wells plus Mary McConneloug, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja, Liam Killeen, Thomas Frischknecht, Geoff Kabush, Bart Brentjens, Adam Craig, and an international field of top talent racing for a chance at nearly $22,000 in cash prizes, the SRAM MTB Race schedule goes like this:
Thursday, April 12 at 1 pm - Super D Finals
Friday, April 13 at 8 am - Time Trial, all categories
Saturday, April 14 - Short Track, 1st Heat pro men at 11:40, pro women at 12:30, pro men final at 1:15
Sunday, April 15 - Cross Country, pro men at 12 noon, pro women at 12:20
For a schedule of all competitive events, visit: www.seaotterclassic.com and click on "Athlete Guide."
About Sea Otter Classic, Inc.
The 17th Annual Sea Otter Classic will be held April 12 - 15, 2007 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey, California, USA. The four-day 'Celebration of Sport' is considered the world's largest cycling festival, hosting 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.
*"Georgia on My Mind," written in 1930 by Stuart Gorrell (lyrics) and Hoagy Carmichael (music).
Online version of this release can be viewed here: www.boohermedia.com/SOC/2007/07SOC_MTBRaces.htm