Sea Otter BMXers Advance Toward Olympic Dreams
BY STEPHEN KRCMAR
BMX: the start of a beautiful thing here at the Sea Otter Classic
photo: Brightroom Photography
After being absent from Sea Otter for years, BMX made its comeback in full force on Sunday. With sunny skies and a slight breeze, the near-Biblical rains that cancelled the races on Saturday were a distant memory but their affect was the consolidation of two days of racing into one.
That meant two motos instead of three for the 16 - 29/30+ open class, the most competitive event of the morning. Eight racers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and aimed to earn enough points to jettison them to the top of the podium.
Nick Valencia, 22, of team Psykopath Industries was the first one across the finish line on the fast, zig-zag course with five straights. Valencia's teammate Kyle Zondervan came in second, catching a lucky break when the second place rider crashed.
Psykopath Industries was sitting pretty with racers in the first two gates for the second race. "The inside line is key on this track. You could be a half-bike behind and still come out in front," Zondervan said. "If you have the inside gate you definitely have an advantage. I had gate two so I was there."
Kyle Zondervan nails the holeshot
photo: Brightroom Photography
The 20-year-old Zondervan nailed the holeshot and stayed out in front for the rest of the race. He bagged $220 for the win and moved a step closer to his dream: qualifying for the Olympics, which will include BMX for the first time in 2008. But Zondervan, who hopes to go pro at the end of the year, is taking a long term view.
"The 2008 Olympics are a big stretch," said the San Jose resident, who just picked-up his first trainer. "I'm shooting for '12."
While some racers hoped to make history at Laguna Seca, the presence of pedalers like Rainey Townsend was a nod to local history. The seven-year-old girl who races novice was named after the legendary motorcycle racer and namesake of the "Rainey Curve," the left hand turn that follows "The Corkscrew" at the Laguna Seca race track.
Rainey's family did more than just cheer her to victory in her first moto. Her mother, father, and older brother, Rider (named after his parents' love of all things with two wheels) raced as well.
Getting in the saddle herself has many benefits for mom, including a practical education of the world of BMX.
"Because I race, I'm not the one who is always yelling 'pedal, pedal, pedal!'" said Kristi Townsend. "Because I know that there are some areas where you can't pedal."
This is the first year that the San Jose family has hit the BMX circuit hard. They're planning on attending 15 races this year.
Mrs. Townsend said that in addition to making her clan stronger, it also gives them a common ground.
"After the race weekends, we love coming home and talking about 'did you see that?' or 'how about that turn?' or 'how about when that person came high:' all of us have our own stories to talk about," Townsend said.
18 - 29 OPEN WHEEL / 30 + OPEN WHEEL
1. Kyle Zondervan, 20, San Jose
2. Nick Valencia, 22, San Jose
3. Phillip Castro, 20, Fresno
Kabush and Gould Continue to Dominate
Georgia Gould defends the National XC Champ's jersey
photo: Paul McKenzie
By ROB JONES
The 2007 Sea Otter Classic concluded on Sunday with the premier event - the pro men's and women's cross-country race. To no one's surprise, the two dominant North American riders this spring won: Georgia Gould (LUNA Women's MTB Team) and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis).
After a deluge of rain the day before, riders were relieved to wake up to clear and sunny conditions for the arduous 38-mile, two-lap race through the Fort Ord Recreation area overlooking Monterey Bay. However, strong, gusting winds meant that any rider attempting a solo effort faced a daunting task.
Gould, the Pan American Champion, was unafraid of the wind and quickly opened a gap on the rest of the women's field within the first few miles. By the end of lap one the Fort Collins, Colo. rider was two minutes up on the chasing duo of Kiara Bisaro (Opus) and Gould's team mate Katerina Nash. She extended her lead further in the second long lap, and rolled across the finish line with a big smile on her face.
"I didn't ever look back. Sue (Haywood, Trek/VW) attacked on the first climb and when I got by her I just set my own pace. I feel comfortable riding by myself in the wind, so it didn't bother me that I would be out there alone. I felt really good; it was one of those days where everything goes right."
Bisaro, from Canada, and her Czech rival Nash rode together for the entire race, taking turns at the front breaking the wind. Nash opened a slight gap on the final technical descent, but Bisaro powered her way back as the race entered the final mile, and then outsprinted Nash for second place.
The men's race proved to be one of attrition, as Kabush - the men's Pan American Champion - set a high tempo for the first lap which burned off all but four rivals from his wheel. Further attacks on the second lap brought the lead group down to Kabush, Sea Otter Short Track winner, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Orbea), and two-time World Cup champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized). Both Sauser and Peraud laid down multiple attacks on Kabush, but the Canadian national champion responded to every one, and then outsprinted his rivals in the final 300 yards to win the 2007 Sea Otter cross-country title.
"The first lap I took control for quite a bit to make a split in the field, and then did again in the first half of the second lap. Sauser and Peraud started attacking, but once it was down to three, I was pretty confident for the sprint. This is good for my confidence for sure, as we get ready for the first World Cup next week in Belgium."
Atherton, Rennie Score Fastest Descents to Win Downhill Races
Rachel Atherton's debut win at Sea Otter
photo: Chris Milliman
By WENDY BOOHER
"We'll take that" said Sea Otter fans today to sunny, windy weather in comparison to yesterday's rain. Crowds thickened near the top around the jumps, rhythm sections and berms and then drifted downward as fields studded with world and national champions chipped away at finishing times. Rachel Atherton (Animal/Commencal) and Australian National Champion, Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate), scored the fastest times on the .93-mile course. In a race where hundredths of seconds separate first from second, Rennie slashed more than two seconds off of second place finisher, Jared Graves. 19-year-old Atherton clinched her win by lassoing a little wind power while Rennie credited a smooth ride on a semi-slick rear tire to his win.
"We just had the best setup," said Rennie. "Semi-slick tire in back helped to ride smooth because you can't make too many mistakes on this course."
Atherton took advantage of wind direction coming out of some of the jumps to blow her back on course and straight toward the finish line.
"Going into some of the turns you have to ride directly into the wind," said Atherton. "Because if you don't and you catch some air, you're likely to get blown off course."
Atherton arrived at Sea Otter for the first time with brothers Gee and Dan who also came to try their luck against a "best of" field of gravity racers. According to Rachel, who is the youngest of the three, they could be at the frontier of an up-and-coming gravity scene that's starting to grow in the UK.
World downhill champion, Sabrina Jonnier, earned a spot in the top five but couldn't defend the prestigious rainbow stripes of the world champion's jersey in today's races.
"I tried but couldn't," said Jonnier. "They (legs) don't work as well; my 'battery' is running really low. I think I was OK on the technical but the pedaling was hard for me."
Jonnier settled for fourth behind third place Melissa Buhl (KHS), second place Fionn Griffiths (Griffiths), and Atherton.
Top 5 Women
1. Rachel Atherton (Animal/Commencal) 2:33.5
2. Fionn Griffiths (Griffiths) 2:34.9
3. Melissa Buhl (KHS) 2:36.2
4. Sabrina Jonnier (Monster Energy/Iron Horse) 2:36.4
5. Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) 2:37.1
Top 5 Men
1. Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) 2:13.0
2. Jared Graves (Yeti/Fox) 2:15.5
3. Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) 2:15.7
4. Filip Polc (unattached) 2:15.8
5. Chris Kovarik (MS/Intense) 2:17.1
Dirt Jumpers Get Crazy Silly at Furry Fury
By ANDREW KIHN
"It's 'gunna get silly here today," announced the DJ before beginning the Furry Fury dirt jump competition this afternoon at the Sea Otter Classic. As flags stood alert in the gusty ocean breeze, dirt jumpers hiked the ramp preparing to launch into their flips, tailwhips, can-cans and supermans. No footers, no handers, and no anythings where mixed with 360's, karate kicks, and suicides creating one of the most entertaining events of the weekend. The massive dirt jumps attracted a large crowd eager to watch the big air, daring feats, and mesmerizing crashes guaranteed by the athletes.
Following practice and elimination rounds the swelling crowd was ready to see the pros launch themselves fearlessly into the sky. The crowed was awed as Jamie Goldman (Santa Cruz) hit a back flip off the launch ramp. And as promised there was insane in-flight action, gnarly crashes, and a few solid landings. Onlookers were entranced saying to each other that these guys must be crazy.
Professional cyclist Paul Bas (Kona) says that the motivation comes from learning new tricks and trying things that haven't been done before. "It looks crazy but we practice a lot, it's not as dangerous as it looks (from the crowd perspective). I practice at least three times a week, jumping into foam pits," he told me. But it's still a dangerous sport and some riders were visibly shaken when Andreu Lacondeguy (Red Bull, Kona) followed a crazy back flip off the launch ramp with a huge 360, over rotating and crashing hard into the packed dirt landing, breaking his collarbone on impact. At only 19-years-old, it can be assured that he'll be back to jumping as soon as he's healed.
Lance McDurmat (Scott/Adidas) and his mix of enormous front and back flips was the crowd favorite of the day as he took home the first place medal and $1,200 prize. As the field was leaving the jump area, one top 10 finisher was heard saying in passing, "I didn't get hurt today so it's all good."
The Road to Pro
By ANDREW KIHN
Next generation pro Nick Agate
photo: Pamela Heisey
The road to becoming a professional cyclist is a journey unlike any normal career progression. Nick Agate wasn't a home run hitter or three point shooter growing up but watch him on a bike and you'll see how a pro works. The kid that started racing mountain bikes in high school has become a solid road racer over the past year and is weaving his way through cycling's career path. But such as life, everything you need to know you learn right after you need it.
Unlike the weekend rider, there are no two hour coffee stops while Nick's training to tear into category two racing.
"I focus on consistent training, visualization and getting mentally prepared for my races," he says as we talk in front of the Clif Bar tent at the Sea Otter Classic. In the past year, Agate has fully committed to making it pro as a road racer, switching from mountain bike racing to get more riding time in around work.
Young racers seem to put in fulltime hours getting their bodies ready for events but becoming a pro takes even more energy.
"Going pro is like starting your own business. You need to brand yourself," Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) tells me. "Business skills like marketing, negotiation, and budgeting are vital."
"The high school series is a great way to get in to the sport," says Nick, "It's a lot of fun and you can take it seriously if you want to." In fact, high school is when Nick got noticed and began to develop his network. Meeting the right people, being personable and working well with team members is essential to becoming pro and cultivating sponsorships. His focus now is to ride with guys who are better than him and when he makes category two status he'll be poised to compete with today's best.
Keeping it Green - Sea Otter and Sponsors Work to Be Environmentally Sound
By JACKSON WEBER
Cycling is perhaps one of the most environmentally sound methods of recreation and transportation available. Following upon this idea, the Sea Otter Classic has made itself environmentally neutral these past two years. Additionally, several other sponsors have taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of the event and its participants.
Sea Otter, in partnership with Clif Bar, has once again purchased renewable wind energy credits to offset all of the CO2 emissions created by everyone traveling to and from the event. In addition, event sponsor Toyota has also helped by creating a special carpool/hybrid parking lot to encourage attendees to make use of environmentally-friendly transportation wherever possible.
Sea Otter has also worked with both the California Department of Conservation and Ecology Action of Santa Cruz to provide recycling opportunities for all event goers. In conjunction with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and with the help of volunteers, attendees of the Sea Otter have been given more than 200 recycling bins and signage inviting everyone to make use of them.
In order to make sure Sea Otter's physical impact is as minimal as its emissions, the event has also partnered with both the Bureau of Land Management and the Monterey County Parks Department. Following the event, these groups will reseed and repair everywhere the event may have caused damage.
Other Sea Otter sponsors are taking additional steps toward reducing their own and others' environmental impact. Clif Bar, in addition to helping offset the travel emissions of the event, also had all of its staff commute to and from the Sea Otter by bike. Furthermore the few cars they did use to transport their larger goods all are run on used biodiesel.
"Ever since we started the event, we've made an effort to leave the area in better condition than when we arrived," stated Frank Yohannan, president and chief executive officer of the Sea Otter Classic. "And we are going to continue to look for ways to improve our sustainability."
Video News Release
Day Four - Sunday, April 15, 2007
VNR - Industry / Rider SOUNDBITES
Geoff Kabush, Team Maxxis
Cut 1 -- Over the years, the Canadian has done well at the Sea Otter Classic with good results and breakthrough races.
Cut 2 -- Kabush talks about his race schedule at the Sea Otter Classic.
Marla Streb, Team Luna
Cut 1 - Marla is off to a great start at the Sea Otter Classic, finishing first in the single speed and 4th in the super downhill. Still ahead: a full schedule of races with an eye toward two important titles: the national downhill championship and single speed world title.
Cut 2 - Marla has been coming to the Sea Otter Classic for years. So has everyone else in the cycling world! That's what makes the event so special.
Scot Nicol, founder/co-owner of Ibis
Cut 1 -- Nichol says there are two important bike events each year. The Sea Otter is one of them and, importantly, the first of the season.
Cut 2 - After a short hiatus, Ibis is back in the business of making bikes. And just as importantly, they're riding bikes. That's what it's all about.
Jeff "Iron" Montgomery, Cytomax
Cut 1 - Cytomax has been part of the Sea Otter Classic since day one. It's a valuable partnership.
Cut 2 - The Sea Otter Classic? "Wouldn't miss it!"
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.
Online version of this release can be viewed here: www.boohermedia.com/SOC/2007/07SOC_Day4.htm