FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 9, 2006
The Sea Otter Classic winds up its 16th year as 8,600 athletes, 250 vendors, 100's of volunteers, 300 members of the media, and tens of thousands of spectators call it a day. But not before checking out the jammed-packed action in today's Mountain Bike Cross-County, Downhill, Mountain Cross and SRAM Invitational Dirt Jump events at the world's largest bicycling festival.
Below is a sampling of today's stories:
Cream Rises to the Top in Epic Pro Cross-Country
By Chris Milliman
Gunn-Rita Dahle wins three out of four races to win the overall MTB Omnium
photo: Paul McKenzie
After three days of short hard efforts flailing in the mud, the pro men and women in the 2006 Sea Otter Classic SRAM MTB Omnium viewed Sunday's cross-country showdown with mixed feelings. Sure, they'd be out of the mud pits that had been their collective homes for the opening three days of racing, but the change of scenery would come with a price, namely over two-and-a-half hours of brutal up-and-down racing. Emerging from the epic 38-mile endurance test, newly crowned Commonwealth Games Champion Liam Killeen (Specialized) and defending World Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) took home wins in impressive solo fashion.
Dahle's trip to the top of the podium started with a thunderous clap as the Norwegian wrested control of the pro women's race from the first pedal stroke. By the time the field left the Laguna Seca Raceway for their adventures on the surrounding trails she was already setting a grueling pace. Former World Champion Sabine Spitz (Specialized) chased valiantly, but Dahle proved too much over the nearly three-hour race.
Liam Killeen earns his spot on the podium in the Men's Cross-country
photo: Paul McKenzie
"I was always targeting the cross-country," said Dahle, "so I am happy I won it. I woke up this morning feeling heavy, maybe a bit tired from the other days, but once I started racing I felt very good. I did not expect to feel this good today, but to win like this is incredible."
Killeen was forced into a more tactical race as the 23-year-old Briton led a trio of riders through the first of the race's two laps. Luckily for Killeen he had teammate Alban Lakata for company in the breakaway. The Specialized duo worked over Australian Champion Chris Jongewaard on the course's many open wind-buffeted sections. The pressure eventually cracked Jongewaard, allowing Killeen to spring free for the win and Lakata to take a surprise second place.
"It was incredible having Alban there with me," said Killeen. "He kept me out of the wind, letting me save myself for the second lap. I'd been feeling a bit tired coming into today, but once the racing was underway it was good."
Dahle took home the overall SRAM Cross-Country Omnium title for the women, while day one winner, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Orbea), took the men's Omnium title.
The Sea Otter Downhill: Legs of Steel Required
By Marla Streb
Tracy Moseley, winner of the Women's Downhill
photo: Chris Milliman
If only the downhillers' legs could talk, they'd probably scream. This year, the Sea Otter DH race proved to be one of the most difficult ever. Not technically, but physically. The short, BMX style course was sodden not only with rain water, but persistent running springs.
Jared Graves (Yeti) won the DH in 04, and expected to do well here in 05. Slipping a high rolling Maxxis TT tire on the rear of his 4-inch mountain cross bike was a key element to Graves' win today on this muddy, rutted, "power pedaling" DH course. Graves BMX'ed during the Australian winter and arrived in great condition at the top of the hill ready to win. At the bottom of his time 2:43 run, Graves's squirmed quite a while as Fabien Barel (Kona), John Kirkaldie (Maxxis), Cedric Gracia (Commencal) and Steve Peat (Santa Cruz) pedaled down. But none of them could better his time.
"It's not about being fast," second place finisher Barel divulged. "It's about knowing where to go slow. I saved energy at the top of the course, ignoring the spectators' urgings. Then I had plenty left at the bottom for the pedal section."
And that was the trick. Most riders lamented that they went too hard at the top, where there are rhythm jumps begging to be boosted for the crowd.
For the women, Tracy Moseley (Kona) powered her way past Anneke Beerten (Specialized), World Champion Vanessa Quinn (Dirt/Intense) and Sabrina Jonnier (Iron Horse) for the win. Melissa Buhl (KHS), the '05 US downhill champ, scored the 5th place spot on the DH podium
Ryan Finney racing for WTB , was America's proudest son today just missing out on the podium in sixth place. As the course designer, one would expect that Finney would have an "inside" line to the finish, but as Eric Carter (GT) pointed out, "There were few good line choices today, because of the weather. It really just comes down to horsepower." Finney did seek out every possible speed advantage however by squeezing into a skinsuit and sporting goggles. The only thing he could blurt out after his run was "PAIN!".
Looks like his legs could talk afterall.
Dangerous Curves Ahead
Kintner, Lopes Live up to Their Jerseys in Mountain Cross
By Wendy Booher
Jill Kintner takes the win for the Women's Mountain Cross
Monterey, CA - World Four-Cross Champions Jill Kintner (GT) and Brian Lopes (GT) lead the way through qualifying rounds and all the way to the finish to claim the top spots for the Sea Otter Classic Mountain Cross. The world-class course guaranteed lots of lead changes since a quantity of obstacles, berms and jumps scattered lines up and down and side to side.
"Qualifying number one was good because it gave me lane choice throughout the day," said Lopes. "I had a little bit of a problem in my semis (slicks) sliding around the inside so I changed my lineup a bit for the final and it worked good. Then I heard Cedric (Gracia) yelling for me, "Watch out, watch the outside!"
Flyin' Brian Lopes clung tightly to first position throughout the event to earn a walk up to the top of the podium.
Jill Kinter rode conservatively through her qualifying rounds in order to unleash all her power for the final. Throughout several qualifying rounds, the women's race became a shell game between Tara Llanes (Giant), Melissa Buhl (KHS), and Anneke Beerten (Specialized). Kintner succeeded in outpedaling a strong Llanes in the final round for the win.
"The course is really long so it's a grinder all the way to the finish line," explained Kintner. "It was kind of interesting in qualifying rounds because there were top seeds early so you couldn't really play the same strategy - like conserving your energy - so for the final I just thought about being as powerful as I could down to the first straight away. I was in good position on the gate and luckily I was stronger."
Today former BMX World Champion Kintner stitched together efficient lines to have the win sewn up by the end.
SRAM Dirt Jump Competition ends with huge air and big spills
By Jacob Genauer
Timo Pritzel wins with a "superman" and a super smooth landing.
photo: Daniel Pelikan
Timo Pritzel (Scott USA) won the SRAM Invitational Dirt Jump Sunday afternoon. While other riders landed some unbelievable tricks, Pritzel was the only rider who made the most out of each of three runs. He jumped the highest, using the second jump to execute a perfect "superman" and made the landing look effortless.
Rain leading up to the SRAM Invitational Dirt Jump Competition jeopardized the event's feasibility. Precautions were taken throughout the morning and early afternoon to ensure the safety of the jumps: carpeting was laid down on the second landing, and rolls of asphalt roofing material added traction to the take-offs.
But as Team GT rider Jim DeChamp (winner of the "Best Trick" award at the qualifiers) said, "These guys are the best and they really know how to deal with adverse conditions, so I hope that it isn't cancelled."
So tentatively, the race officials and riders gave the go ahead for the final competition.
Riders knew that despite the added difficulty and extra risks, they would still have to go all out to win. Prior winner of the competition John Jesme (Ellsworth/Atomlab) took a huge spill after a backflip on the first jump, and Cameron McCaul (Trek) went down attempting a huge trick on the second jump.
But spectators were privy to some amazing jumping: Greg Watts (Subaru/Gary Fisher) landed two backflip tailwhips, and winner Pritzel did a huge "superman" after a backflip. But in the end, Timo won because he went big every run and his landings were spot on.
1. Timo Pritzel (Scott USA)
2. Adam Hauck (Black Market Bikes)
3. Paul Basagoitia (Kona Clump)
4. Camerson McCaul (Trek)
5. Greg Watts (Subaru/Gary Fisher)
About Sea Otter Classic LLCThe 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.