FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
A trio from Tasmania bedevils the men's pro road race. Tina Pic breaks free in the women's race. Craig comes forward in Short Track while Dahle does more damage to the overall results. A lucky day for Jonnier. Pros find something even harder to do in dirt jumping. Families in search of something fun find it at the Sea Otter Classic.
Below is a sampling of today's stories:
by Rob Jones, Canadian Cyclist
Road racing took centre stage on Day 3 of the 2006 Sea Otter Classic presented by SRAM. In the men's race a trio of Tasmanians thwarted the ambitions of Tour de France favourite Levi Leipheimer and the powerful Health Net squad, while top rated Tina Pic of the Colavita team easily outkicked the rest of the women's field in a sprint finish.
In the women's race the goal of the Webcor and Victory Brewing squads was to drop Tina Pic on the 300' climb which the riders had to ascend 22 times in the course of their 50 mile race. Pic's Colavita team had the exact opposite plan: keep the acknowledged strongest sprinter in the race rested and with the front group in the race, so she could do her thing in the final 300 yards.
"We knew we needed to get rid of Tina" confirmed Erinne Willock, leader of the Webcor team, who was just back from racing for Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. "We tried a lot of times, kept attacking and made it aggressive, but couldn't isolate Tina."
Pic, for her part, admitted that the tactic very nearly succeeded. "It was really hard, with Webcor attacking like maniacs. The last six or seven laps were brutal, and we were just killing ourselves to follow wheels. I was almost smoked a couple of times, but just kept saying to myself 'I can hold on two more laps, just two more laps'. "
In the finishing stretch Pic had one final scare, when she was boxed against the barriers. "I was against the barriers, and it looked like there was no where to go. But then I saw one little spot of daylight, and thought 'I've got to get out, I must get out.' I was panicking a little bit, but once I got through that hole, I knew that I had it."
Lauren Franges of Victory Brewing took second, and Pic's teammate Dotsie Bausch third.
While the women's race may have been a battle, the professional men's 71 mile event was a war. The top ranked team was Health Net, led by sprinters Gord Fraser and Karl Menzies, with Tour de France pro Levi Leipheimer a late addition to the field. Leipheimer, who hails from Santa Rosa, California, is back in California to train for his main goal of the season - the Tour de France. While he may not have had the support of a team, the strength he showed earlier in the season at the Tour of California - where he won a stage and wore the leader's jersey for two days - made him a rider to watch.
Jelly Belly, a locally-based Fairfield, California team, didn't let the presence of this strong opposition overawe them. "We came in with a clear goal" revealed Rice. "We knew that we were outnumbered by Health Net, and that they had the sprinters, so we had to play our cards right and whittle down the numbers advantage that they had. We had six good guys, and this was a race of attrition, so we had to make it hard and drop the sprinters."
Menzies, comes from the same town in Tasmania as Rice and third place finisher Caleb Manion (a teammate of Rice) - Launceston - and agrees that the Jelly Belly team did an excellent job. "We (Health Net) had the numbers, but they attacked on the climb and I was left isolated. Caleb got away on a break, and it was just me, Levi and a Spanish rider. Just as we caught (Manion), a bunch of riders came up and Matty attacked. It was a good move, because everyone was left looking at each other."
For Rice, the win ranks as a career highlight. "This is my best accomplishment, for sure. I've been a pro for three years now, and this is my first win in five years, I guess. Come to think of it, my last win was against Karl in our hometown!"
Craig Comes Forward in Day 3
Dahle Does More Damage in Short Track
By Wendy Booher
Monterey, CA - Today Adam Craig (Giant) reversed his fortune for this year's Sea Otter Classic by winning the Short Track event. Before today, Craig had already filed this year's Sea Otter Classic under "try again next year" since discouraging results had so far kept him off the podium and out of the top 10 results. As racers fell like timber due to the muddy course, Craig, wearing the Short Track National Champion's jersey, rode a race marked by speed, strategy and a little stealth.
"I didn't watch the races before and didn't pre ride, I just watched it unfold in front of me," said Craig. "I was basically just watching heads, whenever I'd see a head go into the ground or way down, I'd just not go that way and find somewhere else to go. The lines were changing so much, I mean I rode half a dozen different lines in each section over the course of a dozen laps or whatever we did so it was good."
At one point Craig managed to forge a gap between himself and second place, Jean Christoph Peraud (Orbea). Peraud succeeded in bridging the gap only until he went over the bars on the last lap and yielded the win to Craig.
Top five results for the Men's MTB Short Track are:
After stuffing her front wheel in a mud hole and launching spectacularly over the handlebars on the first lap, Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) changed tack to leave the competition in the dust, or more appropriately, in the mud. A race at any speed becomes technical and with the mud shifting, hiding and covering lines on each lap, the Short Track became a new race on each pass. Dahle made her mistakes early and while the other racers sorted out strategies by trial-and-error, Dahle plowed her way through the muck to win the Short Track.
"I think what worked for me was just going out there and going maximum from the start plus hoping not to hit the worst holes," said Dahle. "It was very difficult because you pick one good line on one lap and then the next lap you go, "OK, I'll just do the same line but then there's a big hole there. The first two or three laps you are just trying to get comfortable on the bike and try not to think too much about all the mistakes you made. I knew it would be going on maximum for 20 minutes. It was a matter of not taking too many risks and it was hard - very hard."
Top three results for the Men's MTB Short Track are:
Peraud and Dahle remain comfortably at the top of the leader board after Day 3 of the MTB Omnium.
The MTB Omnium continues tomorrow with the final Cross-country stage. The men set out at 1 pm with the women starting right behind them at 1:10. For results, schedule, and more info, visit: www.seaotterclassic.com
Never Say Never in Dual Slalom
By Chris Milliman
On a day when the course seemed to jump out and grab tires all day, snarfing up dreams in one bite, luck, both good and bad, played a major role in the outcome of Saturday's SRAM Gravity Omnium Pro Dual Slalom. Brian Lopes (GT-Oakley) and Sabrina Jonnier (Iron Horse-Monster) won the Pro Men's and Women's titles, respectively, each taking advantage of slips by their competitors in the two-up, best of two format.
Lopes took advantage of a first-run slip by two-time former Sea Otter Dual Slalom winner Cedric Gracia (Commencal-Oakley). The defending Mountain Cross World Champ used his immense gravity skills to put early pressure on Gracia, forcing the Frenchman into a costly mistake. Gracia lost so much time, the second run was a mere formality for Lopes.
"I had a bad qualifier, like 18th, and that forced me to race really hard all the way through," said Gracia. "Racing Brian I have to let it all hang out and I just slipped a pedal at the top, you can't make a mistake with Brian, and that was the race."
"I had a lot more fun than I expected I would this morning," said Lopes. "The course dried out a lot and it was fun. Racing against Cedric is great, he's one of my best friends on the circuit and I know he's always going to be a great racer when I go up against him."
Jonnier grabbed a .6-second advantage over finals compatriot Vanessa Quinn in the first run, but trailed Quinn going into the final 50 meters of the decisive second run. However, Quinn's run at the race win came to grief in one of the deep and goopy ruts that had developed over the course of the day. Quinn skidded out, lost momentum and opened the door for Jonnier to get the win.
"You never know, she must have hit a bad line," said Jonnier, "Luck can make a difference in this for sure. I'm not crazy about the mud, but it was just as bad for everyone.
Pro Riders See the Other Side of Competition
By Jacob Genauer
No cycling event is more difficult to judge than dirt jumping. In any other biking event, the race procedures dictate almost precisely what each competitor must do and how he or she will go about it. Consequently, the winner is the person who follows the procedures in the least time.
At the SRAM Invitational Dirt Jump Competition, the only rules dictate that riders be innovative, that they go big, and that they go extreme. So the race coordinators need to find a way to allow for the mishaps and mistrials inherent to the innovations the best riders bring. At the finals, jumpers will be allowed three runs. This will account for the falls and second-takes often necessary to pull off the most exciting and innovative tricks. And the judges need to objectify all of the aspects of good dirt jumping, and find a way to separate the best from the rest. Points will be used to decide the winning run at the three jumps.
The judges include dirt jumpers Jamie Goldman and Aaron Chase, who understand best what goes into some of the most innovative and difficult jumps. Aaron Chase of Cannondale/Red Bull said, "We're not judging it based on the overall impression but as the individual runs go." Race coordinators hope that the format of the competition will foster the creativity, innovation, and daring that make dirt jumping so exciting.
2006 SRAM Pro Dirt Jump Finalists (Preliminary):
Jim DeChamp earned the "Best Individual Trick" with his frontflip.
Families Find Fun Activities for their Kids at World's Largest Bicycling Festival
While Sea Otter Classic features world-class competition and amateur racing for adults and youth, sometimes kids just want to play and to watch the non-stop action
Monterey, CA - Devin Mickens, 12, couldn't wait to show off his mountain biking prowess. At Sea Otter Classic Friday morning, the young redhead pedaled furiously towards a dirt hill and then launched several feet off the ground. "I really like to catch air," said the 6th grader from Ontario, CA. "It's totally awesome." His smile spread ear-to-ear before he dashed off to do the jump again and again. On the second day of Sea Otter Classic, the world's largest bicycling festival, Mickens and his friends were fixtures in the SRAM Mountain Bike Ride Zone, an area where kids can practice their mountain bike skills.
Complete with obstacles, bridges and jumps, the kids' ride zone is designed to encourage young riders to hone their skills in a safe and non-competitive environment. For Garrett Carney, 13, of Camarillo, CA, in Ventura County, the ride zone was a chance "to hang out and have fun with my friends. This is a fun way to ride my scooter," he said, pointing to his bike, which included a scooter platform. His buddy, Daniel Oncea, 10, of Santa Clarita, agreed, "You can get lots of air on a table top jump like this."
"We have a rock garden, where the kids can learn to negotiate rocks, a root simulator, rollers and square-edged bumps," explained Robert Howard of Bikeskills, shovel in hand. As the onsite coordinator of the Mountain Bike Ride Zone, sponsored by SRAM, Howard said, "This is a way that the kids can participate in a healthy sport, not just watch."
"The kids are absolutely pumped," said Michael Zellmann, public relations manager for SRAM, one of the world's largest bicycle component-makers. "They are some of the most enthusiastic riders out there," he said.
Families have a wide variety of activities to choose from at the four-day Sea Otter Classic. The world's largest bicycling festival draws an estimated attendance of 10,000 athletes and 50,000 spectators. "We have expanded activities for kids this year," said Sea Otter spokeswoman Pamela Heisey.
At the Sea Otter Kids' Carnival Area in the Sea Otter Village, Drew Kennedy waited outside the Bounce Houses while his kids jumped up and down inside the inflatable structures. "We make a point to come here early to take the kids to the Bounce Houses," said Kennedy of Santa Monica. "I love the slide!" declared his daughter, Mackie Kennedy, 9, after she and her brother and two friends emerged jubilant from a bouncing session.
Over at the demonstration area, also in the Sea Otter Village, a large crowd gathered to watch Ryan Leech of Norco Performance Bicycles show off his trials talent. One of the world's best trials show performers, Leech jumped from obstacle to obstacle, frequently balancing on just one wheel. "We are really happy to be here," said Leech, 27, of Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Leech will perform again at 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Family activities continue through the weekend with recreational mountain bike tours on Saturday (10-mile, 20-mile or 50-mile tours) and recreational road ride tours (20-mile, 40-mile or 100-mile) on Sunday. All recreational tours end with a delicious BBQ celebration. Pre-registration is required.
New this year on Saturday and Sunday and free for kids 18 and under who are already registered for a Sea Otter event, the Schoolyard provides an opportunity for kids to learn about basic bike maintenance from professional mechanics and practice hands-on repairs. For kids 12 and under, the Kids' Bike Rodeo, 11 a.m.-noon on Saturday and Sunday, is a fun, safe way for children to learn about basic bike safety and navigation. "The Schoolyard" and Kids' Bike Rodeo are both presented by the Napa Sheriff's Activities League and Team NSO/DEVO.
Weekend activities in the Village also include:
- The Sea Otter Easter Egg Hunt, hosted by Skipper the Sea Otter, where kids ages 8 and under can participate for free in an Easter Egg Hunt at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
- The SRAM Mountain Bike Ride Zone is a playground where kids of all ages can learn tricks and get huge air on jumps, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, FREE for kids 12 and under.
- Kids Carnival with Bouncy Houses, Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
For spectators, favorites include:
- The SRAM Invitational Dirt Jump Contest features semi-finals Saturday and finals on Sunday and demos by Ryan Leech from Norco Performance Bicycles, undoubtedly one of the world's best Mountain Bike Trials Show performers,
- Plus BMXers from GT-Mongoose will show their tricks for audiences at Sea Otter's BMX Demo area.
For more details on family fun at Sea Otter Classic, visit http://www.seaotterclassic.com/family_fun.asp
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.