Posted by Editoress on 04/7/06
Sea Otter Classic
For a second straight day, mountain bikers at the Sea Otter Classic awoke to sunny skies and soggy trails. The weeks of rain prior to the event mean that the ground is absolutely saturated with water, and large portions of the course have turned into muddy bogs, making running faster than riding on some sections, and burying bikes up to their axles in others.
Ralph Naef (Multivan Merida) and Mary McConneloug (Kenda-Seven) proved to be the riders best able to deal with the challenging conditions, as they slipped and slid to victories in the second stage of the cross-country omnium. The 3.5 kilometre circuit traversed the main climb in the dirt, took the riders out onto the road for part of the climb and then back onto dirt (mud) for a series of switchbacks on the descent to the finish line.
McConneloug surprised even herself with her win. "I was totally surprised, I was like 'really, I won?' . I had checked the course closely before the race, and i knew where the firm bits were. For the muddy part right after the start I knew that water section was the fastest, so I just went straight through it. After that, I just put it in my big ring and went as hard as I could. The back side was boggy, so I went high on the bank to get around it. Really, I felt like I was floating out there."
Stage one winner Gunn-Rita Dahle (Multivan Merida) finished second, followed by Canadians Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) and Wendy Simms (Velo Bella-Kona) in third and fourth, and Katerina Nash (Luna) in fifth. Kiara Bisaro (Gearsracing.com) finished 8th. Dahle retains the lead in the points omnium.
"I didn't feel super fast out there, just smooth." commented Simms. "I was trying to pick good lines and avoid getting bogged down. Then, 20 minutes before I started I decided to change my tires and replace the mudders with a narrower tire. It was definitely the right choice."
Sydor planned her race to finish strong. "I noticed that a lot of riders were going out hard in the mud and had nothing left at the end, so I started a little easier in the mud section and then picked it up for the climb and the switchbacks at the end. My front wheel got caught in a rut right at the start, and I had to pull my foot out and slow down, which cost me a little bit."
Naef was another rider who wasn't sure how he had done after finishing. "I was just trying to do my best, and you never know in a time trial. You are going at your maximum, but the other riders are doing the same and you don't know how strong they are. I think the part that I did the best was the downhill; the line I picked there I did really well. I don't think I was quite so strong as the others on the uphill because I started too fast and came close to crashing, and ran out of energy a little bit."
Jean Christoph Peraud (Orbea), who won the first stage, finished second to retain the lead in the points omnium, finishing only 1.6 seconds behind Naef, despite "a bad start and mistakes in the last two corners which meant I had to put my foot down." Young American rider Sam Schultz (U.S. U23 national team) was the surprise third place finisher, and the ceremony had to be delayed while organizers tried to find him and tell him of his good fortune.
Canadian Geoff Kabush (Maxxis) took fourth, and the result was almost as good as a win for him, after weeks of battling a mysterious aliment which had been sapping his strength and destroying his balance.
"I finally feel like I'm starting to get somewhere. We (he and coach Jurg Feldmann) figured out that it was an inner ear viral infection. My legs are starting to come around, and my balance is pretty much back to normal. I'm excited to feel that I can fight in races again."
Kabush's ride included an over-the-handlebars crash, which quite likely lost him more time than his two second deficit to Naef. "It was a little frustrating; I felt that I had paced well, I was riding smooth and I sliced through the big mud pit really clean. But 100 metres after the big mud pit my front wheel sunk in to the axle and I did a dive."
"I tried to really just roll it all the way around. I think the race was won by keeping your speed up on the pavement and over the top of the climb. Some people were wasting too much energy in the mud."
Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) was the only other Canadian to crack the top-10, in 9th place, with Mat Toulouse (Maxxis) 15th and Ricky Federau (Gearsracing.com) 20th.
- Yesterday, Toulouse had a terrible day, with the bolts on his bars loosening up in the first 100 metres of the race. Halfway through the race his team mate Kabush also suffered from loose bars. "It's Sea Otter" said Kabush. "Everyone's getting their new stuff (equipment) and bikes are all getting built up overnight."
- Trish Sinclair is still waiting for her bike to turn up, but reports that "the demo bike I'm using is getting more dialed in every day!"
- The rain returned late this afternoon, and is expected to stay through the weekend.
- After two days, the overall points standings have been (roughly) calculated:
|1. Jean Christoph Peraud (Fra) Orbea||224|
|2. Ralph Naef (Sui) Multivan Merida Biking Team||217|
|3. Bart Brentjens (Ned) Giant-Racing-Team||210|
|4. Liam Killeen (GBr) Specialized Factory Racing||204|
|5. Jose Hermida (Esp) Multivan Merida Biking Team||201|
|6. Chris Jongewaard (Aus) Australian National Team||201|
|7. Matt Kelly (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher||194|
|8. Karl Platt (Ger) Rocky Mountain Business Objects||194|
|9. Michael Broderick (USA) Seven Cycles/Kenda||192|
|10. Max Plaxton (Can) Rocky Mountain/ Business Objects||192|
|12. Geoff Kabush (Can) Team Maxxis||189|
|21. Ricky Federau (Can) Team R.A.C.E. Com||168|
|25. Kris Sneddon (Can) Kona Les Gets Factory Team||162|
|35. Roddi Lega (Can) Norco Factory Team/United Cycle||140|
|37. Neal Kindree (Can) Kona Factory||137|
|top 50 will compete in heat #1 of tomorrow's short track|
|1. Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) Multivan Merida Biking||150|
|2. Alison Sydor (Can) Rocky Mountain/Business Objects||143|
|3. Mary McConneloug (USA) Seven Cycles/Kenda||138|
|4. Georgia Gould (USA) Luna Women's Mtb Team||133|
|5. Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna Women's Mtb Team||128|
|6. Kiara Bisaro (Can) Gearsracing.Com||127|
|7. Jimena Florit (Arg) Luna Women's Mtb Team||126|
|8. Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru-Gary Fisher||126|
|8. Sue Hayward (USA) Trek Vw||119|
|10. Wendy Simms (Can) Velo Bella - Kona||117|
|13. Mical Dyck (Can) Terrascape Racing||109|
|22. Catharine Pendrel (Can) Norco||98|
|25. Melanie McQuaid (Can) Orbea||89|
|30. Trish Sinclair (USA) Scott Usa/Kenda||82|
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