Posted by Editoress on 04/16/04
Sea Otter Classic Monterey California
This report made possible by Human Kinetics Publishers
Day 1 report
International riders dominated the first day of competition on Thursday at the Hyundai Sea Otter Classic, the 14th edition of this traditional season-opener cycling festival, which takes place at Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, California.
The Hyundai Sea Otter Classic got underway with new events for both the Pro/Elite Road Stage Race and the PlayStation 2 MTB Stage Race, both of which were enthusiastically received by the riders. The mountain bike event saw the introduction to the cycling world of Super XC, an event which is half pavement, half dirt, and all high speed, aggressive racing.
The four mile circuit took the riders up a long paved climb, and then onto fast single track dirt trails, before sending them back onto the pavement for the finish line. The women raced for a timed 75 minutes, and the men for 90 minutes. In the women's race, despite multiple attacks, the finish came down to a lead group, with 2001 world champion Alison Dunlap (Luna WomenÃ¢â‚¬Å¡s MTB Team) of Colorado Springs out-kicking two Canadians Ã‹â€ Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Melanie McQuaid (Team Ford).
The men's Super XC boasted of one of the strongest fields every to be assembled at Sea Otter, including current world cross-country champion Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) of Belgium, current marathon world champion Thomas Frischknecht (Swisspower) of Switzerland, and defending Sea Otter Classic champion (and two-time world champion) Roland Green (Trek-VW) of Canada.
Green was one of the most aggressive riders in the race, constantly attacking and tearing the field apart. Despite a poor choice of tires which slowed him down in the dirt, Meirhaeghe kept his Canadian rival in check. But in the end, it was neither of these two on the top step of the podium. German Karl Platt (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) attacked in the final lap and a half of the race, catching the leaders sleeping. While they hesitated, waiting for each other to take up the chase, Platt quickly opened up a gap. Thomas Frischknecht responded in the final lap, bridging up to Platt and charging for the finish line. Frischknecht was able to hold on for the win, but only barely, with Meirhaeghe and Green coming across the line literally on his and Platt's wheels.
The road stage race began with a unique two mile individual time trial on the Laguna Seca racetrack circuit. This was a pure speed event, with riders launching off the start line every 30 seconds, and immediately diving into a steep twisting descent known as the "Corkscrew". From there, they made their way around the racetrack, desperately trying to hang on for the finish line. Making matters even more difficult was the gusty wind, which played havoc with aerodynamics and the solid disc wheels favored by many riders.
American riders completely dominated the women's race, taking the top seven positions, and nine of the top ten. Kristin Armstrong (T-Mobile) of Boise, Idaho was the fastest, five seconds ahead of Tina Pic (Genesis Scuba), and nearly seven seconds in front of her team mate Stacey Peters.
In the men's competition, it was two riders from powerful Health Net-Maxxis squad at the top of the podium - New Zealand's Hayden Godfrey taking the leader's jersey, three seconds in front of Canadian Gord Fraser. A further one second behind was Canadian time trial champion Eric Wohlberg (Sierra Nevada). Godfrey came to the Hyundai Sea Otter directly from the Manchester World Cup track meet, and credited his win to his recent training on the track.
The Pro/Elite Road Stage Race continues on Friday with a circuit race on the Laguna Seca racetrack, and concludes on Saturday with a 100 mile road race. The PlayStation 2 MTB Stage Race continues Friday with the time trial, and concludes on Sunday with the cross country race.
Chrissy Redden: "Alison (Dunlap) is just an amazing sprinter. I thought that with the wheels I was using that I had to be faster than usual, but she is just so fast, and came by me at the end."
Melanie McQuaid: "Today was about tire choice. I rode full knobbies, because that was all that I had, and I knew that they wouldn't be the fastest at the finish. I got boxed in a little bit behind Chrissy (Redden), and so she was able to get me at the line."
Roland Green: "Today I was just trying to get a good workout, since it has been so long since I last raced. I tried to attack a couple of times, and got a good gap, but they brought me back. But, this race always comes down to the last stage, so I just want to stay in touch with the leader until then."
Gord Fraser: "I felt pretty good out there. I might have been able to squeeze out a fraction of a second here or there, but not enough to win. After coming up empty at the Redlands race a couple of weeks ago, it was important to get a good result here, and I'm just happy that my team mate won."
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