Posted by Editoress on 04/15/05
Reports brought to you with the support of Human Kinetics Publishers
IThe 15th annual Sea Otter Classic opened Thursday under sunny skies at Laguna Seca Speedway, with the start of the pro mountain bike and road stage races. An international field saw winners from Holland, Canada and the USA on the top step of the podium in the four pro events held.
Mountain Bike Super XC
Defending champion Alison Dunlap (Luna) was the first winner of the day, in the women's Super XC stage of the Mountain Bike Stage Race - a half pavement, half dirt circuit race. The 60 minute timed event saw an elite group of 15 riders break away from the field halfway into the race. Joining Dunlap were three-time world champion Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain-Business Objects) and two-time Olympian Lyne Bessette (Louis Garneau), a former road winner at the Sea Otter Classic, who has switched from road to mountain this season. Four other Canadians also made the top-10. The group stayed together to the finish, with Dunlap attacking out of the final bend to hold off Sydor and Bessette. At the start of the last lap, it looked like Sydor, Dunlap and Sue Haywood (Trek-VW) might open a gap, when Haywood attacked hard, but the group was brought back together for the final half lap on the pavement.
Alison Dunlap: "For the sprint I didn't want to get stuck on the inside, and my legs felt really good, so I decided to try early. I think I took everybody by surprise. The (10 second) time bonus is important, so it was good to get the win."
Alison Sydor: "I was in a bit of a wrong spot for the sprint, sitting in third. The rider I was following didn't accelerate, so when Alison (Dunlap) jumped I couldn't get on her wheel fast enough."
"It was a unique race today, because of the nature of the course, and the (gusty) wind. Because of that it was a tactical race."
Lyne Bessette: "Sea Otter has been good for me in the past (Bessette has won the road stage race previously). I was happy with my performance today, I wanted to just get into the race, open up my legs and get a feel for the group. I have a lot of experience with stage races, so this was just a chance to test things out."
In the men's Super XC, it was 1996 Olympic champion Bart Brentjens (Giant) who donned the leader's jersey at the end of 60 minutes, after a daring solo breakaway at the halfway point in the race. While the rest of the leaders hesitated, Brentjens opened up a slim 20 second lead, which dropped to as little as 8 seconds when the chasers organized themselves. However, just when it looked like Brentjens was about to be reeled in, the chasers backed off, with no one willing to set the pace. Brentjens crossed the finish line 38 seconds in front of 11 chasers, with Florian Vogels (Swiss Power) pipping Specialized's new signing Sid Taberley for second in the sprint.
Geoff Kabush was in the lead chase group, while two-time world champion Roland Green (Kona), racing for the first time since his six month suspension (due to a positive at Houffalize World Cup last year, when his paperwork wasn't complete) finished just behind in 13th.
Bart Brentjens: "It was a hard decision to go away so early Ã‹â€ it was terrible the last two laps with all the wind but I was able to stay ahead and keep my lead though."
"Everyone did a little work but with one lap to go I thought that 20 seconds was enough to finish with."
(On team strategy with teammate, Adam Craig) "We didn't have any discussion about any tactics for this race. I did the Cape Epic (in South Africa) last week and that prepared me for this but the first day is always the most important."
Roland Green: "It was a good race to get back in - I felt pretty good. A big gap opened the second lap; I tried to bridge and I got within 10 metres, but then I fell off when they surged. I need another 3 to 4 races, and 3 to 4 pounds less - it's just a matter of top-end fitness that you only get through racing. After every stage I think I'll feel a little better, a little better..."
In the afternoon, attention shifted to the UCI Road Stage Race, which opened with a short but intense sprint around the Laguna Seca Speedway. The two mile long, individually timed stage saw riders leave at 30 second intervals, with the best time determining who would wear the leader's jersey at the end of the day.
Tina Pic (Quark) appeared to win the women's race with the fastest time, however, 90 minutes after the stage she was relegated to fourth place after it was determined by officials that she had "jumped the gun" at her start. With a one second penalty applied to Pic, Kristin Armstrong (T-Mobile) was bumped up to first and was awarded the leader's jersey. Her team mate Ina Teutenberg moved into second, and Candice Blickem (Quark) took third. Top Canadian was Sandy Espeseth in 19th place.
Kristen Armstrong: "I think the time bonus for tomorrow's race will be crucial. The race on Saturday will be really hard so we need to set it up well with the race tomorrow."
"One of the biggest differences to the team this year is Ina, we've never had a sprinter before. This season has been really fun with Quark, Webcor and T-Mobile battling it out in each race. There's not one dominating team this year, we actually have tactics to get away."
Canada's Gord Fraser (Health Net-Maxxis), beat his team mate Chris Wherry by less than one second to take the lead in the men's race. Last year's winner, Hayden Godfrey (Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada), finished third.
Gord Fraser: "If you realize you have a chance to do well you have to take that opportunity and it just worked out for me today."
"It is such a short time trial, you have to really focus; it's easy to lose a tenth of a second here, a tenth there ... and that's all it takes. I don't often have a chance to be competitive in a time trial, so I when I do get a chance, I take it pretty seriously."
Fraser took the opening twisty drop (nicknamed the "Corkscrew") on his drops: "Yeah, I did have the courage to be in the aero bars on the Corkscrew. Everyone was 'no you can't do it', but there was lots of exit space in the corners."
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