MONTEREY, Calif. (April 19, 2008) The wind again wreaked havoc on the day's races at the Sea Otter Classic. 19-year old Tiffany Cromwell of Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home won the woman’s NRC circuit race on a solo break, while Team Successful Living’s Michael Grabinger Jr. repeated the team’s success from last year with a sprint victory from a four-man break in the men’s race. Sabrina Jonnier returned to win her fourth, straight dual slalom while Greg Minaar prevailed over a pro men's crash-studded race. Cody Wilson of Eliminator/Kuwahara defeated strong winds to take all three motos in the men’s 26-30 expert BMX race. Finally, the qualifying rounds of the new SRAM Dual Stunt race tested racers new to the demands of the race format.
Colavita's Cromwell Commands SRAM Circuit Race, Successful Living Surprises
By JACKSON WEBER
With winds gusting and temperatures only reaching into the low 50’s on Day 3 of the Sea Otter Classic, riders in both the men’s and women’s pro fields were left shivering at the start line. Fortunately for all, the cold did nothing to deter the heated attacks that tore both races to pieces as riders enjoyed what was described as “a good breakaway course” where the winds largely negated any aerodynamic advantages of the peloton.
The women’s race saw a move by Helene Drumm of the Proman Women’s Racing team create a stir amongst an initially sleepy field. Once awakened, a group of nine riders, including yesterday’s road race winner, Dotsie Bausch (Colavita/Sutter Home), and perennial sprint favorite, Laura Van Gilder (Cheerwine) emerged from the peloton. Those nine riders eventually merged with Drumm and it soon became apparent that the winner would come from this group.
The riders worked well together until six laps remained, when Laura Van Gilder popped on the climb and a Colavita/Sutter Home rider, 19-year-old Tiffany Cromwell, looking to capitalize and set up her teammate, Bausch, attacked. Defending Sea Otter circuit champ, Shelley Olds (Proman Women’s Racing) explained “We stopped working with six to go,” and when Cromwell went, “There wasn’t any reaction.”
Instead of setting up Bausch for the win, Cromwell rode away from the break, finding herself with an unexpected opportunity to win the race, which she immediately recognized.
“I just had to keep time-trialing to the end.” As winds blew barriers onto the course and created a small sandstorm at the finish, Cromwell extended her lead, lapping the field before taking an impressive win at Laguna Seca.
The men’s race saw attacks right from the gun. Team Successful Living, who surprised everyone last year by sending eventual winner Daniel Ramsey solo, proved to be a major animator, stringing the field out early and sending riders off the front repeatedly. With a tremendously strong headwind on the acclaimed corkscrew descent, and a crosswind on the long back stretch, the peloton saw most of its normal advantages negated, and was left holding an empty bag after Successful Living managed to sneak a stunning three riders into a four-man break.
Michael Grabinger Jr., Brian Jensen and Bradley White of Successful Living, together with the tattooed David Clinger of Rock Racing, went into a fast-moving pace line and never looked back. Behind them, Colavita Olive Oil/Sutter Home attempted to give chase, but after several laps where the gap never dropped below 1:30, the Colavita riders gave up on catching the break and resigned themselves to a race for fifth place.
As the laps counted down and the break lapped the shattered field, onlookers waited uncomfortably for the group of Successful Living riders to start attacking the isolated Clinger. But to the surprise of everyone except the riders themselves the attacks never came. “We were worried about him [Clinger],” said Michael Grabinger Jr. Additionally Grabinger noted that, thanks to the strong winds, they “weren’t too motivated to attack.”
Instead, the Successful Living riders set up the sprint at the end, where Grabinger took the win with his teammate, Brian Jensen in second, and Clinger in third. “We had the confidence to do what we had to do at the end,” explained a beaming Grabinger, who gave the Successful Living team its second win at Sea Otter in as many years.
Minnaar and Jonnier each take wins in Dual Slalom
By ROZ PULEO
Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) battled his way through each round of the dry and dusty Dual Slalom course to win in the finals against his teammate, Steve Peat. Minnaar made it to the final round by upsetting second-seeded Jared Rando (Giant) in the quarterfinal.
“Having both of us in the finals guaranteed that we’d be in the top two. It takes the pressure off that way. We don’t want anyone else to beat us.” Minnaar said when asked about racing his teammate in the final heat.
Peat felt fine despite an obvious wound on his left leg from a crash in the downhill practice on Friday. “It’s a little swollen, but it didn’t hurt too bad today,” said Peat, who will contest the pro men’s downhill on Sunday.
Kirt Voreis (Santa Cruz Syndicate) upset Sam Blenkinsop (Yeti/Fox) in the quarterfinal, but lost to Peat in the semi-final to race for third against fellow South African, Andrew Neethling (Mongoose). Neethling laid down the hammer and scored the bronze.
Downhill legend Brian Lopes (Ibis) was noticeably absent from the final round despite racing some of the fastest runs of the day. He crashed in the quarterfinal round against silver medalist Peat at the beginning of the course.
“I was on the red course, which was faster at the start, but I was going a bit too fast and I lost it on the first right-hand berm,” Lopes said.
Slalom favorite Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis) won her fourth consecutive Dual Slalom over second-place Melissa Buhl (KHS), and surprise bronze medalist, Fionn Griffiths (Norco). Well-matched going into the final round, Buhl crashed in her second run, allowing Jonnier to cruise easily to victory.
"I had a mechanical in one of the (semifinal – ed.) runs with Fionn and a few mistakes with Melissa on the first run of the final but I still won because I have fun riding my bike out here," Jonnier said.
Third-seeded Buhl won a tight battle in the semi-finals against second-seeded Rachel Atherton, which resulted in an Atherton-Griffiths match-up for third place. With the determination of a fierce warrior, Griffiths dug down deep and finished third, which was her best finish ever in a Dual Slalom event.
The race turned out to be more than just a competition between the faster riders when Tara Llanes showed up and guest starred as a celebrity race announcer. Llanes provided expert race analysis that was adored by the crowd. To show their support of her Road to Recovery fund, fans contributed over $1,000 throughout the duration of the race through raffle ticket sales and donations. Athletes like Jonnier, Neethling and Griffiths donated their prize money to Llanes’ fund.
“I was there when Tara crashed. She has inspired me more than anyone else. This is not my strongest event, but knowing that I was racing for Tara made me push harder than ever, and this is actually the first time I’ve podiumed in dual slalom,” Griffiths said after donating all of her winnings to Tara’s fund.
Wind is part of the training program for BMX
Anything can upset a race in BMX. Training, quick reflexes and practice help minimize snafus but the curveballs that Mother Nature flings at BMX racers - like gusting wind - can actually improve racing tactics. Blustery conditions stirred things up on the BMX course, which sent racers in all directions to face headwinds and crosswinds. The starting hill faced directly into the wind and racers had to pedal twice as hard to gain momentum going into the first step up/step down. A right turn tossed racers into a strong crosswind, which caused some crashes when riders got blown off course. A pair of doubles rolled into a left hairpin and sent riders into the the first of three rhythm sections.
"It's a fairly simple track but with the weather and the wind, that made it fairly complicated," said Cody Wilson (Eliminator/Kuwahara), who swept all three motos in the men's expert 26-30 class.
Wilson, along with teammate, Nathan Mellone, will travel to the BMX World Championships in Taiyuan, China in three weeks and, since few BMX courses are alike, Wilson and Mellone take advantage of any challenge to improve their game.
"The wind just gives us a different elemement," Wilson said. "You never know what we'll have to face in China so it's good to face different things in a race."
Windy conditions caused problems for Tibi Szilagyi (GT/joeybradford.com) in the men's 45+ class when he crashed out of first place in his final moto and finished last. Szilagyi got the holeshot but lost balance in the first turn when an unexpected blast of wind from the side caused him to hit the deck and lose command of the race. He'll be back tomorrow to try and redeem today's loss.
BMX continues on Sunday starting at 9 am. Forecast for tomorrow calls for clear, sunny skies and a few fewers gusts than today.
Dual Stunt qualifiers sets stage for Sunday stunt showdown
30+ racers entered the debut Dual Stunt event, which pitted riders against the clock in two qualifying rounds on each stunt course. Dual Stunt adapts a Dual Slalom race format to a flat course featuring wood and dirt obstacles. Racers started atop a 10' box container to gather the speed necessary to clear the first two obstacles: a water hazard followed by two wooden 8' camelback rollers. Two box jumps slowed things down and set racers up for an about-face turn through a satellite dish before sending them headlong into the wind for the return trip to the start.
"You need lots of balance, good speed, and fast reflexes combined with a little bit of trials and dirt jumping," said Omar Romero (Ride SFO/Faction), who dodged a nasty endo over the first camelback on the return trip by abandoning his bike and jumping off the edge.
Romero will take the best of his two runs to qualify for tomorrow's final.
"These are interesting conditions," said Greg Herbold, one of the celebrity announcers for today's event. "You have dirt jump kids who don't know how to race and racers who don't necessarily have the skills. There will be a cool mix of talent for tomorrow's final."
Dual Stunt finals get underway at 11 am on Sunday. For information about Dual Stunt, go here.
Pro Short Track (quotes only)
Women’s race quotes:
Lea Davison (Trek/VW):
“It was definitely a cat-and-mouse game the whole race.”
“I was on such a high from my win yesterday that I had to come down from it today and focus.”
Kelli Emmett (Giant):
“I didn’t know Melanie was right there and she got me in the end.”
Melanie McQuaid (Nature’s Path):
“My strategy didn’t work today. It was really hard to get away because of all the wind. I just tried to stay up in the top two.”
“It's getting close to XTERRA season so my legs felt really good.”
Shonny Vanlandingham (LUNA):
Men’s race quotes:
Ryan Trebon (Kona):
“I took six weeks off the bike after cyclocross and have only been training for about a month. It makes the racing hard. I’ll take the licks now and give it back at the end of the season.”
Sam Schultz (Subaru/Gary Fisher):
“I’ve been coming to Sea Otter since I was 14, and I never imagined that I’d win a big race here. This is actually my first win in a real pro race.”
Ross Schnell (Trek/VW):
Video highlights of Day 3 of the Sea Otter Classic include:
00:00 - 00:24 B-roll from various dual slalom
00:24 - 00:57 Dual slalom race footage
00:57 - 01:12 B-roll, various
01:12 - 01:34 Mens road circuit
01:34 - 01:46 B-roll, various
01:46 - 02:10 Dual stunt
02:10 - 03:04 Dual slalom race footage
03:04 - 03:40 B-roll, various
To download the Sea Otter Classic VNR, visit:
About Sea Otter Classic, Inc.
An online version of this release can be viewed here: http://www.boohermedia.com/SOC/2008/08SOC_Day3.htm
Donna Brown (local media)
Chris Worden (Web-related)