Sea Otter Classic

Emmett, Martinez Survive Windy Conditions to win the Sea Otter XC
Trials Riders, Dirt Jumpers go Head-to-head in Dual Stunt
Buhl and Minnaar master Sea Otter DH
Michael "Bubba" Gonzales surfs a winning streak in BMX
Video highlights of Day 4 of the Sea Otter Classic


Miguel Martinez
Men's XC winner, Miguel Martinez
photo: Greg Robidoux
Kelli Emmett
Women's XC winner, Kelli Emmett
photo: Greg Robidoux

MONTEREY, Calif. (April 20, 2008) The 18th Sea Otter Classic wrapped up today under blue, sunny skies.  In the SRAM Dual Stunt, Kyle Strait (Oakley/Specialized) proved he had the skill and speed necessary to overcome the unique challenges of the new event.  Melissa Buhl (KHS Bicycles) and Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) blitzed the dusty Sea Otter downhill course to take wins ahead of their respective world champions. Kelli Emmett (Giant) and Miguel Martinez (Look) surprised onlookers with wins in the pro cross-country races and 9-year-old Michael “Bubba” Gonzales ( swept all his races in the days BMX events in preparation for his trip to the World Championships in May.

Emmett, Martinez Survive Windy Conditions to win the Sea Otter XC


For the second day in a row, the wind posed the biggest challenge on course.  High winds moved in midway through the start of the pro men’s cross country and forced riders to push themselves beyond their limits on one of the longest courses of the season.

2000 Olympic Mountain Bike Gold Medalist, France's Miguel Martinez (Look), was victorious after breaking away from a strong eight-rider pack in the second lap.

“In France, the Sea Otter Classic is a very prestigious race.  To win here makes me very happy,” Martinez said. 

Martinez placed eighth in Saturday’s short track, a race he used as both a warm-up and as a way to observe the strength of his fellow competitors.

After winning gold in the short track, Sam Schultz (Subaru/Gary Fisher) continued his success by winning silver in the pro men’s cross country.

“We all worked well together in the first lap and then Miguel broke away at the start of the second.  Sid (Taberlay – ed.) and I worked together well and thought we might catch Miguel, but he was too strong,” Schultz said.  Taberlay (TIS) ended the day in third place.

Schultz added that he felt that his new 29er gave him an advantage, “I felt great on the descents and I felt I could hold my momentum better.  It also held really well on the corners.”

Expected contender Ryan Trebon (Kona) was amongst the top riders after the first lap, but found himself bonking midway through the second lap and had to struggle to cross the finish line. “After the Phoenix race, I had a stomach bug. I thought I was over it but I guess not.  Once my lights went out I had nothing left.  I bonked and I had to stop and get food from some random guy to keep going,” Trebon said.

In the women’s race, all three podium finishers had their best Sea Otter finishes ever.  Kelli Emmett (Giant) started strong off the front and never looked back.  “I got off the front right after the sand pit.  Once I got away, I just rode as hard as I could the entire way.”

The SoBe-Cannondale team had a 2-3-4 finish with teammates Jenna Zander, Kathy Sherwin and Emily Van Meter putting forth a solid effort.  “There were four of us working together to try and catch Kelli, but she was just too strong,” Zander said who finished with the silver medal.

A beaming Sherwin was elated over her best-ever third place finish in a pro field. “I felt really good.  I woke up on the right side of the bed today.  Last year, I didn’t fuel properly beforehand and I went from ninth to like, twelfth on the last hill.  This year, everything was just right.  The engine went well, the bike ran well.  What more can you ask for?"

Consistent with other races this weekend, first-time winners took aim at a podium spot and scored. The depth of talent that Sea Otter continues to attract guarantees a world-class event for years to come.

Kyle Strait Scores Victory in First-ever Dual Stunt Competition


Kyle Strait
Kyle Strait exiting the satellite dish

A mix of 15 trials riders, free riders, dirt jumpers and other skilled bike handlers advanced to the Dual Stunt finals after proving their skills at bunny hopping, reverse bunny hopping, dirt jumping, and trials in yesterday's qualifying rounds. World Cup downhill racers, trials supernovas and a former nordic ski champ went head-to-head in a power-sapping struggle over the "fish pond," through the "liberty bells," into a pair of bunny hops before getting propelled into a satellite dish to reverse direction.

"The key is to pump and to keep speed up," said Kyle Strait (Oakley/Specialized). "The course definitely required a lot of legs and lungs, it was definitely a tiring course."

Trouble spots emerged as riders bobbled or even crashed over the first and second rollers. Key to riding a clean, fluid race was to know where to gain speed and where to scrub it. Riders who overpowered the runup, like Cameron Zink (Felt/SRAM), overshot the landing and either slowed to a stop or wiped out completely. They were either penalized with the maximum 1.5 second differential going into the second run or they were out of contention for the win.

The first surprise upset came early when Aaron Chase (Cannondale/Cut) failed to advance to the quarterfinals, instead allowing Jordie Lund to go up against Strait. A bobble by course designer, Jeff Lenosky, in the quarterfinals cost him .818 seconds and, unable to make up the time, Lenosky yielded to Wayne Goss (Cannondale/Cut), who advanced to the semifinals. Goss matched skills with Chris Akrigg (Mongoose) while Strait went up against Jamie Goldman (Santa Cruz/Syndicate). Akrigg and Strait punched out wins in the semis to take aim at victory. Akrigg, who had the second fastest qualifying time, admitted that he thought he might be able to take it easy during the first few runs but every run turned into a sufferfest and left him tapped by the end.

"I knew I was one of the fastest and I thought I could just cruise in the beginning but every single round was flat out," Akrigg said. "My legs just died."

Each made a few mistakes in the finals but it was Strait, who rode smooth, consistent - almost conservative - runs to sweep all eight rounds and take the win.

"The first run [in the finals] got a little awkward," Strait said. "A little wind cut me off but it came together in the end."

Buhl and Minnaar master Sea Otter DH


Melissa Buhl
Melissa Buhl notches her first downhill win at Sea Otter

Enjoying this morning's crisp and mild weather, Melissa Buhl (KHS) and Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate) won the pro women’s and men’s downhill races in front of world-class, star-studded fields at Sunday’s Sea Otter Classic. Racers from around the world flocked to the Sea Otter downhill course for a chance to compete against the best the world has to offer and, with riders like current UCI Downhill World Champions Sabrina Jonnier (Maxxis) and Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Iron Horse), they certainly got what they came for.

The Sea Otter downhill course is a unique one, described by one rider as “very pedaly (sic) and smooth.”  It is non-technical, not very steep, and, with Sea Otter’s unusually dry weather, the course is very dusty.  Unlike most gravity races, rider fitness played a large factor in the day's racing, as the course required “a lot of quick, bursty (sic) sprints” to keep the speed high.  In fact, the course was so smooth and required so much pedaling that many riders were leaving their normal, heavy, long-travel downhill bikes in favor of lighter, all-mountain bikes hoping for the little advantage that could lead to to the top of the podium.

The women’s race saw Yeti’s Abigail Hippley set an early standard of 2:35.4, which stood for most of the morning until the big names took to the course at the end of race.  Then in rapid succession, Jonnier, Buhl, Fionn Griffiths (Norco World Cycling) and Rachel Atherton (Animal Començal) all went under 2:30.  When the dust cleared, it was Buhl who found herself atop the podium.

“I’ve trained hard for Sea Otter every year,” bubbled Buhl at the finish.  “This is the first time I’ve ever won it.”

The men’s race looked to be a throw down amongst the big guns that were present – and they didn’t disappoint.  Dan Atherton (Animal Començal) of the famed Atherton family of downhillers crossed the line early on with a 2:13.9 that set bar high enough that only a few top riders could come close.  However in the end, a recovered Greg Minnaar, coming off his win in yesterday’s Dual Slalom, was the one that proved that fastest, with a blazing 2:11.2, while other pre-race favorites, Sam Hill and Gee Atherton (Animal Començal)  suffered various mechanical mishaps on course, which took them out of contention. 

“I didn’t feel like I was doing all that well up there,” explained Minnaar.  “My legs are tired from yesterday but I think everyone was the same, a lot of the guys raced yesterday.”  Minnaar, excited with his victories this weekend, continued “If someone told me I was going to double up here this weekend, I never would’ve believed them.”

Defending state champion Michael "Bubba" Gonzales surfs a winning streak in BMX

The 2020 Olympics may be a ways off but Michael "Bubba" Gonzales ( has been fingered as the next big thing in BMX. Only 9-years-old, Gonzales easily swept all eight motos by at least a bike length today to secure a spot in the Golden State Championships. 413 racers arrived at Laguna Seca from points far-flung around California to line up against old and new rivals. A young man of few words, Gonzales chooses instead to hone his riding skills instead of his interviewing skills. It also doesn't hurt that Gonzales has an 800-foot BMX track with four-person start gate in his Watsonville backyard. Clearly practice makes perfect but experience pays as well. Last year at the BMX World Championships in Canada, Gonazales crashed out of qualifying rounds when he looked back to see who was on his tail. He failed to make the Main Event, which spoiled plans to take the world title.

Now as an Expert, Gonzales joins a new class of racers, which hasn't seemed to faze him in his pursuit of victory. Next up, Gonzales will travel to Taiyuan, China at the May to try again at a world title. This time though, Gonzales will no doubt look forward to a win, both literally and figuratively.

Video highlights of Day 4 of the Sea Otter Classic include:

00:00 - 00:07 Skipper, Sea Otter Mascot

00:07 - 00:12 B Roll, various

00:12 - 00:17 Music Bands

00:17 - 00:36 Downhill practice

00:36 - 01:13 Downhill racing

To download the Sea Otter Classic VNR, visit:

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About Sea Otter Classic, Inc.
The 18th Annual Sea Otter Classic will be held April 17-20, 2008 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey, California, USA. The four-day "Celebration of Sport" is considered the world's largest cycling festival, hosting nearly 10,000 professional and amateur athletes and 50,000 fans. The Sea Otter Classic benefits the Davis Phinney Foundation, which supports Parkinson's disease research and wellness, and IMBA California, which organizes advocacy and trailbuilding efforts statewide and strengthens California mountain bike clubs. More information can be found at or by calling 800-218-8411.


An online version of this release can be viewed here:

Wendy Booher

Donna Brown (local media)

Chris Worden (Web-related)

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