March 30, 2006 – The revamped cross-country (XC) event at the Sea Otter Classic, the world’s largest cycling festival, breaks free from routine this year with a course set on “power.” Veteran racers expecting the XC event to be “just another day at the office” will need to prepare for a race studded with technical ascents, more passing sections, and a final descent to the finish.
“From a competitive standpoint, what the racers will notice is a lot more frequent climbing, more ups and downs that will make the race more interesting,” explained Jeff Frost, who designed the new course. “For the traditionalists, they’ll love it! It’s still going through eucalyptus groves, sandy sections, and the side-hill stuff unique to the Fort Ord trail system. Also, I think the new course will allow time gaps to actually increase whereas in years past – with so much fire-road and double track – the top ten guys have always worked together on the first lap. This year I think someone is going to make a move a lot quicker and the race will sort out a lot sooner than it has in the past.”
The mountain bike venues at Sea Otter have historically suited bigger power riders like Geoff Kabush, who will return to defend last year’s title.
“It is going to be great to see a new course and I think it will make things a lot more interesting,” said Kabush. “The old course had become very predictable to the racers; it went hard until the first hard climb where a selection was made and the strong riders rode away from there. Hopefully the new course will create a more dynamic race as well as keep some of the fun single-track elements that have made Sea Otter a classic.”
During the past ten Sea Otters, Kabush has climbed ever higher in the rankings with the push for number one beginning in 2000 with a memorable sprint for 5th against some of mountain biking’s supernovas. Then the countdown started in earnest with a third place in 2003; second in 2004; and first in 2005. However, last year’s final podium showed Specialized rider, Liam Killeen, in second place. Killeen’s gold medal for cross-country that he won just last week at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, tells of a racer whose form, focus and fitness all point toward another podium finish.
Kabush and Killeen will need to outpedal, outpace and even outsmart riders like Adam Craig, Thomas Frischknecht, Bart Brentjens, Todd Wells, and Sid Taberly along with a formidable field of mountain biking’s next generation supernovas.
The spot on the Luna Women’s MTB Team left vacant by Alison Dunlap, who retired from pro mountain bike racing at the end of last season, recently got filled by two-time Olympian and former RLX-Polo pro, Jimena Florit. Not one to be called “slacker,” the pro racer from Argentina has distracted herself from the pro circuit with a few adventure races, some triathlons and the US Xterra series. Her decision to return to pro racing derived from – among other things – a primal desire to stomp with force on her pedals once again.
“I missed being able to ride my bike HARD, really hard,” explained Florit. “In triathlon, I was always still recovering from my last run, so I was never fresh to do a hard bike ride. It was really hard to have to ride the bike easy/medium and that was all I could do.”
This year marks Florit’s eighth return to Sea Otter. A few years back Florit and Dunlap volleyed wins with a robust competitive spirit. Now, with Dunlap out of competition, prepare yourselves fans, there’s a new queen to crown in women’s mountain biking!
“Sea Otter is the biggest race in the season outside of the NORBA and World Cups where pretty much you’ll face world class competition,” said Florit. “The women’s fields are big. You will get all the racers from the NORBA series, plus several top world class riders from Europe or Canada, and why not a few roadies who finally decided to give the knobbies a shot.”
Look out for Shonny Vanlandingham, Kelli Emmett, Sue Haywood, Katerina Nash (formerly Hanusova), Heather Irmiger, Dara Marks-Marino and others who seek to topple each other from the podium’s summit.
Also, if you’ve ever shared an elevator with the tragically hip Florit, you know that if the mountain biking thing doesn’t work out, she could start her own style school and likely turn a profit in her first year.
The professional mountain bike races start Thursday, April 6 at 10 a.m. with the Women’s Super XC.
SUPER CROSS Thursday, April 6, 2006
The Super Cross will include additional off-road sections as we invite the world’s best mountain bike racers to challenge each other on a 5-mile, half-dirt, half-road circuit. Starting and finishing on Laguna Seca raceway, the course climbs pavement to the top of the corkscrew, then exits back into the infield near dual slalom and short track. After some dirt descents, climbs, and twin track, racers re-enter Laguna Seca Raceway for a 1-mile paved return to Start/Finish. Time bonuses for the top three finishers. All riders in danger of being lapped will be pulled; receiving a finish time, plus a penalty (to be determined by the Chief Official); pulled riders will be allowed to continue in the event.
Pro/Elite Women: 10:00 am, Stage length of 60 min., laps TBD
Pro/Elite Men: 11:30 am, Stage length of 60 min., laps TBD
TIME TRIAL Friday, April 7, 2006
Ride as fast as you can on a 2-mile course within the confines of Laguna Seca. The Time Trial start/finish is on the Short Track course as in years past. The shorter, faster course is designed to keep General Classification times closer leading into the final two stages on Saturday and Sunday.
Pro/Elite Women: 9:30 am
Pro/Elite Men: 10:30 am
SHORT TRACK Saturday, April 8, 2006
Due to popular demand, racers will race the same Short Track as in years past. Time bonuses will be awarded for the top three. All riders in danger of being lapped will be pulled. All pulled riders will receive a finish time, plus a penalty (to be determined by the Chief Official), but you will be allowed into the cross country on Sunday.
Special note to Pro/Elite Men: Due to your field size of 160 riders, a two-heat system will be incorporated as in years past. The top 50% after stages 1 & 2 seeded in heat #2, racing for Stage and G.C. time and prize money. The bottom 50% will be seeded in heat #1, racing only for time in the G.C.
Pro/Elite Men, Heat 1: 12:30 pm, 7 laps
Pro/Elite Women: 1:15 pm, 7 laps
Pro/Elite Men, Heat Two: 2:00 pm, 7 laps
CROSS-COUNTRY Sunday, April 9, 2006
We are pleased to announce a new course for 2006! In partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and as part of our responsibility as stewards of the Fort Ord trails, we have designed a new course to include all of the features you love about the Sea Otter Cross Country. Have no fear – you will still ride several 18-mile laps with about 2400 feet of climbing each lap, fight your way up short, steep climbs, enjoy singletrack of rocks, sand and other challenges, thrill through tight sections in the trees, and ride new open fields of scenery. Line up and ride clockwise on the track this year!
Pro/Elite Men: 1:00 pm
Pro/Elite Women: 1:10 pm
MAPS: Sea Otter course maps are provided by MotionBased combining the power of GPS and the Internet to bring online mapping and analysis for cyclists around the world. Learn more at www.motionbased.com.
For a complete schedule of all Sea Otter Classic events, visit:
About Sea Otter Classic LLC
The 16th Annual Sea Otter Classic will be held April 6 – 9, 2006 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey, California, USA. The four-day ‘Celebration of Cycling’ is considered the world’s largest cycling festival, hosting nearly 10,000 professional and amateur athletes and 50,000 fans. The Cypress Youth Fund is the Sea Otter Classic’s philanthropic arm. The Fund provides funding to organizations that benefit their communities in the areas of youth, sport, education, and environment. More information can be found at www.seaotterclassic.com or by calling 800-218-8411.