April 23, 2012 (Monterey, California) – After missing last year’s Sea Otter due to European world cup obligations, Geoff Kabush (Can) Scott-3Rox Racing came back to familiar ground winning the Elite Men’s XC race on Saturday once again with authority. Kabush admitted he wanted to “feel some good pain” to get his legs and form dialed in for the summer. Under a light headwind and unforgiving temperatures (around 36 degrees C), he got his wish and left the field literally in the dust with a winning time of 1:14:14.
As opposed to last year’s innumerable technical twisties and laps, this year’s XC course was suited to a world cup venue though much longer in length with a one-lap 32km route lined with low grasslands and menacing thick-branched gnarly oaks skirting the predominantly unshaded singletrack.
After the first ten minutes of rapid soft-rolling descents from flying over various high ridges, the first half of the race split into two small groups continuing through the feed zone. The first group was lead by Specialized riders Todd Wells (USA) and Canada’s Max Plaxton, the victor in the XC short track. Wells and Plaxton had a 20-second gap while the second group was led by Kabush and Burry Stander (RSA) Specialized followed by Sid Taberly (Aus) Kenda/H20 Overdrive and Sam Schultz (USA) Subaru Trek.
After bridging to the leaders with Stander, Kabush quickly made his solo attack and never looked back, destroying the bridged group by 1.09 minutes (Taberlay, Plaxton, Schultz and Wells, respectively). The chase group came in a full minute before Canadian Chris Sheppard at 1:16:27.
Kabush, glad to be back, commented while collecting his trophy and 1st place check on the podium: “It’s good to be back, and I’ll be back again!”
His reaction to the weather of course was, as always, relaxed and modest. “ I think this heat can bring out the best in me, I do pretty well in it and felt like uncorking it early – and it worked out.”
Most of the crowd at Sea Otter might wonder when it doesn’t work out for him as he’s a perennial winner in both XC disciplines, but Kabush keeps things in perspective: “It’s a small step, but it’s a good sign.”
The Canadian XC pro men took seven of the first 21 places, dominating the field with Sheppard crossing the line alone in sixth place followed by Kris Sneddon (Kona) in 12th with Adam Morka (Trek Canada) eventually fading to 33rd place, after riding strong most of the day.
Andrew Watson (Norco) and and Derek Zandstra (Scott 3Rox Racing) rolled in together in 17th and 18th, with Peter Glassford (Trek Canada) rounding out the top 20.
Luna’s Gould and Pendrel Deliver 1-2 Punch.
She can’t help herself, it’s become a habit: three-time U.S. MTB champion Georgia Gould won another Sea Otter XC Pro women’s race handily in 1:25:12 – in fact, it’s her fourth in six years and she won both the XC and XC Short Track in 2010.
When asked if she owns this race, she laughed, “No, but I’d like to own property here!”.
Here’s how it rolled under another practically windless +35 Celsius day, where even the sheep and squirrels that normally roam freely near the XC course, never showed. According to Gould, “Cathy [Pendrel] and I took turns pulling along the fire roads and we helped each other during the first 2/3 of the race as it was windy, so we played off one another’s strengths.
“It felt good to be back in form, as last year had some disappointments, but I felt really good on the 29er today, so think I might have drunk the Kool-aid.”
Gould and Pendrel built a gap of 20 seconds over Canada’s Emily Batty (Subaru Trek) and Lea Davison (USA) Specialized in the first 20 minutes. The time gaps stretched to almost four minutes by the time Gould hit the last major shadeless and scorching ascent known as Lookout Hill (better known as Heartbreak Hill to the riders).
Pendrel, who was 1:30 behind Gould at Lookout, lost more ground during the switchbacks to the final kick onto the Laguna Seca concrete track, finally finishing 1:55 behind her team mate at 1:27:07. “We suffered out there! When Georgia attacked on a steep hill, I couldn’t hold on but just wanted to keep my ground and make sure I wouldn’t be caught,” Pendrel exclaimed.
Canada’s Batty rode smart, and like last year, when she powered past Pendrel for the win in the last 400 meters, this time she put the hammer down to finish off Davison, ending with a solid 1:29:03 to claim third on the podium.
Batty, (the only top Pro who prefers not to wear biking gloves) is upbeat about her chances for London hoping to earn a spot soon, so races like this “…are important to keep my form and competition high so I can hopefully be selected.”
We wish her the best of luck in quest to race at London 2012.
The only other Canadian, Amanda Sin (Scott-3Rox Eacing), took 13th place with a 1:33:39.