MTB News & racing round-up for April 14, 2006
Edited by Steve Medcroft
Sea Otter Classic wrap-up; a short track race for the ages
By Steve Medcroft
The famous Laguna-Seca raceway hosted the sixteenth edition of the Sea
Otter Classic this past weekend. After ten weeks of on-again off-again
rain, the skies were clear for almost all four days of the event but the
damage had been done; the soil on the muddy hillside MTB time
slalom and mountain-cross
courses turned to mucasy feces under the wheels of the several-thousand
pairs of mountain-bike tires. Only the cross
country (held on long stretches of fire road and singletrack through
the hills surrounding Monterey) and road (held on the raceway itself) races
were spared the mud baths.
Photo ©: Rob O'Dea
By far, the short-track race left the most lasting impression. Layered
from start to finish in a liberal frosting of the afore-mentioned mud,
the course was populated by hub-deep holes by the time the pros took to
the start. It's not often you see riders of the caliber of those at Sea
Otter (former and current Olympic, world, continental and national champions)
reduced to what looked more like the under-five kids race at a NORBA.
It's also not often that a group of hecklers forms at a mountain bike
race but the carnage at one particularly nasty short-track corner was
too much for even the kindest of fan to avoid letting the laughs rip when
a rider held a yard sale in front of them or boo when someone cut the
course tape to avoid the worst of the terrain.
There were three pro short track races. The 106-rider men's was cut in
half (based on omnium points standing). In the 'B' category event, Walker
Ferguson (Scott USA) rode alone at the front for much of the twenty-minute-plus-three-laps
race. His only real challenge came from Ryan Trebon (Kona Les Gets), who
dangled ten seconds back until the last lap when he managed to catch Ferguson's
wheel. In an unbelievable final 100 meters, Trebon had the momentum at
first and was about to pass Ferguson but bobbled, then Ferguson crashed
and Trebon, running his bike part of the way, came around, then Trebon
crashed again and Ferguson was able to hold on for the win. It was simultaneously
the most thrilling and heartbreaking thirty seconds of mountain biking
I've ever seen.
Because no-one wanted to get their bikes and uniforms completely covered
in mud before the race, almost all of the women skipped a pre-ride of
the short-track course. Which meant that during the first lap, the course
was littered with more bodies than a Civil War battlefield before sensible
heads found lines that gave them a least a 75% chance of staying upright.
And as she does in most of the mountain-bike races she enters, Gunn-Rita
Dahle-Flesjaa moved to the front and stayed on her bike (only after one
spectacular endo of her own) long enough to win her second race of the
Then came the men's 'A' group. Frenchman Jean-Christoph Peraud (Team
Orbea) led the omnium overall after winning Thursday's Super XC and finishing
second in Friday's time trial. Again, heckler's corner proved entertaining.
The crowd saw more than a dozen riders either flip completely over their
bars or lose control in such a dramatic fashion that if it were you or
I, we'd be talking with our buddies about for years to come.
But the strongest riders will usually make it to the front (as Todd Wells
said after the race) and sure enough, Peraud took the lead. But the stars-and-stripes
in short track (team Giant's Adam Craig) was chasing. Although Craig says
he's been slow to find form this early in the season, he kept working
and working and, eventually, bridged to Peraud with one lap to go. Whether
by skillfull bike handling, luck, or sheer willpower, Craig managed to
pull off the upset. He laughed as he crossed the line and said "I
can't believe I just won that. That's ridiculous," to the trio of
reporters surrounding him.
Besides what has to be the most epic short-track race ever (I have no
idea why the Euros haven't taken up this form of mountain-biking - it's
ridiculously good for spectators), there were a few other competitions
to follow at Sea Otter.
1, Thursday, April 6, MTB stage race #1, Super XC - Norway 's Gunn-Rita
Dahle-Flesja (Multivan-Merida) and France's Jean-Christoph Peraud (Team
Orbea) won the Sea Otter MTB stage race opener on Thursday morning on
a windy and muddy half-road, half-mountain 2.3-mile course.
2, Friday, April 7, MTB stage race #2, Time Trial - Clean starts,
bike handling and momentum were the keys to winning both the men and women's
MTB time trial at Sea Otter on Friday morning. Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Seven)
managed to finish the muddy, technical sub two-mile course 1.6 six seconds
faster than world cross-country mountain-bike champion Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa
(Multivan/Merida). In the men's race, Dahle-Flesjaa's team-mate Ralph
Naef nipped yesterday's stage winner, Jean-Christoph Peraud (Team Orbea)
by exactly the same margin.
3, Saturday, April 8, NRC road race - Road racing took centre stage
on Day 3 of the 2006 Sea Otter Classic. In the men's race, a trio of Tasmanians
thwarted the ambitions of Tour de France favourite Levi Leipheimer and
the powerful Health Net squad, while top rated Tina Pic of the Colavita
team easily outkicked the rest of the women's field in a sprint finish.
4, Saturday, April 8, MTB stage race #3, Short Track - “I can't believe
I just won that,” American Adam Craig said (Team Giant) after he fought
his way across a gap and passed Sea Otter omnium leader Jean-Christoph
Peraud (Team Orbea) to win the first race in which he wore his U.S. short-track
national championship jersey. And only Katerina Nash (formerly Katerina
Hunosova, of the Luna Chix Racing Team) was able to stay on Gunn-Rita
Dahle-Flesjaa's (Merida Multivan) wheel in the women's short track race.
But not to the end; Dahle-Flesjaa found clean lines when no-one else could
and managed to build enough momentum to win her second race of the weekend.
5, Saturday, April 8, Gravity Omnium event #1, Dual Slalom - On a
day when the course seemed to jump out and grab tires all day, snarfing
up dreams in one bite, luck, both good and bad, played a major role in
the outcome of Saturday's SRAM Gravity Omnium Pro Dual Slalom. Brian Lopes
(GT-Oakley) and Sabrina Jonnier (Iron Horse-Monster) won the Pro Men's
and Women's titles, respectively, each taking advantage of slips by their
competitors in the two-up, best of two format.
6, Sunday, April 9, Gravity Omnium event #2, Downhill - Slipping a
high rolling Maxxis TT tire on the rear of his 4-inch mountain cross bike
was a key element to Graves' win today on this muddy, rutted, "power pedaling"
DH course. At the bottom of his time 2:43 run, Graves's squirmed quite
a while as Fabien Barel (Kona), John Kirkaldie (Maxxis), Cedric Gracia
(Commencal) and Steve Peat (Santa Cruz) pedaled down. But none of them
could better his time.
7, Sunday, April 9, MTB stage race #4, Cross Country - With company
headquarters only fifty miles away in Morgan Hill, California, Specialized
spared no expense in spreading the word about itself, its history and
its riders at what could be considered their home race; the Monterey-based
Sea Otter Classic. Celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the world's
first mass-produced mountain bike, Specialized had a museum of Stumpjumper
models at Sea Otter, one-off pink-framed S-Works Epics (the original team-issue
Stumpjumper was painted pink) for their riders, logo banners all around
the venue and hosted VIP bike rides throughout the weekend. So it was
fitting that Specialized's athletes should reward the company with strong
performances in Sunday's epic UCI E1-rated cross-country race. At world-cup
marathon distance (38 miles, 61 kilometers), Specialized factory teammates
Liam Killeen and Alban Lakata worked together to go one-two on the day.
Although Sabine Spitz finished more than four minutes behind Gunn-Rita
Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan Merida), her second place was an impressive third
Specialized factory team podium spot of the race.
8, Sunday, April 9, Gravity Omnium event #3, Mountain Cross - World
Four-Cross Champions Jill Kintner (GT) and Brian Lopes (GT) lead from
qualifying all the way to the finishing rounds to claim the top spots
for the Sea Otter Classic Mountain Cross.
Mud bogging; the Chris Davidson diary
The otter came by
Photo ©: Chris Davidson
Ford women's cycling team road manager and wrench Chris Davidson kept
up his Cyclingnews diary while he rebuilt and rebuilt mud-damaged bikes
at Sea Otter. He sent us entries from almost every day including this
one from the mountain-bike time trial.
The sun rose on day two and the rain gave us a reprive until mid afternoon.
However, the quagmire that is the ground here at Sea Otter started to
congeal and the mud actually started to take a greater hold on the riders
and bikes. The time trial was super short, about a six minute effort,
as most of the track was a swamp. Downhill sections had to be traversed
on foot, because there was little controlling the bike on these sections.
There were lots of crashes, with the wheels spinning and sideways sliding
on the course. One of our riders, Melanie Meyers, crashed and hit her
knee pretty seriously. This was a big blow, as Mel had gone so well in
the SuperXC the day before, her first pro race. She has such a great excitement
about her first pro season that she really wants to continue to race,
but the best course of action may be not to race. A hard situation to
be in for a neo-pro. She continues to impress me every day.
After washing two bikes again today and taking nearly four hours, I am
beginning to wonder what the promoters are thinking about the racing.
The courses are in really bad shape. The daily mudbaths are really not
great for the riders, the bikes or the ground that we are constantly dredging.
There was talk today about why they haven't sought alternative courses
or added more road sections. In an environmental sense, this county park
that Laguna Seca sits in is going to take years to recover from what we
are doing to it over four days.
Read the entire day
two diary here. Follow the links for day one's Monterey
Mudfest, and day three and four's Dipped
Sea Otter tech
Cyclingnews tech writer James Huang made the trip to Sea Otter and
filed three days worth of reports. Among the finds, these new MTB component
groups from Shimano and SRAM.
The new XTR trigger
The new Dual Control shifter
As promised, the new rear
The new radial master cylinder
First ride on Shimano's new XTR shifters and derailleurs - We
told you about it, we showed you pictures of it, and now we’ve finally
tried it ourselves. This year’s Sea Otter Classic offered up the first
opportunity to not only lay our hands on the new XTR trigger shifters
and Dual Control shifters, but also to ride them. Ok, I will admit that
both test rides consisted of short little spin around the expo area, but
it was enough to get an impression on how the actual production bits will
The new Two Way Release, Multi Release, and Instant Release features
of the new trigger shifter combine to deliver amazingly fast shifts, particularly
when using the thumb to actuate the forward release trigger. Shifts can
still be performed with the index finger as before, but the new ‘thumb-thumb’
Rapidfire Plus style of shifting is both faster and easier to use.
The new Dual Control shifters represent the biggest change from the current
M960 generation to the new M970. Shimano obviously took note of criticisms
of the current Dual Control levers and seem to have addressed all of them.
The new radial master cylinder and hose routing produced a substantial
improvement in brake feel and also results in a much more compact assembly.
Shift action is enhanced as well: moving the lever up requires much less
effort than before, and lever throws have a shorter and more precise feel
Without a doubt, both styles of shifters are a definite improvement over
their predecessors with much more tactile feedback, a more precise feel
overall, and greatly enhanced ergonomics. More significantly, Shimano
seems to have backed away slightly from its hard-line Light Action philosophy
having incorporated a noticeably stronger return spring in the new rear
derailleurs along with much more tactile feedback in both shifters. According
to Shimano, the new kit will drop roughly three-quarters of a pound over
the current XTR kit and will be available around October.
SRAM’s X.9 trigger shifter
Avid ups the ante
Avid’s new Ultimate two-piston
Truvativ is moving upscale
A mountain bike version
SRAM launches bevy of MTB products - SRAM introduced two complete
road groups this year but clearly didn't want to ignore its off-road roots.
There's therefore a heap of new MTB components from SRAM, including new
trigger shifters and derailleurs, a new Avid hydraulic disc brake, and
a brand-new line of carbon fiber cranksets from Truvativ.
The X.9 trigger shifter has been revised to not only offer near-X.0 performance,
but also appearance as well. "Zero Loss" lever travel provides faster
downshifts and the two-position adjustable clamp adds greater user adjustability.
The new rear derailleur features a new forged aluminum B-knuckle and X.0
styling along with a full range of short, medium, and long cage flavors.
A new X.9 front derailleur borrows heavily from the previous X-Gen version
but with forged aluminum links and a cut-out cage to drop 18g.
Avid introduced a new lighter-weight Juicy hydraulic brake dubbed the
Ultimate. The new top-level XC offering features a magnesium master cylinder,
carbon fiber lever, and completely new one-piece forged aluminum caliper
complete with a full complement of titanium hardware. Weights will start
at 343g complete with 160mm rotor, but 185mm and 140mm (rear-only) rotor
options will also be available.
Truvativ will make a lot of headway in shedding its somewhat pedestrian
'good value and solid performance' reputation with a new high-end carbon
fiber line called Noir. The new line will feature unidirectional carbon
fiber laid over Al-66 spines with integrated carbon spiders along with
Truvativ's unique GXP bottom bracket system that minimizes lateral loads
on the bearings. Mountain, road, and road compact versions will be offered,
along with an ultrahigh-end HCT (HardCore Technology) road version that
swaps the full-length spine for separate pedal and crankhead inserts that
reduce the weight down to 750g, complete with rings and bottom bracket.
In addition to the component introduction, SRAM also introduced a new
mounting option based on its Avid Juicy clamp. Special rear clamps incorporate
mounting points not only for X.0 or the new X.9 trigger shifters, but
can also simultaneously accept the new aluminum Rock Shox PushLoc remote
To read the full Day
3 and Day
4 tech reports, just follow the links.
Global MTB wrap-up
- MTB - Città di Brescia - Trofeo G. Cigala, Ita (E1), April
- MTB - Swisspower Cup / Swiss National Race Series, Swi (E1), April
8 - 9: Full
- MTB - 15. Kamptal-Klassik-Trophy, Aut (E1), April 9: Full
- MTB - Worldclass MTB Challenge, Ger (E1), April 9 Full
- MTB - Swisspower Cup #2, Swi (E1), April 8: Top
Chile Challenge turns eighteen
For the eighteenth consecutive year, Angel Fire, New Mexico will host
the Chile Challenge mountain bike race and kick off the 2006 Yeti Cycles
Mountain States Cup Series.
The event opens Friday May 19th with practice for all disciplines. Saturday
will feature the leg-burning Jalapeno Cross Country and head-to-head action
with the Cayenne Mountain Cross, and the Biker Bash to follow. Sunday
will feature the much-anticipated Habanero Downhill event and the Serrano
Super-D. The event offers competition for everyone from first-timers to
For more information please go to www.cyclecyndicate.com.
2006 Yeti Cycles Mountain States Cup
The Mountain States Cup Schedule has been released and racers are gearing
up to compete in the Rocky Mountain Regional mountain bike championship
series. The Mountain States Cup (with seven world-class venues in 2006;
Angle Fire, N.M., and Colorado stops including Crested Butte, Nathrop,
Nederland, Snowmass, Telluride and Keystone) is pleased to announce a
partnership with Yeti Cycles of Golden, Colo.
The MSC will continue to host various disciplines at each event, including
endurance events such as Cross Country, Hill Climbs and Short Tracks.
In addition, the venues will host gravity events such as Downhill, Mountain
Cross and Dual-Slalom. Most venues also offer Super D, a new event combining
the best of both gravity and endurance genres. Series Champions will be
crowned in Cross Country, Gravity and Super D at the Series Finale Sept.
2-4 at Keystone Climax in Keystone, Colo.
Details regarding the Yeti Cycles Mountain States Cup Series can be
found at www.racemsc.com.
Bendigo MTB three-stage tour
The Bendigo MTBA Club in central Victoria will be running it's second
annual three-stage MTB tour on the weekend of the 29th and 30th of April.
The Tour is designed as an event that is achievable by riders with a reasonable
level of fitness. Each stage starts and finishes at the same venue; on
private property bordering the Sedgwick Forest, with the stages utilizing
3 various short course race tracks in the area.
Camping at the start venue is available on the Saturday night, $5.00 per
person, or enjoy Bendigo's variety of accommodation options, only 15 minutes
drive from the event venue.
Stages: Saturday 29th 1.00pm, Point to Point 37km 60% single trail;
Sunday 30th 10.00am, 10km Individual time trial; 1.00pm, Cross country
lap race 100% single trail.
Event Classes: - Elite, Expert, Under 19, Under 17, Under 15, Veteran
(30-39), Master (40-49), Super master (50+), Sport A and Fun Sunday at
12.00 there will be a kids participation event for 9—14 yr olds.
Kona expands Bike Park Program
The Kona Bike Park program is equipping mountain resorts all over the
world with the tools and the know how to operate world class bike parks,
giving freeriders, new and old alike, a place to call their own. The latest
inductees, in no particular order, are: Verbier, Switzerland; Killington,
VT, USA; Canada Olympic Park, Calgary; and Levi, Finland. Check them out
at the improved www.konabikeparks.com.
As with all Kona bike parks, Verbier, Killington, Canada Olympic and
Levi will be supplied with a fleet of durable and high-performance freeride
and downhill mountain bikes for guides and clients alike. Kona will also
lend assistance to the parks with event development and promotion, design
of trails and park features and coordinate marketing of the resorts to
assure summertime success for their bike park partners.
The four new parks join Kona Bike Park All-Stars; Canada’s Whistler
Blackcomb and Panorama, the U.S.’s Winter Park and Snowshoe, Austria’s
Leogang, Germany’s Todtnau, Italy’s Livigno, France’s
Les Gets, Bolivia’s Gravity Bolivia and Australia’s Mount
For more information about Kona's Bike Park program, visit their Web
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(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)