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Sea Otter Classic - 2.3
Monterey, California, USA, April 9 - 12, 2003
Stage 1 - April 9: Circuit Race, Redwood City
Jeanson shows her sprint
By Kristy Scrymgeour
Geneviève Jeanson (Rona-Esker), fresh off winning the Redlands Bicycle classic a few days ago, has sprinted to victory in stage one of the Sea Otter Classic. The diminutive but powerful Canadian beat Dede Demet-Barry (T-Mobile) and Lyne Bessette (Saturn) in a small bunch sprint, and thus took the lead on the first day.
On a course that some considered too dangerous, the women's race started with a steady tempo. Winding through neighbourhoods, the 10 mile lap was challenging enough to split the field relatively early.
On lap one the mood was "very nervous" according to Jeanson. Riders were worried about keeping it safe and staying away from cars coming out of driveways. Saturn's Ina Teutenberg led the first climb, keeping tempo and "trying to keep it safe". The pace was strong enough to lose some riders, and as the bunch got smaller the race became safer.
It was on the third lap that Lyne Bessette (Saturn) attacked, stretching out the field and managing to form a front group of approximately 15 riders. Kristen Armstrong (T-Mobile) and Manon Jutras (Saturn) were struggling to stay on the back of the small bunch at the top of the third climb, and saw the leaders slowly edging away from them. However, as the pace slowed a little they managed to get back on and in one fell swoop they caught the group and immediately swung themselves off the front, getting a good gap and causing a reaction from the field. They were soon caught but Armstrong attacked again as the road started to descend. A great move that caught everyone napping, she found herself with a quite convincing lead with a little over a lap to go.
It was Christine Thornburn from Red 5 Racing that decided she needed to bring this back and she drove the group back to within sight of Armstrong. Seeing a chance to get across, the Rona girls attacked and counter-attacked until Jeanson finally put in one last effort to bring it back. Armstrong was caught and the race steadied a little until the final climb.
Jeanson attacked on the climb, but couldn't quite get the gap she needed and the small bunch of about 13 remaining riders managed to stay with her. As the race sped downhill to the finish line, the attacks really began. T-Mobile began with Demet-Barry, followed by a counter attack by Armstrong and then Rona's Magalie Le Floch. Bessette worked hard to cover the attacks and found herself on the front at the corner with 500m to go. She went too wide and Demet-Barry went underneath her with Jeanson on her wheel. It took the French Canadian powerhouse what seemed like an age to get around her, but she nipped her on the line to win Stage 1.
"I was surprised to win today," said Jeanson at the finish. "I was lucky that Lyne took the corner too wide and Dede had such a perfect line going around the corner. I stuck on her wheel and managed to get around her".
The race now remains open and exciting with three days remaining. T-Mobile had five riders finishing in the top group and is looking forward to tomorrow. "We are in a good position going into tomorrow's time trial. We are all feeling good and I personally am feeling much better than I did last week at Redlands," Kimberley Bruckner told Cyclingnews.
Team Victory Brewing also had a strong showing today, with three of its riders making the top group. Sandy Espeseth told Cyclingnews that "This race is a major goal for us and our sponsors; we really want to do well. It's great that three of us are up there and we have Leah Goldstein as our time trial strength for tomorrow."
Saturn, which has two riders up there, and Red Racing 5, a new team on the scene, are both keen to give the lead a shake, so Rona will have its work cut out in such a strong field. When asked about today's course, most were positive, saying that is was a great course. Saturn's Teutenberg said that she "liked the course, I can imagine it's going to be very hairy for the men, but the women's field is smaller".
Director of the Saturn Women's Team, Giana Roberge noted that "the course was very dangerous in the first lap. Cars were getting in the way, and there were some dangerous areas without marshals, but as the race went on, things seemed to settle."
Demet-Barry and Amber Neben, both commented that the race was very "Euro-style", and the general consensus was that the race was challenging and fun. Not so for the men's race however, which was cut short after a rider protest mid way through lap two.
Men's race neutralised after firm but amicable protest
By Chris Baldwin
Redwood City has redwood trees growing up its hilly slopes. It is a town where expensive homes seem to rest on nothing more than faith and a pair of concrete stilts, and where wealth can be measured by how far you live from the freeway. All things considered, a midweek bike race here could be a welcome event.
On Wednesday the opening stage of the Sea Otter Classic was certainly welcome here. Folks lined the sloping streets of Alameda and Harding, they stood next to their own bicycles atop Lakeview and Cordilleras, they cheered and snapped photos of the peloton along the summit at Lakeview. A few enterprising fans even inflated a large Emperor penguin and wore wigs to cheer as the pro men rode by.
But the cheering rang hollow when the men came soft-pedaling by the second time, and even the long straight descent on Emerald Hill was not terribly fast or exciting. For all the hoopla, hullabaloo and flightless balloon birds, the race was not terribly race-like.
"On the start line everyone kind of made the decision that it was going to be two laps neutral," said Ryan Guay (Navigators),"then start racing from there."
The men's race was effectively neutralized by the riders, who were concerned enough about their own safety along the 10-mile rolling enclosure that they met beforehand with promoter Terry Tupper and race officials.
"The biggest issue we had before the race was riders who were dropped and outside of the 'security bubble'," said Gord Fraser (HealthNet). "I find it very unacceptable to put riders in a race situation where there's a timecut of a certain percentage, and on this course it would have been hard to make the time cut, where these riders were going to be outside any security and asked to yield to traffic, stop at stop signs. It is unrealistic to ask that of riders who are trying to make the time cut."
"We came to an agreement," said Tupper, "which was to pull riders out of the race but prorate their time. That was satisfactory to them, but that started a buzz about the safety of the course."
That buzz soon grew to a dull throb, as word of twisty, blind turns filled with parked cars came back into the peloton via the rumor mill.
Fraser had his worries from the beginning. "When we got to the race we were told by various parties, like photographers, neutral service and the women who raced before us, that the race was very unsafe," he said.
"We felt that if we just raced easy the first couple laps, meaning we all stick together, no attacks, that means there's longer race time before anybody gets dropped, that means that fewer people would be affected by that time cut. As we were racing it became apparent to me, and for whatever reason I was being singled out as one of the leaders of the riders, that most teams wanted more laps neutral."
Steve Larsen (Webcor) was not entirely convinced that a wholly neutral race was the best situation. "I thought it was safe enough to race on," he said. "But for me the decision was either we race, or we don't race. You can't sort of race halfway or not. You can't be ambiguous about it. We either decide it's unsafe and we make a statement, or as professionals we say 'We are in an inherently dangerous sport. (The officials are) doing their best to keep it safe. Let's go race today.'"
Tupper and the riders, along with race officials from the UCI, spoke for nearly 15 minutes on the hilltops above Redwood City. The debate was civil, and at times comic, particularly when David Zabriskie (US Postal) suggested ending the whole matter by allowing just him to race on alone, but nevertheless one that needed a quick solution. The new matter at hand was all the parked cars along the route.
"Every lap there was new cars up there," said Ryan Guay. "It just wasn't consistent. It was a rolling enclosure, but there were new parked cars every time around. It was a tough call for the riders."
Eventually the parties came to a compromise, but not without testing the limits of the riders, the promoters and officials, and the police escort.
"The compromise we came to was that we shorten the race by two laps," said Tupper. "They would ride two laps, and that made our police officers very happy, because we were very close to losing them."
"The riders realized that we were running the risk of losing something we worked really hard for," he continued. "They agreed that they would ride the race in a manner that appeared to be racing, and that when we turned on to Jefferson a member of each team would come forward and we would do a real sprint."
The compromise came as some of the fans were beginning to check their watches and scratch their heads. The team directors in the race caravan were no less impatient to get the race restarted, but frustrated all the same by what was perceived as a logistical, rather than a technical problem.
"A decision should have been made," said Robin Zellner, Ofoto-Lombardi DS. "Because once the guys started riding and the fans got out there to see a bike race, we kind of disgraced ourselves by not giving them a show. We should have discussed it and said either all the parked cars go or else we don't race. If we had sat here until that was done, that would have been a much more prudent way to handle it in my opinion."
"I think ultimately a good compromise was reached, but it's a shame," said Steve Larsen. "It would have been one hell of a bike race. It was a very challenging course, and had we raced six laps I think you would have seen an epic day for Sea Otter. It's unfortunate for the spectators who came out and didn't get to see it, but hopefully we were able to put on a good show."
Kenny Labbe (US Postal) also thought highly of the Redwood City circuit race, despite its logistical shortcomings.
"If this course had world championship or world cup support and everybody there was passionate about putting on a great race," he said, "it would be a really challenging course. I think the course itself wasn't dangerous, I think the situation with the cars and some of the residents not being aware of it made it a little bit more dangerous."
In the end Mike Sayers (HealthNet) nipped Matt Dubberley (Sierra Nevada-Clif Bar) and Miguel Meza (Schroeder Iron) for the sprint finish. The rest of the field came in right behind and the riders donated their winnings to the family of Garrett Lemire, who was killed in a traffic safety accident three weeks ago during a race in Arizona. Tomorrow's time trial will sort out the GC and leave the winner to be determined by the outcomes of Saturday's criterium and Sunday's Carmel Valley road race. The Redwood City circuit race will hopefully live on, and the Sea Otter Classic will definitely survive.
"I think it's a good solution," said John Lieswyn (7Up-Maxxis), "and I hope that the race is improved for next year. I think it's a great venue, I just think they need a little more work to make it safer for the riders."
Images by Bob Wilson/Bob Wilson Photography
Images by Stuart Bone
Images by Ruben Villarreal
Images by Garrett Lau
Images by Mark Shimahara/Bikezen.com
Elite Women 1 Geneviève Jeanson (Can) Equipe Cycliste Rona-Esker 1.51.22 2 Dede Barry (USA) Team T-Mobile USA 3 Lyne Bessette (Can) Saturn Cycling Team 4 Sandy Espeseth (Can) Victory Brewing/Amoroso's 5 Nicole Demars (Can) Victory Brewing/Amoroso's 6 Amber Neben (USA) Team T-Mobile USA 7 Christine Thorburn (USA) Red 5 Racing 8 Kristin Armstrong (USA) Team T-Mobile USA 9 Karen Bockel (Ger) Equipe Cycliste Rona-Esker 10 Kimberly Bruckner (USA) Team T-Mobile USA 11 Susan Palmer-Komar (Can) Genesis-Scuba 12 Leah Goldstein (Can) Victory Brewing/Amoroso's 13 Kim Anderson (USA) Team T-Mobile USA 14 Manon Jutras (Can) Saturn Cycling Team 0.08 15 Magali Lefloch (Fra) Equipe Cycliste Rona-Esker 3.58 16 Charm Breon (USA) Veloclips 6.26 17 Michellie Jones (USA) Total Trainer 7.03 18 Emma Rickards (Aus) Goldys 7.06 19 Candice Blickem (USA) Genesis-Scuba 7.14 20 Dotsie Cowden (USA) Team T-Mobile USA 7.30 21 Iona Wynter (Jam) Genesis-Scuba 22 Gina Hall (USA) Euroduds 23 Jane Despas (USA) Euroduds 24 Elizabeth Begosh (USA) Velobella 11.29 25 April Henderson (USA) Total Trainer 26 Beth Leasure (USA) Veloclips 27 Cynthia Mommson (USA) Euroduds 28 Jennifer Stevens (USA) Red 5 Racing 29 Melissa Holt (NZl) Equipe Cycliste Rona-Esker 30 Amy Moore (Can) Saturn Cycling Team 31 Maatje Benassi (Ned) Intermountain Cycling 32 Jenny Eyerman (USA) Red 5 Racing 33 Brooke Ourada (USA) Goldys 34 Erin Kassoy (USA) Basis 35 Megan Elliott (USA) Saturn Cycling Team 36 Vanessa Guyton (NZl) Velobella 37 Melissa Sanborn (USA) Intermountain Cycling 38 Laura Van Gilder (USA) Saturn Cycling Team 39 Catherine Marsal (Fra) Equipe Cycliste Rona-Esker 40 Ina Teutenberg (Ger) Saturn Cycling Team 41 Cathy Bearce (USA) Total Trainer 13.46 42 Michelle Beltran (USA) Red 5 Racing 43 Kristin Drumm (USA) Euroduds 44 Larssyn Staley (USA) Genesis-Scuba 45 Liza Rachetto (USA) Intermountain Cycling 46 Sima Trapp (USA) Goldys 47 Lauren Franges (USA) Victory Brewing/Amoroso's 48 Judy Hay (USA) Velobella 49 Helene Drumm (USA) Basis 50 Kele Hulser (USA) Veloclips 51 Suzanne Macht (Can) Goldys 52 Julia Hawley (Ber) Basis 53 Sarah Konrad (USA) Basis 54 Troy Watson (USA) Goldys 55 Christy Kopasz (USA) Intermountain Cycling 56 Heidi Stamm (USA) Intermountain Cycling 57 Mary Kneeland (USA) Intermountain Cycling 58 Emily Kachorek (USA) Red 5 Racing 59 Catherine Powers (USA) Total Trainer 60 Lisa Hunt (USA) Euroduds 61 Julia Bradley (Can) Veloclips 62 Cynthia Carroll (USA) Goldys 63 Gina Grain (Can) Victory Brewing/Amoroso's 64 Sophie St Jacques (Can) Victory Brewing/Amoroso's 65 Jody Kosinski (USA) Genesis-Scuba 66 Grace Fleury (USA) Genesis-Scuba 19.03 67 Nicole Freedman (USA) Basis 22.17 68 Cory Irimes (USA) Velobella 23.16 69 Natalie Scott (USA) Veloclips 23.50 OTL Galina Asipenko (Blr) Euroduds 39.07 DNF Naomi Gollogly (USA) Total Trainer DNF Sarah Foulkes (USA) Total Trainer DNF Erika Schwarz (USA) Red 5 Racing DNS Kate Maher (USA) Basis Teams 1 Team T-Mobile USA 5.34.06 2 Victory Brewing/Amoroso's 3 Equipe Cycliste Rona-Esker 3.58 4 Saturn Cycling Team 11.37 5 Genesis-Scuba 14.44 6 Red 5 Racing 22.58 7 Euroduds 26.29 8 Veloclips 31.41 9 Total Trainer 32.18 10 Goldys 32.21 11 Velobella 36.44 12 Intermountain Cycling 13 Basis 39.01 Men (no official results) 1 Mike Sayers (USA) Health Net 2 Matt Dubberley (USA) Sierra Nevada-Clifbar 3 Miguel Meza (Mex) Schroeder Iron