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Sea Otter Home
2002 Sea Otter
Sea Otter Road

Sea Otter Classic - E1

Monterey, California, USA, April 10 - 12, 2003

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Stage 2 - April 11: Fat Boy Criterium, Santa Cruz

Dunlap and Tilford fastest on slicks

By Chris Baldwin

Steve Tilford (Verge) won the Santa Cruz Fatboy Criterium Friday, taking stage 2 of the Sea Otter MTB in a field sprint. Tilford, from Topeka, KS, is the Master's 40-45 MTB World Champion and a consistent winner of MTB criteriums.

"I haven't lost one of these things in, like, 10 years," said Tilford. "It's kind of a specialty."

Tilford stuck at or near the front of the 114-man field for most of the 50 minute race. Clocking an easy 35 mph down the back stretch of the 4-turn course, the men had exchanged their regular knobby tires for narrow slicks.

"He's the king of this," said second place finisher Jason Tullous (Telcel-Speed Bikes). "I was told before the race to get on his wheel. He led it out, I jumped on. I just happened to be in the right spot."

Together for the entire race, the men's field was led along West Cliff Drive in a crosswind, turning right and inland to face stiff resistance as the breeze met them head on near Lighthouse Point. Roland Green (Trek-VW) tried a solo flyer with a lap and a half to go, but was caught after trying to slice the wind alone.

"I hit the wind and my legs went 'phtttffpht'," said Green. "I thought it was my only chance to get the win and the time bonus. I was hoping they would loo at each other and say 'Who's going to chase?' Maybe get a hesitation."

As MTB teams are generally smaller than road teams, breakaways in an MTB criterium can be successful in there is no cooperative organization to chase them down. With just over one lap to go, Green was depending on the factors of fatigue and chaos to help him stay away.

"You can't really let anybody get away," said Tilford, who patrolled the front all day, catching and reeling in most of the breaks. "Roland took a pretty good flyer into a 20 mph headwind with a lap and a half to go. I knew that if he didn't have 200 meters before he got to the wind, it was going to get swallowed up at the end."

As Green came back and the men sped down the backstretch, Tilford aimed for the final right-hand turn and came through first. This was crucial, and he stayed first into and through the finish line, both arms raised ina victory salute.

"We were all undergeared," he said. "We were going with a tailwind and it's bumpy, so anybody through the last corner first is going to finish first."

In the women's 50-minute event, the speed was a half-notch slower than in the men's race, but the wind was just as strong. Standing in the sunshine, spectators who watched could be warmed to the point of discomfort. Standing in the shade of nearby Cypress trees, those same spectators could stand to put on a jacket.

Alison Dunlap (Luna Women MTB) was first into the last corner of her race, and this proved just as crucial in her victory.

"I talked to some of the guys who raced earlier," said Dunlap. "Everybody seemed to agree that first through the turn was going to win. It was a full on drag race to the corner."

Dunlap had been holding back from leading the women outright around the course as the race unfolded, and moved around in the top 10 or 20 positions instead. She tried an attack early, diving on the outside and swinging into the wind, but it proved fruitless.

"I attacked once. Sue Haywood attacked once," said Dunlap. "There were some little ones, but nothing stuck. It was just too windy, and that backstretch was way too fast. Everybody just caught on."

Joining Dunlap at the non-attacking front was Melanie McQuaid (Ford Outfitters), who reasoned that prudence and a powerful sprint could obviate the need to race aggressively.

"There's a real disparity in ability in that pack," said McQuaid. "A lot of the girls are just pure mountain bikers, rather than road and mountain bike. It seemed a lot safer near the front."

A mid-race crash at the back of the pack seemed to bear this out. Shonny Vanlandingham (Luna Women MTB) was jostled from behind while the women negotiated speed bumps, potholes and each other. She hit the pavement hard and slid headfirst into a cement gutter, smashing her helmet and breaking her collarbone.

"She was conscious and she could talk to us to tell us where it hurts," said Luna Women MTB DS Waldek Stepniowski. "She's kind of beat up. Lots of road rash. The helmet was in really bad shape, so I think she had a major concussion."

With two laps to go the peloton began slowing, peering inward to see who would do what. Katerina Hanusova (Luna Women MTB) drove hard to prep the field for teammate Dunlap's sprint.

"I told her, with one lap to go, if it was slow, just go as hard as you can at the front," said Dunlap. "It was really slow, so she went to the front and started pulling pretty hard. It kept the pace high."

After the final corner, as they came slightly uphill to the line, Dunlap cut across the road to shake her followers. Some women immediately behind her could not respond, boxed in as they were by the move. Only Karen Matamoros (Costa Rica) and Magen Long (The Bicycle Store) could hold the winner's wheel. They finished in that order, with Melanie McQuaid placing fourth.

"I really wanted to try and win," said McQuaid. "I had a good sprint and I wanted to stay top three. I thought if I could stay in the front, then I could go from the first corner and no one could get around me."


1 Steve Tilford (USA) Verge Sports                        45.56
2 Jason Tullous (USA) Telcel-Speed Bikes
3 Doug Swanson (USA) Trek-Volkswagen Factory Team
4 Nick Craig (GBr) Trek U K
5 Paul Rowney (Aus) Sobe Cannondale
6 Julien Absalon (Fra) Motorex Bianchi 
7 Menno Hubregtse (Can)
8 Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA) RLX Polo Sport
9 Geoff Kabush (Can) Kona Clarks Factory Team
General classification after stage 2    
1 Roland Green (Can) Trek-Volkswagen
2 Chris Sheppard (Can) Haro Lee Dungarees
3 Mathieu Toulouse (Can) Gears Racing
4 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Subaru/Gary Fisher
5 Geoff Kabush (Can) Kona Clarks Factory Team
6 Seamus Mcgrath (Can) Haro Lee Dungarees
7 Julien Absalon (Fra) Motorex Bianchi 
1 Alison Dunlap (USA) Luna Women's MTB Team                 54.09
2 Karen Matamoros (CRc) Costa Rica
3 Magen Long (USA) The Bicycle Store
4 Melanie Mc Quaid (Can) Ford Outfitters
5 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek-Volkswagen
6 Mary Grigson (Aus) Subaru/Gary Fisher
7 Lesley Tomlinson (Can) Rocky Mountain/Crystal Decisions
8 Shelly Whisenhant (USA) Velo Bella
9 Nichole Wangsgard (USA) La Florza
10 Kiara Bisaro (Can) Gears Racing
General classification after stage 2    
1 Chrissy Redden (Can) Subaru/Gary Fisher
2 Susan Haywood (USA) Trek-Volkswagen
3 Barbara Blatter (Swi) Specialized
4 Shelly Whisenhant (USA) Velo Bella
5 Alison Dunlap (USA) Luna Women's MTB Team
6 Willow Koerber (USA) RLX Polo Sport
7 Katerina Hanusova (USA) Luna Women
8 Melanie McQuaid (Can) Ford Outfitters
9 Mary McConneloug (USA) Seven Cycles
10 Mary Mason (USA) Cane Creek