Official Sea Otter Race Wrap-up Sunday

Sea Otter BMXers Advance Toward Olympic Dreams


BMX Start

BMX: the start of a beautiful thing here at the Sea Otter Classic
photo: Brightroom Photography

After being absent from Sea Otter for years, BMX made its comeback in full force on Sunday. With sunny skies and a slight breeze, the near-Biblical rains that cancelled the races on Saturday were a distant memory but their affect was the consolidation of two days of racing into one.

That meant two motos instead of three for the 16 – 29/30+ open class, the most competitive event of the morning. Eight racers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and aimed to earn enough points to jettison them to the top of the podium.

Nick Valencia, 22, of team Psykopath Industries was the first one across the finish line on the fast, zig-zag course with five straights. Valencia’s teammate Kyle Zondervan came in second, catching a lucky break when the second place rider crashed.

Psykopath Industries was sitting pretty with racers in the first two gates for the second race. “The inside line is key on this track. You could be a half-bike behind and still come out in front,” Zondervan said. “If you have the inside gate you definitely have an advantage. I had gate two so I was there.”

Kyle Zondervan

Kyle Zondervan nails the holeshot
photo: Brightroom Photography

The 20-year-old Zondervan nailed the holeshot and stayed out in front for the rest of the race. He bagged $220 for the win and moved a step closer to his dream: qualifying for the Olympics, which will include BMX for the first time in 2008. But Zondervan, who hopes to go pro at the end of the year, is taking a long term view.

“The 2008 Olympics are a big stretch,” said the San Jose resident, who just picked-up his first trainer. “I’m shooting for ’12.”

While some racers hoped to make history at Laguna Seca, the presence of pedalers like Rainey Townsend was a nod to local history. The seven-year-old girl who races novice was named after the legendary motorcycle racer and namesake of the “Rainey Curve,” the left hand turn that follows “The Corkscrew” at the Laguna Seca race track.

Rainey’s family did more than just cheer her to victory in her first moto. Her mother, father, and older brother, Rider (named after his parents’ love of all things with two wheels) raced as well.

Getting in the saddle herself has many benefits for mom, including a practical education of the world of BMX.

“Because I race, I’m not the one who is always yelling ‘pedal, pedal, pedal!’” said Kristi Townsend. “Because I know that there are some areas where you can’t pedal.”

This is the first year that the San Jose family has hit the BMX circuit hard. They’re planning on attending 15 races this year.

Mrs. Townsend said that in addition to making her clan stronger, it also gives them a common ground.

“After the race weekends, we love coming home and talking about ‘did you see that?’ or ‘how about that turn?’ or ‘how about when that person came high:’ all of us have our own stories to talk about,” Townsend said.

18 – 29 OPEN WHEEL / 30 + OPEN WHEEL

1. Kyle Zondervan, 20, San Jose
2. Nick Valencia, 22, San Jose
3. Phillip Castro, 20, Fresno

Kabush and Gould Continue to Dominate

Georgia Gould

Georgia Gould defends the National XC Champ’s jersey
photo: Paul McKenzie

The 2007 Sea Otter Classic concluded on Sunday with the premier event – the pro men’s and women’s cross-country race. To no one’s surprise, the two dominant North American riders this spring won: Georgia Gould (LUNA Women’s MTB Team) and Geoff Kabush (Maxxis).

After a deluge of rain the day before, riders were relieved to wake up to clear and sunny conditions for the arduous 38-mile, two-lap race through the Fort Ord Recreation area overlooking Monterey Bay. However, strong, gusting winds meant that any rider attempting a solo effort faced a daunting task.

Gould, the Pan American Champion, was unafraid of the wind and quickly opened a gap on the rest of the women’s field within the first few miles. By the end of lap one the Fort Collins, Colo. rider was two minutes up on the chasing duo of Kiara Bisaro (Opus) and Gould’s team mate Katerina Nash. She extended her lead further in the second long lap, and rolled across the finish line with a big smile on her face.

“I didn’t ever look back. Sue (Haywood, Trek/VW) attacked on the first climb and when I got by her I just set my own pace. I feel comfortable riding by myself in the wind, so it didn’t bother me that I would be out there alone. I felt really good; it was one of those days where everything goes right.”

Bisaro, from Canada, and her Czech rival Nash rode together for the entire race, taking turns at the front breaking the wind. Nash opened a slight gap on the final technical descent, but Bisaro powered her way back as the race entered the final mile, and then outsprinted Nash for second place.

The men’s race proved to be one of attrition, as Kabush – the men’s Pan American Champion – set a high tempo for the first lap which burned off all but four rivals from his wheel. Further attacks on the second lap brought the lead group down to Kabush, Sea Otter Short Track winner, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Orbea), and two-time World Cup champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized). Both Sauser and Peraud laid down multiple attacks on Kabush, but the Canadian national champion responded

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to every one, and then outsprinted his rivals in the final 300 yards to win the 2007 Sea Otter cross-country title.

“The first lap I took control for quite a bit to make a split in the field, and then did again in the first half of the second lap. Sauser and Peraud started attacking, but once it was down to three, I was pretty confident for the sprint. This is good for my confidence for sure, as we get ready for the first World Cup next week in Belgium.”

Atherton, Rennie Score Fastest Descents to Win Downhill Races

Rachel Atherton

Rachel Atherton’s debut win at Sea Otter
photo: Chris Milliman

“We’ll take that” said Sea Otter fans today to sunny, windy weather in comparison to yesterday’s rain. Crowds thickened near the top around the jumps, rhythm sections and berms and then drifted downward as fields studded with world and national champions chipped away at finishing times. Rachel Atherton (Animal/Commencal) and Australian National Champion, Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate), scored the fastest times on the .93-mile course. In a race where hundredths of seconds separate first from second, Rennie slashed more than two seconds off of second place finisher, Jared Graves. 19-year-old Atherton clinched her win by lassoing a little wind power while Rennie credited a smooth ride on a semi-slick rear tire to his win.

“We just had the best setup,” said Rennie. “Semi-slick tire in back helped to ride smooth because you can’t make too many mistakes on this course.”

Atherton took advantage of wind direction coming out of some of the jumps to blow her back on course and straight toward the finish line.

“Going into some of the turns you have to ride directly into the wind,” said Atherton. “Because if you don’t and you catch some air, you’re likely to get blown off course.”

Atherton arrived at Sea Otter for the first time with brothers Gee and Dan who also came to try their luck against a “best of” field of gravity racers. According to Rachel, who is the youngest of the three, they could be at the frontier of an up-and-coming gravity scene that’s starting to grow in the UK.

World downhill champion, Sabrina Jonnier, earned a spot in the top five but couldn’t defend the prestigious rainbow stripes of the world champion’s jersey in today’s races.

“I tried but couldn’t,” said Jonnier. “They (legs) don’t work as well; my ‘battery’ is running really low. I think I was OK on the technical but the pedaling was hard for me.”

Jonnier settled for fourth behind third place Melissa Buhl (KHS), second place Fionn Griffiths (Griffiths), and Atherton.

Top 5 Women
1. Rachel Atherton (Animal/Commencal) 2:33.5
2. Fionn Griffiths (Griffiths) 2:34.9
3. Melissa Buhl (KHS) 2:36.2
4. Sabrina Jonnier (Monster Energy/Iron Horse) 2:36.4
5. Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) 2:37.1

Top 5 Men
1. Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) 2:13.0
2. Jared Graves (Yeti/Fox) 2:15.5
3. Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate) 2:15.7
4. Filip Polc (unattached) 2:15.8
5. Chris Kovarik (MS/Intense) 2:17.1

Dirt Jumpers Get Crazy Silly at Furry Fury

“It’s ‘gunna get silly here today,” announced the DJ before beginning the Furry Fury dirt jump competition this afternoon at the Sea Otter Classic. As flags stood alert in the gusty ocean breeze, dirt jumpers hiked the ramp preparing to launch into their flips, tailwhips, can-cans and supermans. No footers, no handers, and no anythings where mixed with 360′s, karate kicks, and suicides creating one of the most entertaining events of the weekend. The massive dirt jumps attracted a large crowd eager to watch the big air, daring feats, and mesmerizing crashes guaranteed by the athletes.

Following practice and elimination rounds the swelling crowd was ready to see the pros launch themselves fearlessly into the sky. The crowed was awed as Jamie Goldman (Santa Cruz) hit a back flip off the launch ramp. And as promised there was insane in-flight action, gnarly crashes, and a few solid landings. Onlookers were entranced saying to each other that these guys must be crazy.

Professional cyclist Paul Bas (Kona) says that the motivation comes from learning new tricks and trying things that haven’t been done before. “It looks crazy but we practice a lot, it’s not as dangerous as it looks (from the crowd perspective). I practice at least three times a week, jumping into foam pits,” he told me. But it’s still a dangerous sport and some riders were visibly shaken when Andreu Lacondeguy (Red Bull, Kona) followed a crazy back flip off the launch ramp with a huge 360, over rotating and crashing hard into the packed dirt landing, breaking his collarbone on impact. At only 19-years-old, it can be assured that he’ll be back to jumping as soon as he’s healed.

Lance McDurmat (Scott/Adidas) and his mix of enormous front and back flips was the crowd favorite of the day as he took home the first place medal and $1,200 prize. As the field was leaving the jump area, one top 10 finisher was heard saying in passing, “I didn’t get hurt today so it’s all good.”

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