As far as gravity disciplines go, dual slalom and the new mountain cross disciplines get more play than the course-challenged downhill race at the Sea Otter Classic. Nonetheless, some of the world’s best gravity racers gathered on a sunny Sunday morning for the season’s first taste of real competition at Monterey. World champion Anne-Caroline Chausson broke out the new Cannondale downhill bike; Missy Giove was sporting the nuclear green-and-blue of the new Global team (with matching blue hair); and Steve Peat was up to his old tricks with GT.
Peat won the short jaunt through a series of man-made jumps and obstacles, while Marla Streb started her campaign with the Foes-Azonic team in fine fashion as she pulled off an upset win over Chausson.
“It’s an obstacle course,” is how Streb described the 0.9-mile course. The colorful veteran took an interesting approach to get the win, when she tumbled across the finish line after hitting an oddly-placed rock garden near the finish with exceptional speed. Most other riders chose to pick their way through carefully.
“My strategy was not to brake here in the rocks,” she said. “I knew that even if you crashed, as long as your hands are on the handlebars, that’s fine because you activate the timer.” She activated that timer with the numbers 1:41.332, less than three-tenths of a second faster than Chausson.
Peat was first out of the start gate for the men, and his time of 1:27.257 put him in the leader’s seat, a spot he settled into for the rest of the morning.
Peat’s win was no surprise, but the story of the day might have been the glimpse of the future seen by the small group of spectators gathered at the more interesting sections of the course. Southern California up-and-comer Colin Bailey finished second, followed by South African Greg Minnaar of the newly formed Global team.
Giove’s teammate Minnaar said the big-budget Global formation will allow him to focus more on racing this year, and he looks forward to duking it out with World Cup talents on the level of Peat all season. “I want to get another top-10 overall in the World Cup [downhill] and I want to improve in the dual,” Minnaar said.