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Blatter, Brentjens Maintain Sea Otter Leads

For the second day in a row the gang from Specialized dominated the mountain-bike stage race at the Sea Otter Classic.

On the men’s side it was Fillip Meirhaeghe who was first across the line in the 8-lap short-track race on a sunny Saturday, outside Monterey, California. Meirhaeghe’s teammates, Barbara Blatter and Caroline Alexander, went 1-2 in the women’s race, a 7-lap affair, duplicating a feat they accomplished a day earlier in the time trial.

The Belgium Meirhaeghe finished in a time of 20 minutes, 22.30 seconds, beating out Giant’s Bart Brentjens by 13.10. Third place went to Volvo-Cannondale’s Cadel Evans. Trek-VW’s Roland Green and Haro-Lee Dungarees Michael Rasmussen rounded out the podium spots.

Time bonuses of 30, 20 and 10 seconds were given to the top three finishers in both the men’s and women’s races.

In the race for the overall title, Brentjens held on to the lead he first took during the stage 1 time trail on Friday. Entering Sunday’s final stage, the cross-country, Brentjens is :24 ahead of Meirhaeghe, while Green is third, :36 behind. Evans is :46 back, and Rasmussen is another two seconds behind him.

Meirhaeghe’s Specialized teammate, Bas Van Dooren, finished eighth in the short track and sits in sixth place overall.

In Saturday’s race the top five finishers, along with Van Dooren, broke away from the field for good during lap 5, then jockeyed for position the rest of the way. Meirhaeghe took the lead away from Evans on the final climb and held on for the win.

“It was Cadel, me and Bart sprinting up that last climb,” Meirhaeghe said. “I got to the top first and that was it. There was no way anyone was going to get by me going down to the finish.”

In Friday’s time trail Blatter and Alexander had made it to the podium on their own. Saturday, teamwork got them there. The pair of Europeans — Blatter a Swiss, Alexander a Brit — conspired to fend off the solo effort of GT’s Alison Dunlap, with Blatter getting the win. Last year’s overall World Cup champion finished in 21:39.80, 2.80 ahead of Alexander. Dunlap held on for third, 29.70 back. Friday’s third-place finisher, RLX Polo Sport’s Jimena Florit, was fourth, 45.50 behind.

“Alison was really strong but she couldn’t beat the two of us,” said Blatter of the team tactics her and Alexander plied. “She looked tired on the last climb and that’s where I think we got her.”

In the general classification standings, Blatter remained on top, :17 ahead of Alexander. Dunlap, who’s 1:35 off the lead, jumped over Florit into third.

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