By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
A pair of North Shore residents ruled the third day of the Sea Otter Classic mountain-bike stage race Saturday, as Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Alison Sydor (Trek-Volkswagen) picked up short track wins.
Hesjedal’s victory came after hooking up with a three-rider break that formed four laps into the 7-lap race. Right there with the young Canadian were overall leader Bart Brentjens (Giant) and Roland Green (Trek-Volkswagen). Once together the trio steadily pulled away from the pack, with only Seamus McGrath (Haro-Lee Dungarees) and Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized) able to stay in sight.
On the last lap it was Hesjedal who made it to the top of the final climb first, and from there he outgunned Green, who barley missed pulling back his training partner at the line. The closing moments wouldn’t have been nearly as tight had Hesjedal not looked back, then begun his victory celebration a tad early.
“He always looks over his left, so I tried to sneak past him on the right,” explained Green, who settled for second. Brentjens was a solid third, with Meirhaeghe leading McGrath across the finish 15 seconds later.
In the overall standings Brentjens maintained his grasp of the overall, but gave away five seconds to Green because of the 20, 10 and 5-second bonuses given out to the top three finishers in the short track.
Heading into Sunday’s 36-mile cross country, Brentjens has a 7-second lead over Green, with Hesjedal in third overall at 0:13. McGrath, at 0:36, and Meirhaeghe, at 1:12, round out the top five in GC.
In the women’s race the selection was made early and included a familiar list of seven riders: Sydor, Alison Dunlap (Luna Chix), Caroline Alexander (British National), Barbara Blatter (Specialized), Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher), Jimena Florit (RLX-Polo Sport), and Sue Haywood (Trek-Volkswagen).
That group initially formed on the second lap, and was well off the front a lap later. From there the jockeying began, as riders tried to spend as little time at the front as possible on the gusty day. By the fifth lap Haywood was dangling off the back. She was dropped a lap later.
On the final climb of the pavement, which preceded the twisty finishing downhill, it was Dunlap out in front, with Sydor right on her wheel. But on the descent, Sydor made a bold pass on Dunlap’s left, then pulled away as the came across the line. Redden ended up third, followed by Alexander, Blatter, and then Florit.
“We were just about side by side coming up the hill,” Sydor said. “But I knew if I was close I could get past her on the downhill.”
Sydor’s win vaulted her from fifth to second in the overall standings, 25 seconds behind Dunlap, who has owned the leader’s jersey since winning Thursday’s street criterium. Redden held third place for the second straight day, at 0:31, with Alexander owning the same overall time. Blatter is fifth in GC, at 0:51.
Like the men, the women will do two laps of the 18-mile Sea Otter cross country course to decide the overall Sea Otter title. Racing starts with the men at 1 p.m. on Sunday, followed by the women 10 minutes later.
SEA OTTER CLASSIC MOUNTAIN-BIKE STAGE RACE; Monterey, CA, March 21-24; Men; Short Track; 1. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Subaru-Gary Fisher, 5.25 miles in 17:05; 2. Roland Green (Can), Trek-Volkswagen; 3. Bart Brentjens (Nl), Giant, both s.t.; 4. Filip Meirhaeghe (B), Specialized, at 0:15; 5. Seamus McGrath (Can), Haro-Lee Dungarees, s.t.; 6. Andreas Hestler (Can), Rocky Mountain, at 0:46; 7. Adrian Bonilla (CR), Café de Costa Rica, at 0:47; 8. Mathieu Toulouse (Can), Gears, at 0:49; 9. Rune Hoydahl (N), Giant, at 0:51; 10. Todd Wells, Mongoose-Hyundai, at 0:57; Overall Standings; 1. Brentjens, 1:20:06; 2. Green, at 0:07; 3. Hesjedal, at 0:13; 4. McGrath, at 0:36; 5. Meirhaeghe, at 1:12; 6. Bonilla, at 1:24; 7. Hoydahl, at 1:25; 8. Toulouse, at 1:44; 9. Chris Sheppard (Can), Haro-Lee Dungarees, at 1:49; 10. Hestler, at 2:01; Others; 12. Wells, at 2:20; 13. Steve Tilford, Verge, at 2:26; Women; Short Track; 1. Alison Sydor (Can), Trek-Volkswagen, 5.25 miles in 21:07; 2. Alison Dunlap, Luna Chix, at 0:01; 3. Chrissy Redden (Can), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 0:03; 4. Caroline Alexander (GB), British National, at 0:04; 5. Barbara Blatter (Swi), Specialized, at 0:05; 6. Jimena Florit (Arg), RLX-Polo Sport, at 0:17; 7. Sue Haywood, Trek-Volkswagen, at 0:50; 8. Magen Long, Specialized, at 0:53; 9. Mary McConneloug, Jamba Juice, at 0:58; 10. Mary Grigson (Aus), Subaru-Gary Fisher, at 0:59; Overall Standings