By Matt Pacocha
World Champion Brian Lopes (GT Bicycles-Oakley) and France’s Sabrina Jonnier (Monster Energy-Ironhorse-Madcatz) won Saturday afternoon’s Sea Otter dual slalom race under sunny skies and light winds.
The afternoon’s light winds played a key roll in changing course conditions, drying and hardening the once-muddy route and adding speed to riders’ times. The men were running in the mid-30-second range, while the women put in times just slightly slower. Despite the finale of the men’s pro NRC road race and the SRAM invitational dirt jump contest running at the same time, the dual slalom was well attended by an enthusiastic crowd of fans.
Once downhill racing’s cohort on the NORBA and World Cup circuits, dual slalom is no longer a mainstay. Contested on an open downhill slope, riders compete on two parallel courses, where each rider gets one run on each. Dual Slalom strikes a cord with many of the specialists who bring a BMX background to the table and Sea Otter is one of the few events to keep the discipline alive.
In the men’s race the action heated up when veteran Brian Lopes conceded .613 seconds to the young privateer Cody Warren in the first run of the semi-final. It was the first run Lopes had lost all day.
“Cody was riding really well today,” said Lopes, “it was one of those courses that if you made a mistake it could cost you big.”
High on the course Warren took advantage when Lopes, who was running flats, slipped a pedal and nearly missed a gate. The crowd got behind the young Warren for the second run, but Lopes preformed well under the slight pressure Warren applied and was able to overcome the deficit to move on to the final.
Also in the semi-final, French men Cedric Gracia (Commerical-Oakley) and Fabien Barel (Kona-Les Gets) to battle for their own spot in the final. Gracia was able to post a 1.253 advantage against in the two-time world champion in the first run. Giving Gracia, who his peers acknowledge as one of the best gravity all-rounders on the circuit, a comfortable margin going into the second run, in which he was able to easily stay with Barel.
Going into what the announcers dubbed as the “all Oakley final” – both are sponsored by the brand but on different teams, in fact both were wearing the same jerseys and shorts – it appeared to be any rider’s race. But on the top of the course in their first run Gracia bobbled and struggled to keep on course, in doing so he conceded the maximum 1.5-second advantage to Lopes.
“It was my first time with the new team and I just wanted to kill it, you know,” said Gracia. “I made a mistake, I was too fast in the corner but I didn’t crash.”
With that Lopes easily took the race win by staying with Gracia for the final run.
“It’s a different type of riding it’s more like downhill than slalom riding,” Lopes said about the course conditions. “It takes some skill and good line selection to be able to navigate all of the mud and all of that stuff.”
In the women’s semi finals, Tracy Moseley (Kona-Les Gets) crashed hard half way through her second run against New Zealander Vanessa Quinn (Dirt Magazine-Intense). She took around 30 seconds to remount and finish the round and giving Quinn a hall pass to the finals. Quinn met Sabrina Jonnier (Monster Energy-Ironhorse-Madcatz) in the finals where Jonnier took a .965 advantage on the first run. The deficit proved too much for Quinn allowing Jonnier the win.
Race NotesAfter taking the race Brian Lopes dedicated the win to his good friend and Honda factory supercross racer Ernesto Fonseca, who lays paralyzed in a hospital bed after a crash three weeks ago during the practice for the Daytona AMA Supercross. Lopes was wearing Fonseca’s number on his helmet during the race. American Cody Warren took third place over Fabien Barel in a crash riddled consolation round. Barel was the first to go down in one of the courses upper berms, but to the crowd’s surprise, Warren fell in the same berm a bit further down the hill. Both riders remounted and battled for the line. But Barrel clipped the courses last gate before the finish, giving the round to Warren, who proceeded to crash as he crossed the finish line. Race promoters handed out nearly $800 to the pro men and women’s field in addition to the over all winners purse, each run was worth $20 to the winner. A race official was camped out in the finishing chute handing crisp 20-dollar bills to the winners of each round. Mountain Cross and Dual Slalom specialists Jill Kintner (GT Bicycles) and Katrina Miller (Jamis) were both eliminated in the round of eight before the semi-finals. Second place Quinn speculated that the slower muddy conditions took some of the advantage away from the speed savvy technical specialists.
1. Brian Lopes, GT Bicycles-Oakley
2. Cedric Gracia, (F), Commencial-Oakley
3. Cody Warren, C-Dub Racing
4. Fabien Barel, (F), Kona-Les GetsWomen
1. Sabrina Jonnier, (F), Monster Energy-Ironhorse-Madcatz
2. Vanessa Quinn, (NZL), Dirt Magazine-Intense
3. Tracy Moseley, (GB), Kona-Les Gets
4. Anneke Beerten, (NED), Specialized