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Downhill and mountain cross finals produce inaugural Omnium winners
By Andrew Juskaitis
A busy day for the gravity set. Sunday saw six gravity athletes take the top spots on the podium. Champions were crowned in both the men’s and women’s categories in the downhill and mountain cross events. These results were then combined with Saturday’s dual slalom results to produce the inaugural Sea Otter Gravity Omnium champions. With two serious tangles in both the men’s and women’s mountain cross finals, two surprise winners were crowed overall champions.
Sunday’s schedule of gravity events saw racers tackling a “new and improved” downhill course in an early morning “dawn patrol” raid so fitting for the laid-back Northern California surf town of Monterey.
Qualifying kicked off at 8 o’clock sharp on the freshly rained-on course under still-cloudy skies. As racing progressed into the nine o’clock hour, the sun managed to emerge, quickly drying the clay-based dirt track.
This provided the dilemma of racers choosing between slower “mud condition” tires which are designed to penetrate and release sloppy soil, but are slower in drier conditions, or run more-traditional, lower-profile downhill tires which run the risk of washing out in unstable conditions. In the end, it was those riders who opted for drier-condition faster-accelerating XC tires that saw faster times on the now perfectly set-up course.
Extended by almost 2000 feet, the now-longer downhill course still didn’t offer the rough-and-tumble sections that now commonly litter NCS or world cup courses (i.e. drops and massive jumps) but otherwise challenged competitors due to its long finish stretch sprint section. Still-coming-into-fitness riders littered the finish area like fallen soldiers on the battlefield, while the more fit racers remained upright, but still were seen gasping to catch their breath. Eric Carter claimed he was in, “really good shape, but this course still kicked my butt. I haven’t sprinted that hard since last season.”
In the end, it was Kona Clump rider Tracy Moseley taking top honors in the women’s category with a surprise performance in the men’s division from Haro/Lee Dungarees team captain, “Iron” Mike King rolling across the finish with the fastest time of the day. Somewhat shy of his wearing of a Lycra skinsuit in the event, and seen changing immediately after crossing the finish line, King admitted that, “with the headwind and the long sprinting section, the skintight outfit was definite advantage–I just hope I don’t catch too much S–t for wearing it.” Carter conceded that the skinsuit, would have been the smart choice today, but I just couldn’t bear to show up in one.”
2003 Sea Otter Classic –Downhill
1. Mike King, Haro/Lee Dungarees in 2:33.4
2. Cedric Gracia, Siemens/Cannondale, at .02
3. Mick Hannah, Haro/Lee Dungarees, at .04
4. Eric Carter, Hyundai/Mongoose at 1.7
5. Colin Bailey, Maxxis Tires at 2.6
6. Dave Klaassenvandors, Yeti/Azonic at 3.1
7. Jared Graves, Iron Horse at 3.9
8. John Kirkcaldie, Maxxis Tires, at 3.9
9. Greg Minnaar, Haro/Lee Dungarees at 4.4
10. Wade Bootes, Trek/Volkswagen at 4.5
1. Tracy Moseley, Kona Clump in 2:52.5
2. Tai-Lee Muxlow, Tioga/Orange, at 6.4
3. Marla Streb, Luna Women’s at 6.4
4. Lisa Sher, Chumba Wumba at 8.0
5. Leigh Donovan, GT/Hyundai at 9.9
6. Mio Suemasa, Trek/Volkswagen at 10.4
7. Katie Compton, CTS at 11.4
8. Michelle Rivera, Lenzsport at 11.8
9. Tara Llanes, Giant at 14.6
10. Gale Dahlager, at 14.8
Mountain Cross Showdown
Later in the afternoon, riders made their way to the opposite side of the venue to an also “much improved” mountain cross track. This year, a second line option was added. One, a more tame, but longer section was the safer of the two, while a more-direct “big air” section offered incentive for risk. With heavy rains the previous day and into the evening, the transition sections between the three massive double jumps grew sloppy prompting race officials to close the exciting, but now-dangerous section. This pleased most of the racers, but not the blood-thirsty spectators who lined the now sun-baked course.
Four-abreast racing took commenced with most of the outcome decided within the first two corners. Frequent pile-ups littered the first berm corner deciding the outcome of many of the transfer heats. Most notably, the men’s and women’s finals were marred by first turn crashes. Carter made a “miscalculation” of speed heading into the first turn and crashed out Bootes. “It was totally my fault, I’m sorry for doing it, but I guess that’s racing,” Carter noted after righting himself from the wreckage. Chris Kovarik and Mick Hannah took advantage of the tumble with a one-two placing
Similarly, the final round for the women saw Jamie Lilly slide out in the first turn, taking down fastest qualifier Katrina Miller. Sliding past the accident were Llanes and BMX specialist Jill Kitner (Staats) into second and first place.
2003 Sea Otter Classic –Mountain Cross
1. Chris Kovarik
2. Mick Hannah
3. Eric Carter
4. Wade Bootes
1. Jill Kitner
2. Tara Llanes
3. Katrina Miller
4. Jamie Lilly
2003 Sea Otter Classic –Gravity Omnium
1. Eric Carter, with 9 points
2. Cedric Gracia with 12 points
3. Mike King with 15 points
1. Leigh Donovan, with 12 points
2. Tai-Lee Muxlow with 12 points
3. Lisa Sher with 13 points