Posted by Editor on 03/26/01
Another off road Sea Otter has concluded, and now we know who is starting the season on form. For the men it is Bart Brentjens (Giant), Roland Green (Trek/VW) and Bas van Dooren (Specialized). On the women's side it is Barbara Blatter and Caroline Alexander (both Specialized) and Alison Dunlap (GT). In each case they literally rode away from their respective fields in the final cross-country stage of the Sea Otter. Green and Dunlap won the stages in sprint finishes, but Brentjens and Alexander took overall honours.
The off road Sea Otter began with a time trial - a 6.2 kilometre loop that featured 220 metres of climbing, and a technical descent to the finish. The circuit was hard, dry and fast - faster than usual the riders said. Blatter took the women's stage, 4.8 seconds ahead of Alexander. The pair were clearly in a class of their own, with the next best rider - Jimena Florit (RLX Polo Sport) - 43 seconds behind. Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) was top Canadian in fifth, followed by Alison Sydor (Trek-VW) in 6th. In the men's event it was Brentjens 11.6 seconds in front of Green, with van Dooren at 19.4 seconds. Ryder Hesjedal (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and Seamus McGrath (Haro-Lee Dungarees) were the next Canadians in 5th and 6th respectively.
The short track had no effect on the standings, with Blatter and Alexander repeating for the women, followed by Dunlap. Sydor got off to her trademark quick start, but could not match the speed of Blatter and Alexander as the race progressed. Blatter's superior descending skills allowed her to open a slight gap on her team mate in the final drop to the finish, however, the duo were 30 seconds clear of third place Dunlap, and the time bonuses (30-20-10 seconds) padded their overall lead even further. Dunlap moved into third overall, displacing Florit, with Sydor rounding out the top 5.
The men's race began with a group of the top contenders swapping the lead repeatedly throughout the race until the final few laps, when Brentjens, Filip Meirhaeghe (Specialized), Green, van Dooren and Cadel Evans (Volvo-Cannondale) pulled away from the chasers. Brentjens was pipped by Meirhaeghe on the final descent, with Evans finishing third, just ahead of Green. The time bonus was enough to move Meirhaeghe into second overall, ahead of Green and Evans.
All previous efforts would prove to be window dressing, however, when the riders started the third and final stage. This stage harkens back to the early days of mountain biking, with a 28.8 kilometre loop. Both men and women did 2 laps of the rolling, bumpy circuit, with the women taking close to 3 hours to complete the stage.
In both races the strongest riders established an early lead. For the men it was Green, Brentjens and van Dooren; for the women, Blatter, Alexander and Dunlap. In the men's race the trio could not drop each other, and the finish came down to a sprint, with Green initiating the final action, and holding off Brentjens. The 2000 world champion silver medalist moved into second overall, after Meirhaeghe failed to finish, followed by van Dooren, Evans and Hesjedal. Hesjedal and Evans had ridden together all race, chasing the leaders, but could not close to less than 30 seconds behind. Hesjedal beat Evans in the sprint for fourth.
The women's race followed a similar pattern: Blatter, Alexander and Dunlap went clear early. However, there was a twist. Blatter's forks lost pressure early in the first lap, meaning she was forced to race on what was, effectively, a rigid fork. This limited her descending considerably, and eventually contributed to her loss of the leader's jersey to team mate Alexander.
Blatter and Alexander had dropped Dunlap late in the first lap, coming through the start/finish 40 seconds up. However, Dunlap was able to make up all that time on the second lap with her descending skills, catching first Blatter, and then Alexander. Realizing that she had no hope of dropping Alexander, Dunlap set tempo at the front to try and gain as much time as possible on Blatter, possibly moving into second overall. While she did open a gap, towing along Alexander in the meantime, it was not enough to displace the two Specialized riders; merely moving Alexander ahead of Blatter. Dunlap had to take consolation in her two-up sprint win for the stage.
- there are no general classification results at this time. A rider from another category went through the finish line just ahead of Dunlap and Alexander, thus messing up the timing program - this is the official word. However, unofficially the final G.C. is: Alexander, Blatter, Dunlap, Florit and Sydor for the women. For the men it is Brentjens, Green, van Dooren, Evans and Hesjedal.
- Steve Tilford and Jimena Florit are the 'Iron Otters' this year. This means that they completed both the road and mountain bike competitions. Florit's accomplishment is particularly impressive - 4th overall in the mountain bike stage race, 9th overall in the road stage race.
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