(April 14-17, 2011) MONTEREY, Cali- You couldn't have asked for better weather. Clear skies, tacky dirty with a side of loose dust, this year's Sea Otter Classic was another great year of racing. This year’s event was accompanied by beautiful central coast weather and plenty of great racing. From the Pro Short Track to the always exciting Dual Slalom racing, the 2011 Sea Otter Classic was one to not miss.
Dual Slalom The dual slalom course at the Sea Otter Classic is just that, classic. This being the 21st year of the event, 2011 was sure to be another great year of gravity racing. The normal world class list was shorter then normal due to the South Africa World Cup just around the corner, but that didn’t keep the racing from being quite exciting. Saturday’s main event on the rolling hillside of Laguna Seca always draws a major crowd.
The dual slalom racing this year was a battle royal between some of the best racers in the business. With names like Brian Lopes, Jared Graves, Kirt Voreis, Andrew Neething, Bryan Atkinson and many many more the races were heated and the finals came down to the wire. For the Pro Women, a total of eight women battled it out for the title. The always impressive Melissa Buhl was her work cut out as Jill Kintner and Joanna Petterson were not going to let her fly by so easily. After a small bobble at the top of the course, Buhl was left to race for third place, which she secured easily.
Jill Kintner and Joanna Petterson went head to head for the main finals. Kintner has definitely been putting in her time and it showed in her racing. Her riding was fast and smooth putting her into the top spot for the race. The Pro Men’s field was whittled down from over sixty racers in qualifying to a mer thirty two for the main finals. As the racers blurred down the course, each bracket winner made their way back to the top $20 richer. The looser was left to put their bike back in their trailer and watch the excitement from the side. It was no surprise to see who was racing the in the big finals; Brian Lopes and Jared Graves. Both of these racers are past world champs and still racing in their prime.
The skill level and explosive power of both racers made for an extremely exciting race. In the end, Jared Graves proved to have the most horse power on course pulling in the top spot with Brian Lopes finishing just off the pace. Giant racer Danny Hart smashed his pedals blazing down the course forcing Bryan Atkinson into fourth.
Downhill The Sea Otter Classic downhill course has always brought an interesting twist to racing. This year, the Momentum Trail Concepts crew from Colorado came out to put their personal twist onto the course. The main goal with the changes was to make the course faster and flow better from top to the bottom. The relatively smooth course and extensive pedaling sections makes a trail bike more suited for racing. Brian Buell with Team Geronimo chose to bring out his new Banshee Spitfire, an aggressive 5” trail bike. “This bike is just plain fun to ride. But on this course it works great! It can take a beating and is super stable at high speeds,” said Buell. For this year’s Pro Women race, their were many of the top nationally ranked racers present. One racer in particular that had an impressive race was 16 year old Cierra Smith from Reno Nevada. Last year Cierra broke out into the pro scene as one of the youngest racers out there. With a strong forth place finish, Smith is proving that age is just a number and racing takes dedication and determination.
The top three finishers were no big surprise. Long time racer, Melissa Buhl proved she still has the skill and power to win races finishing nearly two seconds ahead of Jill Kintner in second place. These two ladies however, showed they are on a level of their own as third place finisher Miranda Miller was a full seven seconds of the pace. The course definitely had its harder parts. The loose off camber turn two thirds of the way down the course claimed several victims in their high speed sprint to the bottom. Major time was lost and gained through this dusty roller ball section.
The Pro Men are always impressive to watch racing as they bring a speed to this course that is incomprehensible. You would expect to see them blow up in every turn, but these racers are able to make their bikes do things you only dream of doing. Jared Graves proved to be the fastest man on the mountain by blowing away the competition finishing nearly four second ahead of Andrew Neething in second place. Yeti Fox had an great showing of skill with five racers in the top twenty with Tyler Immer finishing third. With downhill racing in the books, the 2011 Sea Otter Classic came to a close. This year’s racing was exciting and impressive. You could not have asked for better weather either!
For a complete list of results visit the Sea Otter Classic webpage.
All photos and report by Devon Balet.