For mountain bikers, the first sign that spring has arrived is the annual Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. An estimated 9,200 athletes took part in over a dozen road and mountain bike events, with close to 60,000 spectators on the sidelines for four days of racing, April 14-17.
One of the final events is a the 36 mile (58 km) cross-country race, which attracts some of the top World Cup mountain bike racers on the continent.
This year the top of the podium was all-Canadian with North Vancouvers Alison Sydor winning the womens competition. The conditions were less than ideal with winds of up to 50 km/h gusting off the ocean, and the top riders used each other to block the wind until the final sprint.
Sydor broke away early with 200 yards to go to defend her Sea Otter title, and win the overall cross-country title for the weekend.
"It was so windy today and in a way that made it easier to defend the jersey," she said. "Basically all I had to do was stay with (Alison) Dunlap, and if she won I had to finish at least third. I got attacked a million times, but I was able to respond. I just made sure that I rode defensively, tactically and carefully today."
In the mens competition Bart Brentjens of Holland started the day with a 50 second lead over Trent Lowe of Australia, but things changed part way through the second half of the race when Lowe crashed and Brentjens ran out of steam. That opened the door for Victorias Geoff Kabush who quickly overtook Brentjens on the climb that led off the second lap. Liam Killeen of Great Britain kept up with Kabush until the end, but in the end it was Kabush who sprinted to victory.
"I knew it was going to be tough to get rid of Brentjens," said Kabush. "I took the lead after the first climb and strung it out. I think someone made a mistake behind and a gap opened up. I think me and Liam had a bit more power, so I said to him lets go. I was worried (Liam) was going to attack on the last climb; he was hurting me on the climbs."
Several Whistler riders participated in the downhill events. In the Pro Mens downhill, Cedric Gracia finished sixth overall in the downhill and ninth in the Omnibus a collection of downhill and freeride events.
Tyler Morland was 52 nd , Adam Billinghurst 60 th and Chris Dewar 67 th on a short, technical course where the times varied between 2:20 and 2:40.
In the Pro Womens downhill, Claire Buchar finished 11 th in the field, as well as ninth in the Omnibus.
Alex Prochazka, who is turning 14 in May, was 32 nd in the Junior Expert 18 and Under downhill. If he had raced in the proper category, the Junior Sport 14 and Under group, he would have placed first by more than four seconds.
For complete results visit www.seaotterclassic.com.