Sea Otter Classic: Racing round-up

Hill, Hannah and Sauser victorious

The racing was fast and furious at this year’s Sea Otter Classic, with dry and dusty conditions causing some crowd-pleasing crashes. The world’s top gravity riders competed in the downhill and dual slalom, while cross-country riders were put to the test on the full length and short track courses and Super D.


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Elite downhill

After starting mid-way through the elite men’s field contesting the downhill finals, Mick Hannah (GT) set an early fast time that held up as all the favourites attempted to beat him. His win proved that his comeback, after a year off racing, is well on track.

The man who came closest was last year’s winner Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate), who also won last weekend’s World Cup opener at home in South Africa. He finished just 0.06 seconds behind Hannah, but at the finish line proclaimed: “I rode like a twat.” South African Andrew Neethling (Trek World Cup) finished in third place.

In the women’s race, Tracy Moseley (Trek World Cup) took a narrow victory over Melissa Buhl (KHS). Moseley started first and enjoyed an open track en route to setting a time that would hold up as the fastest throughout the finals.

She finished 0.6 seconds ahead of Buhl, who got stuck behind a slower rider. Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) finished in third place.

Britain’s tracy moseley rode to victory in the women’s downhill:
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Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing) beat Melissa Buhl by 0.6 seconds in the downhill

Elite dual slalom

The course was dry and dusty, and many of the favourites crashed out, including last year’s winner Greg Minnaar, Chris Van Dine and Dan Atherton.

Australian Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized) made his win look easy as he marched steadily and without incident into the finals where he faced American Cody Warren (Specialized/Team America). Warren put up a good fight, but Hill triumphed in the end, winning both heats. 

The consolation round of the semi-finals ended up going to a tiebreaker after Brit Gee Atherton (Animal/Commencal) beat Australian Jared Rando (Giant) by 0.143 seconds in the first heat, but was then beaten by the same margin in the second heat. Rando took third place by virtue of having won the second of the two heats.

Sam hill won the sea otter dual slalom: sam hill won the sea otter dual slalom
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Sam Hill (Monster Energy/Specialized) made his win in the dual slalom look easy

In the women’s competition, 4X world champion Melissa Buhl (KHS) marched steadily throughout her rounds until she met a challenge in the form of Jill Kintner (Red Bull/Intense), who was returning to mountain biking after dedicating last year to racing Olympic BMX.

Buhl won the first heat of the final easily, but suffered a mechanical high up the course on her second run. Kintner narrowly took heat two, but not with enough of a margin to overtake the final champion, Buhl. Kintner finished second. In the semi-final, Kathy Pruitt (Jamis) defeated Mio Suemasa (MS-Intense).

Jill kintner leads melissa buhl at the bottom of the dual slalom course:
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Jill Kintner leads Melissa Buhl at the bottom of the Sea Otter dual slalom course

Elite cross-country

The Sea Otter Classic is known for its weather extremes, and this year was no exception. It was so hot and dry that organizers shortened the men’s and women’s races a few hours prior to the start. Instead of the traditional two 19-mile laps the men raced one 19-mile lap and one 10-mile lap while the women finished after just one of the long laps. The change also brought the historically lengthy cross-country race more in line with the conventional durations of UCI races.

Christoph sauser (specialized) celebrates his victory on his full-suspension epic:
Dave McElwaine/

Christoph Sauser celebrates his victory on his full-suspension Specialized Epic

World champion Christoph Sauser (Specialized Factory Team) spent most of the day off the front alone on his way to winning the elite men’s race. Todd Wells (Specialized Factory Team) occupied much of the day in second place until a flat tyre took cost him a half dozen places on the second lap. Sid Taberlay and Max Plaxton rode strongly and steadily throughout the race and finished second and third.

Lene byberg (specialized) checks out georgia gould during the start:
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Lene Byberg (Specialized) checks out Georgia Gould (Luna Women’s Team) at the start

Georgia Gould (Luna Women’s Team) also won on her own in the women’s race. Behind her Lene Byberg (Specialized) and Gould’s teammate Catharine Pendrel attempted to drop each other throughout the second half of the race until Byberg finally pulled a way on a climb not far from the finish. Pendrel crossed the line alone in third.

Elite short track cross-country

Specialized was the team to beat in the elite men’s short track, with Todd Wells (Specialized) winning the race ahead of teammate Burry Stander. A charging Carl Decker (Giant) rode his way on to the podium with a third place.

In the women’s race, Canada’s Emily Batty (Trek Bicycle Store) launched a final-lap attack and then held off four other women to take a career-best short track win ahead of several regular World Cup contenders. Norway’s Lene Byberg (Specialized) finished a strong second despite just one prior short track experience, while Canadian Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women’s MTB) finished third.

Team-mates burry stander, christophe sauser and todd wells in control of the race:
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Team-mates Burry Stander, Christophe Sauser and Todd Wells in control of the race

Super D

Team Giant’s Carl Decker and Kelli Emmett won the elite men’s and women’s Super D, which was held in sunny conditions on a dry and dusty doubletrack course with no major technical obstacles. 

In the men’s race, Decker won solo with a several-second margin over Aaron Bradford (Onsite Ultrasound) and Nate Byrom (Northstar) despite a poor start.

The women’s race was a four-rider battle. The experienced Emmett, who finished second last year to the absent Lea Davison, used her experience to time her final attack en route to her victory ahead of Mary Ellen Ash (SugarCRM) and Rachel Lloyd (Proman).

Carl decker (giant) won the elite men’s super d:
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Carl Decker (Giant) won the elite men’s Super D