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April 18 , 2005

Santa Cruz County Sentinel


MONTEREY—The final day of the 15th annual Sea Otter Classic showcased the talents of mountain bikers of all stripes — cross country, downhill and dirt jumpers. With the conclusion of Saturday’s professional road stage race, the focus for all athletes Sunday was squarely on the fat tire action.

Sunday’s finals in the professional mountain bike stage race, downhill, mountain cross and dirt jumping wrapped up the four-day festival that attracted an estimated 50,000 spectators and 10,000 racers to Laguna Seca Recreation Area.

Jamie Goldman, 18, of Santa Cruz scored his first big win ever in Sunday’s dirt jumping contest, a thrilling display of big air stunts of spins and flips that are launched off a set of three jumps.

“I am totally stoked,” he said, after beating out 10 other riders to win the overall Sea Otter dirt jump title.

Santa Cruz residents Cameron McCaul, 19, and Greg Watts, 17, placed seventh and fourth, respectively. “I aimed for the backflip, tailwhip and 360,” said McCaul, of his planned stunts, “but I came up a little short.”

The trio planned to celebrate its results after helping break down the dirt jump course it built.

“I’m very, very proud,” said Diane McCaul, of both her sons, Cameron and Tyler, 15, who placed fifth in the downhill race in the junior expert category. “I hold my breath, pray and cross all my fingers and toes,” McCaul said of when she watches her boys compete. “I am very confident in them.”

The day started out with nearly 3,000 amateur racers, including dozens of Santa Cruz cyclists, competing in the cross country mountain bike race.

Most completed one lap of the 19-mile loop that included steep climbs, narrow singletrack trails and fast descents.

Snaking through green pastures dotted with wildflowers and up steep hills rutted by the rains, the challenging course demands stamina and muscle power.

“It was hard,” said Matt Wocasek, 40, of Santa Cruz, after finishing his race on the windy track.

“It was also crowded,” said the member of the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club.

His teammate, Dennis Pederson, 44, also raced the cross country course.

“People try to win this race on the downhills, but it doesn’t work,” he said.

“They get stuck in a rut, fall off and then I sail by them.”

At his third Sea Otter cross country race, Bob Harbuck, 48, of Felton, said he liked the cross country course as well as the competition in his beginner category. “It’s a very friendly age group,” he said before starting his race. “When you pass, people cheer for you.”

Simon Vickers, 30, of Santa Cruz faced the added challenge of racing the cross country course with only one gear on his bike in a category called single speed. “I will just pedal, pedal, pedal,” said Vickers, adding that, “I will suffer and work on my tan,” while he was racing.

The pro mountain bike riders, including local residents Sarah Kerlin, Stella Carey and Justin Robinson, followed the same cross country course as the amateurs, but they completed a grueling 38 miles. That race marked the pros’ fourth and final stage of the mountain bike stage race that began Thursday.

Downhill racing action drew huge attendance for the finals of downill and mountain cross. (Dual slalom concluded Saturday.) The prime event, dirt jumping, rounded out the day. Sea Otter Classic awarded professional finals to Australian Nathan Rennie and Californian Sabrina Jonnier in the Dual Slalom Champs; to Idaho resident Kristin Armstrong and Oreg Doug Ollerenshaw win Sierra Nevada/Kodak Gallery UCI Road Stage Race of the Pro Dual Slalom (PDS) and conclusion of the Sierra Nevada/Kodak Gallery UCI Road Stage Race.

The elite-level, three-stage downhill mountain bike finals also concluded with the overall winners’ titles.

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