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April 16, 2005

Santa Cruz County Sentinel


MONTEREY—Racing alongside the nation’s top professional women mountain bikers at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Stella Carey of Soquel felt like she belonged.

That wasn’t always the case.

“I used to be a little intimidated,” said Carey, 33, who logs about 600 miles a month on her bike. “Now, I still get nervous, but not so terrified.”

Carey looked relaxed moments after finishing an individual mountain bike time trial on Friday. The solo, two-mile race took her only about seven minutes to ride. Carey shared the course with legends of mountain biking including defending Sea Otter champion Alison Dunlap of Colorado Springs, three-time world champion Alison Sydor and two-time Olympian Lyne Bessette, a former road bike winner, who switched to the fat tire scene this season.

“It was a little weird that it was so short,” said Carey of the time trial, the second of four mountain bike races that comprise the professional mountain bike stage race that continues though Sunday. That shorter length was fine with Sarah Kerlin, 30, of Santa Cruz and Justin Robinson, 29, of Bonny Doon, who are also racing in the professional mountain bike class at the 15th annual Sea Otter Classic at Laguna Seca Recreation Area.

The nation’s biggest four-day bicycle festival attracts recreational and competitive road and mountain bike cyclists and is recognized as the major opening event of the cycling season. About 200 Santa Cruz athletes are participating in competitive events while scores of country residents are attending to cheer friends and shop at the bicycle industry expo.

“It was challenging,” said Kerlin of Friday’s mountain bike time trial. “There were tight turns, bumpy turf and steep climbs. It was good for skills.”

Kerlin she is not at her peak fitness since she competed all winter in cyclo-cross and then needed a break to recover.

“I am quite behind other mountain bike ladies in my training,” said Kerlin, who rides with the all-women’s bike team, Velo Bella, a national team based in Santa Cruz.

Like Kerlin, Robinson was also feeling the burn. Working with his dad at Tom’s Well Service and being a father himself, he hasn’t spent as many hours training this year as in years past. He said he has competed at the Sea Otter a dozen times, but Friday’s race hurt.

“It was very painful,” Robinson said of the short and brutal time trial. “I just try to keep a smile on my face. I have a masochistic love of this sport.”

Kerlin, Carey and Robinson will race short track today and conclude with a cross-country mountain bike race on Sunday.

“Sunday is what counts,” said Robinson of the 38-mile race with 2,400 feet of climbing per lap.

On the Sea Otter road racing scene, Santa Cruz residents Natasha Perry, 35, of the Spokesman team and Jen Chapman, 31, of the Velo Bella team, tackled a tough course. Chapman, competing in the pro class, entered the 38-mile race, stage 2 of 3 in the Sierra Nevada/Kodak Easyshare Gallery Professional Road Stage Race.

Perry, making her Sea Otter debut, pushed herself hard in the 46-mile, amateur road race Friday morning.

“My legs were burning,” said Perry. “I felt pretty confident.”

Perry said she believed she finished fifth out of about 30 riders.

Today’s main events include stage three, the final stage of the Pro/Elite Road Stage, (11 a.m.); stage three, the Mountain Bike Short Track, the next to last stage of the Pro/Elite Mountain Bike Stage, (12:30 p.m.); the

Pro Invitational Dirt Jump Contest, (4:30 p.m.) and the Mountain Bike Downhill Events: Dual Slalom finals, (2:30 p.m.)


What: 15th annual Sea Otter Classic. An estimated 10,000 participants register for recreational and competitive mountain bike and road bike events. Plus industry expo of vendors.
When: Today through Sunday
Where: Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey
Cost: For spectators, daily passes ($10) and four-day passes ($30) are sold at the venue. No parking passes this year.
Information: www.seaotterclassic.com (650) 364-7612.

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