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Levi descends Jean-Christoph Peraud Dual Slalom Crash at Sea Otter Classic Specialized Angel Menzies and Leipheimer through The Corkscrew Semi-Pro Short Track-4 Matty Rice

April 12, 2006

Sea Otter Road Race Video Recap

cyclelicio.us pointed me to steephill.tv's latest multimedia contribution: video recap of the pro men's road race at Sea Otter. There are even interviews with Matty Rice and Levi Leipheimer. Quite a nice bit of citizen media.

People dig the Specialized Angel

Specialized Angel-1I ended up near the Specialized Angel for two of the Tour of California stages. In all that time, I only took one photo of her when I saw an amusing moment at the top of Sierra Road. That photo: 1634 views. None of the other hundred or so photos I took at the Tour of California got half as many views. The next nearest photo in popularity? This one of Bobby J, Floyd, and DZ, which got 300 views by virtue of being posted on bobbyjulich.com. I told the Specialized Angel as much when I ended up near her again at the Sea Otter Classic: she's more popular than Bobby J, Floyd, and DZ combined.

She's rocketed to popularity in a very short period of time. I first saw her standing along the Coit Tower climb at the Tour of California Prologue. By the end of that short stage she had already been elevated to prime positioning at the finish line. By the end of the Tour of California she was standard montage material in the television coverage. Her popularity definitely carried over well into the Sea Otter Classic. Everyone passing by her on the course paid her homage. Riders would nod, fans would take photos with her "for the bikeshop back home," drivers in the motorcade would slow down and blow kisses.

I remember one rider that we were cheering up the climb because he had fallen way off the back. His gaze seemed locked towards the top of the climb, determined to make it, except that as he got closer, his head rotated, and rotated, and rotated, until he was looking backwards over his shoulder at the Angel on top of her van. He didn't make it back into the pack.

I took a lot more photos of her this time because who can turn down 1600 instant hits? It's ten times harder to get a crisp shot of Levi, but lazily point your camera at the Specialized Angel and suddenly everyone's viewing your photo album. Who knew a female model could be so popular? (Potential suitors: she's married)

Stairway to Heaven-1 Specialized Angel-3

Specialized Angel-Sea Otter Classic

Update: A new photo from the 2007 Tour of California. More photos in the Prologue and Stage 3 galleries.

Specialized Angel

April 11, 2006

Sea Otter Classic (Saturday): Women's Pro Road Race

Tina Pic holding on

Left-Right: Dotsie Bausch, Christine Thorburn, and Tina Pic going up the Rahal Straight climb

The women's pro race at the Sea Otter Classic was full of attacks and regroupings. If you go through my photos, it was pretty much Colavita/Webcor duking it out over the Rahal Straight climb again and again. Webcor wanted to drop Colavita's Tina Pic, but Pic hung on and powered away from the pack to take the win. In my photos you can see Webcor's Olympian Christine Thorburn (who I last saw annihilating the field at the Morgan Hill Grand Prix a year ago) marking Pic's wheel and putting in some attacks, but it wasn't going to be a Webcor day. Pic probably owes a lot of her victory to teammate Dotsie Bausch, who was right up there leading Pic through the final laps and finished in third.

Thornburn attacks-1 Pic and Thornburn at Sea Otter Tina Pic (Rahal Straight)

April 8, 2006

2006 Sea Otter (Saturday): Elite Pro Male Circuit Race

The men's pro race had a big surprise entry: Levi Leipheimer, who raced without a team. I've seen Dave Zabriskie shatter a North American field without the benefit of a team, so I'm sure the rest of the riders were more than a little worried about Levi. Levi was back in California to train for the Tour de France and decided to put in some miles on the Laguna Seca track. It's difficult to say whether or not Levi gave it his full effort after finishing in 8th place. I mean, the guy is smiling going up the Rahal Straight, which was the main climb on the course that they had to do 31 times:

Levi feels no pain-1

He does look a bit more determined at the end:

Sea Otter-Levi Leipheimer

The Laguna Seca track is wonderful for spectating. From the top of the Rahal Straight you can look down and see riders come around the Andretti Hairpin and into the final straightway for the finish (course map). You can also go down to turn 10 and see the Hairpin and finishline as well.

The road race was won by Jelly Belly rider Matty Rice, who attacked on the final lap and was able to hold off a chasing group that contained surprise entry Levi Leipheimer. I was confused at first because my photos from Rainey Curve (just below The Corkscrew) showed Jelly Belly rider Caleb Manion in the lead on the final lap. Manion had attacked on the final climb and was being chased by Levi Leipheimer and HealthNet's Karl Menzies. ota and I ran down from Rainey Curve to turn 10 so that we could watch the finish of the race from a distance. What we saw was a Jelly Belly rider easily holding off a pack of seven chasers. I assumed it was Caleb Manion, but it turns out that Leipheimer and Menzies caught Manion, but were then counter-attacked by Matty Rice. Rice and Manion are from the town in Tasmania -- Launceston -- so it's rather fitting that those two teammates would putting in a good one-two attack for the win. In fact, the top three finishers of the race -- Rice, Menzies, and Manion, are all from the same town in Tasmania. That town must be shaped like the Laguna Seca track, because that's just weird.

Race-winner Matty Rice descending Matty Rice-1 Caleb Manion attacks on the final lap Levi Charges-1 Gord Fraser and Ben Jacques-Maynes-1

I have plenty more photos on Flickr, including photos from other events at Sea Otter.

April 7, 2006

2006 Sea Otter (Friday)

The Sea Otter Classic is tons of fun (plenty of Saturday and Sunday events for those who haven't gone yet). It's all of the biking events you can imagine -- road circuit race, MTB endurance, MTB gravity -- all wrapped inside of the famous Laguna Seca raceway. I walked up the hill at the Rahal Straight to the top of the Corkscrew, which plunges riders 50 feet back down (course map). There I watched the Master 30+ and Master 40+ punish each other over the course of many, many laps. I also just barely caught the sight of Women's MTB World Champion Dahle-Flesja fly around the MTB time trial course.

As I walked over to the MTB amateur dual slalom finals, I was a bit more prepared and managed to snap a shot of Jean-Cristoph Peraud midway through his time trial in which he finished second (time trial results). Peraud won the overall in the MTB Omnium event as well as the opening Super CX stage.

Jean-Christoph Peraud-1

I stayed a bit at the dual slalom, which was pure crash entertainment. There were many photographers who were probabaly like me: waiting to get that shot of someone landing in the mud (the riders weren't cooperating with the spots I was choosing). I didn't think the course was very fair: the rain had pretty much made one of the runs a complete mudpit at one of the most difficult points. There was a three-second handicap for the more difficult course, which was fair if you managed to stay on your bike, less fair if you were one of the many people that ended up lying in the mud. The course marshals had to assist one of the riders with finding a shoe that he lost in the mud. The race was a good lesson on never giving up. There were plenty of riders who looked impossibly behind that won when the lead rider crashed. This is my favorite shot from the downhill, which I may end up submitting to the VeloNews contest:

Restart-1

The final event I watched was the MTB short track (19-29 beginners and 30+ beginners). The rain had been the cruelest to that course. One person referred to it as "soupy;" I thought of it as cement mixing. It was faster in many parts of the course to run with your bike then attempt to navigate the mud and taking photographs was easy because the riders were pretty much standing still. The race was torture on both the riders' bodies and their pocketbooks. After suffering for almost half an hour, Al finished with two broken derailers.

The weather on the day was beautiful, though it poured rain shortly after I left. I heard that day 1 was wretched and there was certainly evidence of that on the MTB courses, but Friday's weather was t-shirt weather, possibly the best day of weather we've had in a month.

The funniest moment on the day for me was explaining to Al's parents how many different fun events there were to watch from the road racing to the MTB. I mentioned that there's a crash every minute on the dual slalom course and, right on cue, a rider went flying over his handlebars trying to land a jump. The rider raised his fist in triumph afterwards, so I'm sure he's fine.