Mick Hannah defeated Aaron Gwin to take the win in the men's dual slalom on Saturday evening at the Sea Otter Classic. The two squared off in the final, racing neck-in-neck for both runs. The consolation round was a battle of the Jareds, with Jared Rando coming out ahead of four cross World Champion Jared Graves.
"That was a perfect run," said Hannah of his final run, which won him the race. "I had good legs for the bottom, so I tried to make sure I hit the last turn just right."
The start list was overflowing with World Cup downhill and four cross contenders and with such tough competition, it was anyone's guess who would walk away at the end of the evening with the stuffed otter awarded to the winner.
One of the favorites, Brian Lopes was eliminated after a crash in an early round. Neko Mulally, Greg Minnaar and Mitch Ropelato were some of the other big names who made it into the quarter finals, but did not advance to the semis. Downhill World Champion Steve Peat was knocked out in an earlier round by his teammate Minnaar.
In the semis, Gwin faced Rando, who crashed not long after the start of their first run. Then Gwin backed up his ride by taking the second run, too. Hannah defeated Graves, with each of them taking a run though the former had the best cumulative time when the dust settled.
"I just washed out a little in the first round against Aaron," said Rando. "I crash every year here without fail, so it was good that it didn't happen until later in the rounds this year."
In the finals, Rando and Graves faced off for third and fourth. Graves crashed in the first run, but it pulled it together to take the second run though not by enough for the third spot.
In the race for the top position, Gwin and Hannah did battle, with Hannah taking the first run by 0.091 seconds and Gwin winning the second heat to give him a winning margin of 0.05 seconds. The two were well matched throughout both runs, trading leads at a few points as they dashed down the grassy hillside in front of a large crowd of spectators.
"Aaron and I train together back in Colorado and we have been progressing at a similar rate lately," said Hannah after taking what was his third Sea Otter dual slalom win. "I was stoked we were in the final together."
"Mick and I are really good friends off the track, and I couldn't think of a better situation than we ended up together," said Gwin. "It was a lot of fun." Gwin said that Sea Otter is pretty much his only dual slalom for the year, but that he'd enjoy doing more. "It's a bit of a dying thing, but I hope it comes back some."
"The tracks are different than in Sea Otters past," said racer Mike Haderer after being eliminated. "It's more old school with changes this year to the top and the bottom of the course." He commented that racers faced a strong wind up at the top at the first turn, a place where many of the crashes happened during the eliminations.
Rando noted that the track improved throughout the evening as the course dried out more with each round. "Yeah, the race was just as much fun as I expected. We were all joking riding up in the truck together - all stoked to be racing."
"I made a few mistakes against Mick in the semi and that was it for me," said Graves, who was in his first dual slalom since the 2007 Sea Otter. "Then I crashed in a round against Rando, so my last two rounds weren't so great. I prefer four cross and that's what my training is based around, with its contact and more tactics, but it's all good fun."
Tara Llanes offered co-commentary throughout the race, holding live interviews of the racers after each round.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mick Hannah (GT Bicycles)|
|2||Aaron Gwin (Yeti Fox Shox Factory Team)|
|3||Jared Rando (Giant Factory Team)|
|4||Jared Graves (Yeti Fox Shox Factory Team)|
|5||Greg Minnaar (Santa Cruz Syndicate)|
|8||Neko Mulally (Trek World Racing)|
|9||Dan Atherton (Commencal)|
|10||Chris Kovarik (Chain Reaction Cycles/Intense)|
|12||Steve Peat (Santa Cruz Syndicate)|
|13||Andrew Neethling (Trek World Racing)|
|15||Kamil Tatarkovic (Scott FDF Team)|
|16||Josh Bryceland (Santa Cruz Syndicate)|
|17||Lopes Brian (Oakley/Ibis)|
|21||Chris Boice (Yeti Fox Shox National Team)|
|22||Chris Va Dine|
|23||George Stephenson Iii (Yeti National Team)|
|24||Kirt Voreis (Specialized / All ride tour)|
|25||Logan Binggeli (KHS Bicycles)|
|26||Fabien Cousinie (Black Mountain Morewood Unit)|
|28||Tyler Immer (Yeti National team)|
|29||Troy Brosnan (Monster Energy-Specialized)|
|31||Florent Payet (Black Mountain Morewood Unit)|
|32||Danny Hart (Giant Factory Team)|