Heading into the 2011 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, starting with four cross qualifying today, Jared Graves (Yeti) is one of the favorites for the four cross competition. Graves was the 2010 UCI Mountain Bike four cross champion and is a former four cross world champion.
One week before the opening World Cup, Graves logged back-to-back victories in the dual slalom and the downhill at the Sea Otter Classic.
"The Sea Otter weekend was everything I'd hoped," said Graves to Cyclingnews after the downhill. "I get straight on a plane from here and head to South Africa. Four cross World Cups are my main gig this year, but I'll do a few downhill World Cups too."
Graves was especially excited to win the dual slalom. "I rode nice and smooth all day, and it went well," he said. "I've been wanting to win this one for a lot of years, and I'm really happy." It was Graves' first Sea Otter dual slalom win.
"I've been on the podium a lot, but I've never won in six or seven times."
The morning after the dual slalom, Graves descended to victory in the Sea Otter downhill, on a track that required a lot of fitness and pedalling. That form could come in handy in South Africa as the downhill course is also expected to require a high degree of fitness for success.
"My (downhill) run was good. I tried to keep it smooth and pace myself from top to bottom," he said. "I was pacing myself and there were some places I could sit up and afford to lose a bit of time and get some rest."
"I felt confident going into the finish, but you never know."
Graves' downhill win came on his dual slalom bike. Unlike many of his competitors, he did not ride a big downhill-specific bike. "I ride a hard tail for four cross, but today I had 3 inches on the back and 5 inches up front. I ride the little bike a lot. Some guys probably couldn't get away with it, but I get used to how it rides and hanging on to it in the rough sections."
Graves excels on rough courses. "I can go fast on the rough stuff," he said.