Jared Graves (Yeti) won the elite men's dual slalom at the Sea Otter Classic on Saturday afternoon. He defeated veteran Brian Lopes in both rides of the big final while Danny Hart (Giant) was faster than Bryn Atkinson (Transitions) in the small final.
"I rode nice and smooth all day and it went well. I've been wanting to win this one for a lot of years and I'm really happy," said Graves after his first ever Sea Otter dual slalom win.
"I've been on the podium a lot but I've never won in six or seven years of racing. Today I had good legs all afternoon."
Graves was also happy with the track.
"The course was fun though it started to get a bit rougher at the end, but that's how I like it - I can go fast on the rough stuff."
Lopes advanced steadily through the rounds with a consistent strategy, but it didn't work in the finals.
"I was on the red side on the first run of every one of my heats and that was the slower side and I thought the harder side," said Lopes. "My goal was always to try to win on the slow side and then I could relax on the faster side and still go on to the next round and kind of get almost a rest round."
"In my semi, I didn't do that so well - Danny was riding really well, and he beat me in the first round. I thought I could get him on the second run, but I had to dig hard and exert some energy and that was the last straw in my hat. Going into the finals with Graves, I was on the slow side again and he had a little lead going into the last straight, which is really slow on the red, so I figured I'd just recoup and give it everything I had on the last run. It was too little too late against someone too strong."
Hart and Atkinson battled head to head with each taking a round and Hart taking the overall for third place.
Hart, who is from the UK, is still figuring out the American dual slalom style of racing, but he seems to be a quick learner. "It's my second slalom here, and I didn't realize how hard it is," said Hart. "To start with, you have a big gap between the runs, but by the end, it's like you do one and you're up again right away."
"To beat Lopes (in the semi) just that once was a good accomplishment for me. I beat him once and he beat me once." Hart has gotten his season off to a good start with a win in Portugal and a win at the US Pro GRT opener in Washington last weekend.
Atkinson came close to getting Hart, but didn't have quite enough. "I had fun and rode well. Unfortunately, tonight I wasn't fast enough, but I'll keep working toward the World Cups."
The course evolved throughout the day, thanks to high winds which dried out the track substantially between qualifying and the finals.
"It was getting high speed and loose. The lines were getting high and narrow and you had to be consistent and on form," said Atkinson.
Former four cross world champion Graves won the Sea Otter downhill on his dual slalom bike last year and said that he'll ride it again in Sunday's downhill.
Lopes was the only known dual slalom racer who also competed in the short track the previous day. He was spotted at the front of the elite men's field early in the race, mixing it up with the top short track racers. He will, however, sit out the downhill.
"I didn't get here until Thursday afternoon and with doing the short track yesterday, I didn't have time to do any downhill practice. We had slalom all day today. When you get older you have to pick and choose the ones you want to do - it's hard to do everything."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Jared Graves (Yeti)|
|3||Danny Hart (Giant)|
|4||Bryn Atkinson (Transitions)|
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.
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