Emily Batty (Subaru-Trek) sprinted to victory in the cross country race at the Sea Otter Classic ahead of Catharine Pendrel (Luna). Batty was all smiles after taking the biggest win of her career on a day when the Canadians dominated.
When asked if she was surprised to take such a major victory, Batty said quietly but confidently, "No, I wasn't surprised. I knew what I was doing all winter, and I knew my fitness should come around and it was just a matter of time. It worked out well."
"Next weekend's World Cup will be a whole different story - it's a long season, and I hope my fitness will just keep going up."
Katerina Nash (Luna) rode strong to finish in third place while Lea Davison (Specialized) and Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek) earned the final two podium spots in fourth and fifth.
At the start of the race, it looked like the Luna team would dominate with Pendrel, Nash and Georgia Gould (Luna) in a break together going into lap two. Behind them, Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant) chased on her own.
"I wasn't exactly riding 'safe' out there," said Pendrel. "But that was my plan - I wanted to try and make it hard and take away the amount of hard accelerations that were going to happen." Her efforts would shatter many of the favorites.
Gould was the first to depart the break. An untimely flat tire on lap three of the seven-lap race, just after the first tech zone, meant Gould would be doing about a half lap of running on the sub-five-mile course. She made her way to the second tech zone, but lost so much time, she would not factor in the race for the duration although she did still finish the race.
"My flat happened right after the tech zone as I was leaving the pavement. I was the farthest point from a tech zone I could be," said Gould, who blamed no one but herself for not carrying spare tubes.
"It wasn't bad luck. It was my own mistake," said Gould. "I always carry tubes with me. This is the one time I was like, 'oh it's a 15-minute lap' and didn't bring them. It was total karma. From now on, I will always carry tubes."
Pendrel, Nash and Batty spent much of the race together - trading leads. Compton chased on her own in no-woman's land. A chase group, including Davison, Irmiger, Pua Mata (Sho-Air/Specialized) and Kelli Emmett (Giant) followed.
With two to go, Compton disappeared from the race. Her teammate Adam Craig reported after the race that she had been stung by a bee, had an allergic reaction and left the race to head promptly for medical treatment.
With a lap and a half to go, Nash bobbled, making a small mistake that cost her a few seconds. Batty was driving the pace, and Nash was unable to close the gap as she started to drop off the two leaders.
"Katerina is just coming off the 'cross season," said Pendrel. "She'll be on fire later this season. It was a hard pace throughout."
"With a lap and a half to go, I tried to get away by myself, but Emily was on me all the time, and it was nice to have someone to work with on the road," said Pendrel.
"On the other side of the course on the last lap, I jumped and rode the downhill in front," said Batty. "I crested the top and hit the pavement and we came into that final stretch side by side and sprinted."
"We were both feeling pretty good. We were talking to each other a little bit and decided at the top that it would be a drag race to the finish, side by side," said Batty.
Pendrel and Batty put on an all-Canadian show at the front. It was a battle between veteran racer and World Cup leader Pendrel and the younger Batty, and it came down to the final downhill turn and finishing straight. Batty had the biggest kick and won the sprint to the line ahead of Pendrel.
"Emily was my equal in every aspect today except she was my better in the sprint," said Pendrel. "This was the first time Emily and I have ever been able to work together like this in a race - we worked well together."
Nash rode in 2:47 later on her own for third place.
"I made a mistake after a sandy uphill before you get on the track and I didn't catch that wheel, and then I couldn't close the gap," said Nash, who fell off the pace with about a lap and a half to go. "It was my first weekend of racing this year. I know there's more to improve, but I'm happy with my fitness right now."
The sprint for fourth was a tight one, with Davison narrowly nipping Irmiger. Emmett was next in sixth and Mata finished seventh.
"It was helpful to have a group. Heather caught on to me on the second or third lap and I was thankful. Pua and Kelli caught us then," said Davison. "You don't want numbers, but in this race, where there is so much pavement, it's better to have numbers so that you can actually recover."
"I was leading out of the sandy corner, but I realized I didn't have a gap, so I sat up and waited for someone to jump, and I was ready," said Davison. "I didn't want to lead into the sprint. Pua jumped and I hopped on her wheel and went around. I went all out - that was everything I had."
"I have no speed right now," said Mata. "The only chance I had was to get them tired, but there were so many road tactics today."
"It's always interesting when you're in a group and you've been together for three or four laps," said Irmiger before joking, "We were separated by a tire tread, which wasn't much because I'm sure we were all running pretty low profile stuff."
When asked about her teammate Batty's win, Irmiger said, "People shouldn't be surprised - and if they were, now they won't be any more."
Emmett described the final sprint for fourth as a bit comic with all four of them spun out on their 2x10 drivetrains.
The very open course with lots of pavement and dirt road drew mixed reactions. Pendrel summed up the thoughts expressed by many of the women.
"Coming into the race, I wasn't super excited about the course, and it was more roadish and tactical, but it's good every once in awhile," said Pendrel. "It added another dynamic. It makes you have to think about tactics."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Emily Batty (Can) Subaru - Trek||1:41:22|
|2||Catharine Pendrel (Can) Luna Pro Team||0:00:01|
|3||Katerina Nash (Cze) Luna Pro Team||0:02:47|
|4||Lea Davison (USA) Specialized||0:04:12|
|5||Kelli Emmett (USA) Giant Factory Off-Road|
|6||Heather Irmiger (USA) Subaru - Trek|
|7||Pua Mata (USA)||0:04:13|
|8||Georgia Gould (USA) Luna Pro Team||0:07:29|
|9||Mical Dyck (Can) Pro City Racing||0:08:06|
|10||Amanda Carey (USA) Kenda/Felt||0:09:53|
|11||Chloe Forsman (USA) BMC Mountainbike Development||0:10:15|
|12||Kathy Sherwin (USA) Notubes Elite||0:10:22|
|13||Teal Stetson-Lee (USA) Rocky Mountain Chocolate||0:10:32|
|14||Erica Zaveta (USA) BMC Mountainbike Development||0:10:51|
|15||Zephanie Blasi (USA) Notubes Elite||0:10:59|
|16||Sarah Maile (USA) Ventana Mountain Bike||0:11:09|
|17||Rebecca Rusch (USA) Specialized||0:11:24|
|18||Catherine Vipond (Can) Norco Factory Team||0:11:46|
|19||Nina Baum (USA) Notubes Elite||0:12:20|
|20||Judy Freeman (USA) Kenda / Felt||0:12:40|
|21||Erica Tingey (USA) White Pine Touring||0:12:46|
|22||Krista Park (USA) Notubes Elite||0:13:00|
|23||Sarah Kaufmann (USA) Elete Electrolytes||0:13:12|
|24||Alice Pennington (USA) Team S&M||0:14:06|
|25||Kelsy Bingham (USA) Team Jamis||0:14:20|
|-1lap||Shannon Gibson (USA) Notubes Elite|
|-1lap||Carolyn Popovic (USA) Team CF|
|-1lap||Brandi Heisterman (Can) Team Whistler|
|-3laps||Kaila Hart (USA) No Tubes Elite|
|-3laps||Lydia Tanner (USA) Lydia Tanner|
|-3laps||Caroline Mani (Fra) SRAM|
|-3laps||Anna Fortner (USA) The Team|
|-4laps||Cayley Brooks (Can) Trek Canada|
|-4laps||Laura Winberry (USA)|
|DNF||Amy Dombroski (USA) Crankbrothers Race|
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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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