Georgia Gould (Luna) rode away from the rest of her competition at the Sea Otter Classic short track on Saturday afternoon. Lene Byberg (Specialized) overcame the numerical advantage of the Luna team to finish second ahead of Catharine Pendrel (Luna). Willow Koerber (Subaru / Gary Fisher) finished fourth as the final member of the lead group, and riding on her own for much of the race, Emily Batty (Trek World Racing) was fifth.
"It's an old school short track," said the race's Jeff Frost before the start. In contrast to the short tracks run earlier this season, which were just 15 minutes plus one lap long, today's race was 20 minutes plus three laps.
From the gun, Koerber went to the front and strung out the field. Byberg, Kelli Emmett and Batty were among those who also started strong on lap one, but by lap two, it was Koerber, Byberg and Gould together at the front with Batty chasing at five seconds and Pendrel just behind her.
"I didn 't have a plan, but I felt really good at the start," said Koerber. "For me, I'd like to win these races, but there are World Cups coming up, so I need to push it. Anything on the podium is good today."
Batty wasn't able to bridge up to the leaders, but Pendrel slowly worked her way up to the lead trio to make a quartet that would stay together for a majority of the race.
With about five laps to go, Gould got an inadvertent gap when the others fumbled a bit in a muddy section and she seized the opportunity, upon being clued into the potential by her teammate Pendrel.
"That hill was tough. It's a hard course because the only place you can pass is after the finish. For awhile we were taking turns pulling," said Gould," but then one time through this one muddy section, someone bobbled behind me, and I got a gap. I heard Catharine say "You have a gap," and I had to go for it. It wasn't my intention to go, but it was a sort of forced opportunity."
For the rest of the race, Gould rode on her own at the front, looking comfortably strong. She steadily increased her lead for the duration of the race.
"I tried to maintain a tempo so that if I got caught I wouldn't get dropped, and then I tried not to think about how much was left to go. The crowd made a big difference," said Gould, who like her teammates, was clad in an all-white kit to highlight Luna's clothing line launched last summer.
With two laps to go, Pendrel launched an attack to get away to follow her teammate Gould. However, Byberg caught Pendrel on a downhill section of the course and then countered with her own attack, which stuck. The Norwegian rode in to finish second followed by Pendrel, then Koerber.
"I went a little too hard in the beginning and then my legs felt unhappy after that," said Byberg. "I tried to stay on wheels and not use too much energy, and then my legs started to feel better in the last two laps. Catharine attacked and I thought 'oh, she's really strong', but then I caught her on the downhill on my full suspension bike."
"Catharine and Georgia were definitely working as a team, but that's racing," said Byberg.
"When Byberg attacked, I was at speed and I couldn't go with her," said Pendrel. "Lene took advantage of the fact that I was hurting and she did the best thing she could have in the race.. It was a hard race and may impact tomorrow, but we're all ready to race."
Batty, who rode nearly the entire race on her own, was fifth. "I thought to myself 'wow it is windy out here on my own and it's painful on the legs'," said Batty. "I couldn't quite bridge the gap, but it was a good opener for tomorrow, when I hope to contend for the podium. I've only just started doing intensity as I'm taking a slower start to this year. It's a long season."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team|
|1||Georgia Gould (USA)|
|2||Lene Byberg (Nor)|
|3||Catharine Pendrel (Can)|
|4||Willow Koerber (USA)|
|5||Emily Batty (Can)|
|6||Katerina Nash (Cze)|
|7||Kelli Emmett (USA)|
|8||Heather Irmiger (USA)|
|9||Chloe Forsman (USA)|
|10||Mical Dyck (Can)|
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