It seems like Sea Otter gets better and better every year. This year I shot two new dirt jump events, the FMB dirt jump competition (Sea Otter FMB photo gallery) and the Speed & Style pump track competition. The Speed & Style event isn’t actually new to Sea Otter but it was the first time I got to check it out. And I have to say, it’s right up there with Sea Otter’s pro dual slalom (2012 Pro Dual Slalom Photo Gallery) for pure spectating pleasure. It’s a head-to-head elimination race with two tracks, just like dual slalom. The guys start on a roll-in ramp followed by a big jump, into a berm, then a rhythm section and another berm – basically, it’s a two pump tracks that mirror each other. Racers were given a time bonus for tricks on the jump, and the winner of each heat was the one with the best time. So riders had to make a judgment call about whether doing a trick was worth the time bonus it earned them. The crazy synchronized (or not so synchronized) trick ballet happening on the big jumps made for some excellent and wacky photos, as you’ll see in the gallery below.
Originally, each heat was supposed to be two laps but at the last minute they cut it to one lap – probably because they were worried about overlapping with the pro dual slalom finals later in the afternoon. It’s too bad, because in qualifying some of the racers were tired by the middle of the second lap and started making mistakes. I think the results might have been very different if they had done two laps in each matchup. Case in point – in one heat, Cam McCaul did three or four more laps after the race was done, just for fun. That kind of pump track endurance would probably have made a difference in a two lap race.
In the end, Martin Söderström won the Speed & Style event with Christian Wright taking second, Paul Basagoita third, Tyler McCaul fourth and Aaron Chase fifth.
The Speed & Style concept came from legendary mountain biker Jeff Lenosky, with financial backing from SRAM and Native Eyewear. But it wouldn’t be right to talk about the Speed & Style competition without mentioning Lee McCormack. Lee runs a Web site called Lee Likes Bikes, holds mountain bike skills clinics, is the author of the book “Mastering Mountain Bike Skills” with Brian Lopes,and he’s been instrumental in spreading the word about pump tracks. If you wanna know anything about pump tracks, you need to get Lee’s e-book, “Welcome to Pump Track Nation.” Because Lee is the source of all things pumptrack, Jeff Lenosky came to him for design and craftsmanship. So Lee designed and built the track – with some help, of course. But he’s a hands-on kinda guy who’s not afraid to pick up a shovel and get some blisters. Check out his blog post about building the track. One of the coolest things about Lee is how mellow and unassuming he is. Unless you know him, you probably wouldn’t notice him. That’s part of the reason I wanted to give him some attention and a little glory here. He may not be doing backflips and standing on the podium – well, actually he did take second place in Cat 1 Men’s 40-49 dual slalom – on a Specialized 29er, even. So I guess he does get up on the podium. My point is, Lee deserves some of the credit for what I think was one of the best parts of the 2012 Sea Otter Classic.
If you missed the Speed & Style race this year, I highly recommend you work it into your 2013 Sea Otter Classic schedule. I think it’s one of the best events to watch at Sea Otter and next year I’m going to make sure I give it even more attention.