*** 1st downhill, 2nd mountain cross, 2nd omnium ***
This is a press release written by me, Lee McCormack
Heavy rains turned the Sea Otter’s gravity courses into brutal tests of skill, fitness and equipment — and the Fox-YETI Racing Factory Team showed the world it’s ready for a great season.
Random ruts and mud holes added an element of chance to each event, but when the points were tallied across dual slalom, downhill and mountain cross, the Yet-FOX racers showed extraordinary consistency. Out of more than 50 riders, Jared Graves finished 2nd overall. Justin Leov finished 10th, and Rich Houseman finished 13th.
The Sea Otter downhill is usually a flowy BMX track on top and a pedalfest on the bottom. This year’s mud made it a pedalfest the whole way. In practice, some of the world’s best riders had a hard time reaching the shuttle trucks. On race morning, the sun was shining, and the track tacked up nicely. The sandy berms, stepdown and hip were all super sweet, but the upper and lower flat sections held their mud.
Some riders went around the muck. Others plowed through it. Graves skipped right across it. He pedaled and pumped and flicked from rut to backside, always with his trademark flat-backed style, and he beat the world’s best downhillers by four seconds (an eternity in downhill). He rode a new production Yeti 4X, which is a pound lighter than its predecessor, with a light FOX TALAS fork and stiff valving in the FOX RP3 rear shock. He ran XC-weight DT Swiss 4.1 wheels with a Maxxis Larsen TT tire in the rear and a Maxxis High Roller in the front.
Leov tested the same setup, but preferred to race a Yeti 575 trail bike with more travel. He was having a great run until he blew a turn and wound up finishing 10th. Houseman finished 20th out of 85 pro finishers.
The Sea Otter slalom is a classic: Braaap start, rippable flat turns then those berms … oh, those berms. Sprinting down the fall line and just railing those things, all the blood draining out of your brain and the flesh pulling down your face — but the corners of your mouth held high.
This year’s rains changed the scene, to say the least. The steep sections developed motocross ruts, and the flat sections festered into swamps of speed-sapping, hole-infested muck. This was no BMX race — it was hardcore mountain biking all the way. During practice most pros were slipping and crashing and complaining, but the boys in teal were analyzing, executing and enjoying. Graves skimmed across the finish swamp, Houseman powered through the ruts, Leov took ingenious lines, and TJ Sharp (the young one) gave everyone a glimpse of the future.
By the finals the top of the course was dry, but the finish straight was still a quagmire, and the main berms hid some pits of doom. Racers would be ripping along just fine then — BAM! — all motion ceased. Even the best riders were getting claimed. Sharp got ousted in the round of 64. Houseman made it to the round of 32, and Leov and Graves battled to the round of 16.
This promised to be the best-ever Sea Otter mountain cross course. Built in a parking area because last year’s hill was too soggy, the new course was long, curvy, pumpy and jumpy. Every turn had a fast outside berm and a tricky inside jump line. Racers couldn’t just dive in and stuff the leader; they had to deal with the obstacles too.
The first practice was cancelled due to rain — a tractor actually got stuck on the course — and qualifying was muddy and sloooow. It was a full-on power and pump fest. The course dried out for the race, and although it wasn’t exactly fast, racers were able to carry some speed and show off their kung fu.
Sharp learned a lot but got eliminated in the round of 64. Leov made it to the round of 32. Houseman ripped to the round of 16. Graves capped off a great weekend to reach the finals and finish 2nd.
Sunnier weather might have made the riding faster and easier, but the Yeti-FOX Racing Factory Team still put in strong results — and they had lots of fun. It’s going to be a great season.
The Yeti-FOX Racing Factory Team rides the best products on the market.
– FOX – Front and Rear race-tuned Suspension
– Shimano – Drivetrain, chain, brakes, pedals, footwear
– DT Swiss – Swiss quality wheelsets
– Maxxis – Rolling the best rubber on the circuit
– Chris King – The finest headsets on the planet
– MRP – The best chainguides available
– Topeak – Pumps, tools, and bike stands
– Thomson – Stems and seatposts