The 3rd race of the Men’s NRC Calendar was held Saturday during the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA. Again this year the weather was a factor in the race, last year the riders faced raiun and deluge of water with a river running down the corkscrew. This year it was howling winds, so much so that the riders had the pedal down the corkscrew as the headwinds were so strong.
But that didn’t stop the Successful Living team from taking charge of the race. Before the start, they were a marked team along with Colavita/Sutter Home, not only as the defending team, but as still looking for their first NRC win of the season. Especially as this was the last race in the NRC calendar in California for the next months, the headquarter state of their sponsor, the pressure was on.
Successful Living’s masked rider (Alessandro Bazzana), JR Grabinger and Brad White
The attacks started from the get go, with Successful Living making sure that they were in every move. An early two-man break of Jonny Sundt (KBS) and Brad White (Succesful Living) went up the road for a few laps, but were gobbled up by the charging field. As soon as that happened, the boys in blue led off with a solo attack, this time it was Brian Jensen. White bridged up to him, and David Clinger (Rock Racing) led the chase with JR Grabinger (Successful Living) on his wheel. The four men formed a break and were off, never to be seen again by the field.
Clinger thought that the break would be caught and told his teammates to wait in the peloton and be ready to launch counter attacks. But the field never organized itself, and numerous attacks and counter attacks only managed to shatter it in multiple pieces, with a lead chase group containing KBS, Health Net, Colavita riders and last year’s winner Dan Ramsey now riding for Time.
The four-man break worked well together after some discussion with everyone rolling through even Clinger, but he did ‘softer’ pulls.
“In the beginning, when there was two guys off, I put it a big effort to get to them and one guy was sitting on my wheel, right when I got to them, that guy kind of sped up, made a little attack and that was the only time they really made an aggressive move. After that, I rolled through really lightly, and told them that if everybody didn’t work, at first they wanted one guy to sit on and they wanted me to roll though, and I said if he doesn’t work, then I can’t work, so everybody started rolling through, we took one lap.” said Clinger.
The gap only increased to the two chase groups who joined together and sat up after a while. Behind them, the field was just going through the motions, so much so, that the break lapped the chase groups once, and the field twice before the finish.
Coming into the finish lap, the four men were together at the finish of the climb, and the Successful Living trio set up the sprint.
“Once we got over the climb, I had stopped pulling through for the breakaway, Brian and Brad rotated a few more times, Brad was designated to be the first leadout guy, Brian the second, and so when we got to the last few corners, Brad picked it up, and Brian with the last two hundred meters to go, took off, I tried to stay in his draft and came around in the last seconds.” said an extremely happy Grabinger after the race.
It looked like they boxed in Clinger in the finish straight.
“I guess with the crosswinds, it’s obvious that it’s the best place to sprint through, have a guy protected, come through draft side in the crosswinds so, yeah that was the plan.” answered Grabinger when asked if they boxed in Clinger.
I was surprised to see Rory Sutherland line up at the start as he is scheduled to race in Georgia. Health Net DS Mike Tamayo explained that Sea Otter is an important race to their sponsor who are also based in California. Rory, along with Mike and Kirk O’Bee were flying out via the redeye to Georgia immediately after the race. O’Bee is a last minute replacement for Phil Zajicek, as the UCI never responded to the TUE request that Health Net sent in weeks ago. So the team had to spend extra money at the last minute because the UCI messed up.
More photos in the Sea Otter Men’s NRC Circuit Race gallery