As the flags lining the iconic Sea Otter Classic dual slalom course whipped in Monterey’s signature afternoon wind on Saturday, 32 men and 26 women took their turns at the gates vying for the crown in the ‘Unofficial Dual Slalom World Championships.’
After nearly three hours of head-to-head competition, Jill Kintner prevailed in the women’s race, taking home her 10th Sea Otter dual slalom win, while Kiwi Keegan Wright’s consistency ultimately paid off in the men’s race.
Kintner, who first lined up in the gates at this event 20 years ago, won all her heats handily with nary a bobble, showing once again just how unflappable she is on the iconic hill. Wright, who qualified sixth, bested top seed Cody Kelley by a mere fraction of a second, after Kelley, who’d raced perfectly all afternoon, sacrificed precious time when he briefly lost control as he exited the rollers into a right turn during the first run of the finals. He quickly recovered and finished just .421 seconds back on Wright. Kelley, the reigning U.S. Enduro National Champ, returned to top form in the second run and beat Wright by .412, leaving a heartbreaking 9/1000ths of a second on the table and handing Wright his first-ever Sea Otter dual slalom win.
Racers competed on a new course designed and built by longtime dual slalom competitor Kyle Strait (who also advanced into the final round of 8, even after digging all week). With deep berms, a fast rhythm section, rollers and a flat corner, culminating in a series of five gates and a final straightaway, Strait’s course was technical, but incorporated enough natural terrain that racers had to have true mountain bike skills to fare well. The format consists of two runs for each heat—one on the red course and one on the blue—and the rider with the fastest combined time moves ahead. Dual slalom races are few and far between these days, but the race at the Sea Otter Classic is a decades-long mainstay, and a fan favorite that attracts hordes of rowdy spectators who cheer from either side of the course.