By Brice Minnigh
Photos: Anthony Smith (unless otherwise noted)
In one of the most dramatic moments of this year's Sea Otter Classic, Kyle Strait fended off some of the world's fastest racers to win a commanding victory in the dual-slalom event.
Under blue skies and a searing-hot sun, Strait proved to an exuberant crowd that his racing career is back on track, winning heat after heat—and showing no shortage of style.
By the time the field was narrowed down to the round of eight, the excitement of the fans had reached near-fever pitch, with jubilant spectators shouting as the young American dispensed with the likes of Kirt Voreis, Fabien Cousinie, Greg Minnaar, Cedric Gracia and Troy Brosnan to claim a decisive win.
After outsprinting Minnaar to move into the round of eight, Strait said he was tired but felt like he had a good chance of winning.
"That [race with Minnaar] was my hardest one, mentally and physically," Strait told Bike magazine after the race. "I burned my legs out hard with Minnaar because I didn't want him to be close to me. It was tough. Then I went on to race Cedric, which was tough as well."
Toward the end of the event, pockets of rabid supporters—most notably a rowdy contingent from SRAM—began to chant, 'Lyle', in reference to Strait's nickname.
"Everybody was chanting, 'Lyle, Lyle', and it was so goddamned loud," Strait said. "And the funniest part was I looked at the other riders on the truck going up, and it was obvious that they didn't know what the crowd was chanting. But I knew exactly was going on."
Among Strait's biggest supporters was Shaun Palmer, who at one point broke down his cardboard 12-pack of Stella Artois to handcraft a sign stating, 'Go Lyle'.