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'.