Big air and big fun at the 5th annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival in Aptos.
by Joh Rathbun
April 6, 2014—Once again the Aptos Post Office Jumps exploded into action Sunday as groups of women, boys and amateur and expert men hit the rollers at the 5th annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival—and once again announcers bade farewell to the fabled jumps, scheduled to be eradicated with the building of a new downtown center for Aptos Village.
The Pro Jump Jam delighted throngs of spectators who came to see locals like Cam and Tyler McCaul of Aptos tear up their home turf. This year, first place went to Jeff Herbertson of Santa Cruz, second to Jake Kinney of San Diego and third to Christian Wright of Santa Cruz. In a highlight of the festival the riders formed a train at the end of the competition (see video). Story continues below video.
The Amateur Men and Expert Juniors divisions also delighted fans as future pros launched off dirt berms and wooden ramps to perform aerial tricks like the Toboggan, Superman and 360s. Expert Juniors winners were Connor Gallart of Santa Cruz in first place, Garrett Beauchamp of Watsonville in second and Owen Marks of Santa Cruz in third.
The Boys 12 and Under division, which started off the afternoon’s activities at the jumps, was a huge crowd pleaser. One contestant, Shana Halahan, was 5 years old; the division’s winner, Nathan Halahan, is 9 and so advanced he rode many of his passes using the big jumps, unlike his fellow contestants, who stuck to the smaller jumps. Jackson Goldstone, who started off big with a 360 on his first tour of the track, took second, and Gavin Stanton took third.
Women, too, got in on the act on Sunday morning with the Sugar Showdown jump competition. Nikita Ducarroz of Sonoma County took first, Tammy Donahugh took second and Meg Valliant of Seattle took third. Bailey Gladstone, 11, competed in the division as well.
The two-day event was busy but not overrun. Sean Andrasik, a member of the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBOSC), which organized the festival, said that as of noon Sunday, “We are already at 80% attendance of last year's weekend—which was about 9,000.” On Sunday afternoon Cindy Carter of San Jose was out selling tickets for the raffle, had already collected a “cool $100” for the day and was sharing the stoke.
The festival, now in its fifth year, is an MBOSC affair to raise funds for trailbuilding. The success of the Emma McCrary Trail in Pogonip, combined with the imminent razing of the Post Office Jumps, has driven locals to work together to build other legal parks for pump tracks countywide, as well as a new flow trail in Soquel Demonstration Forest. The completion of the first segment of that trail is anticipated within a few weeks. Partnering with Cal Fire, MBOSC is demonstrating that a forest can thrive with both controlled logging and as recreation. The project is a finalist for a $100,000 grant from Bell Helmets.
Scheduling the festival before the weekend the Sea Otter Classic at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey has been a successful strategy for MBOSC, as the sense of community, and the efficacy of MBOSC's advocacy, has given cyclists in Santa Cruz County a voice and legal sweet riding spots.
The chance to compete, too, is a big draw, even at the amateur level. I competed in the amateur women's dirt jump competition early Sunday hosted by Kat Sweet of Sugar Showdown. It was a last-minute decision, but when Bicycle Fabrications lent me a Pocket Rocket, I couldn't pass up the chance to compete. The bike has a slacker angle than a trail bike, and with wide handlebars, the 777's based on the width size, and 4 inches of travel, the bike was built for jumps.
While any event may have its behind-the-scene hiccups, overall the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival is a success on many levels. I love the sense of community, the chance to ride with women and challenging myself physically. Apparently thousands of other area mountain bikers do too.
Joh Rathbun is a freelance action sports writer, and columnist & ride leader/coach for Shine Riders Co. To stay up to date on West Coast events, or to join her on a ride, like her Facebook page, or contact her at johrathbun.wix.com/freelancewriter.