The importance of inclusion is something that cannot be stressed enough. Of course, we always knew this but seeing it in action at the 2021 Sea Otter classic showed further proof. For the first time in the event’s history, there were to be two adaptive events with multiple competitors in each. These adaptive riders were able to compete in the Downhill race and, for the first time in the history of adaptive mountain biking, dual slalom as well.
High Fives had a very strong representation of Athletes competing. Sean Kent, Bryan Noonan, Wufky Crosby, Alex Duff, and I had traveled from Tahoe, meeting Sam Audenino and new High Fives/Bowhead Athlete Cole Bernier atthe famed Laguna Seca Speedway.
The plan for the festival was pretty simple – Shred some bikes, have fun, and show off adaptive biking in a way that entices future events to include an adaptive category as well.
The first adaptive practice was for Downhill on Thursday, and Wufky and I were the only Athletes able to attend. We got up onto the course and began taking practice laps. The course was a ton of fun, but it was clear that the dry California summer had taken its toll. This was a proper mountain bike course. Brake bumps, ruts, bomb holes they were all going to be a part of each lap. Thursday practice was a short one and everyone else arrived the following morning.
Once all the Athletes were up on course to practice the following day, the camaraderie was apparent. Although everyone wanted to do their best, there was no holding back information. Everyone was talking about the lines that they liked and sharing tips and tricks that they had learned. Of course, everyone was competitive but if we all succeed, so does the sport.
The following day was DH race day. The race went off without a hitch. All the riders made it down the hill without any crashes and High Fives Athletes swept the podium! Sean Kent in Third place, Myself in second, and Cole Bernier with the fastest time of the day!
Immediately after Downhill, it was time for the first dual slalom practice. The dual slalom course was just above the main expo area and consisted of two side-by-side courses. Two Riders tackle the course side by side. Each rider takes a turn on either side of the course and after one lap on each side, the rider with the fastest combined time moves on to the next round. This makes for exciting head-to-head racing.
Much like the downhill, both sides of the slalom course were rough and technical; this made for incredibly fun racing. The vibes were insanely high between all riders. Everyone was cheering for everyone else and encouraging each other to ride their hardest. After an amazing practice day and qualifying, everyone was tired and excited to duke it out in the bracket formatted race the following day.
Racing the dual slalom provided the excitement that we were all hoping for. After the first round, all High Fives Athletes participating moved on. Semi-Finals consisted of Bryan Noonan vs. Cole Bernier and Myself vs. Sean Kent. With the winner of each bracket moving on to the battle for first and second.
I had to go to battle with Kent and just barely came out on top. Bernier was able to knock out Noonan. The finals were set and I went to battle with my good friend, new High Fives Athlete and Bowhead Team rider Cole Bernier while Sean Kent and Bryan Noonan raced for third and fourth.
Unfortunately, Sean Kent crashed on his first run against Noonan and although he was okay he was unable to take his second run. This gave High Fives Athlete Bryan Noonan an uncontested third place.
Meanwhile, Cole and I were at the top waiting to race. It was a ton of fun being able to race my good friend down the course and although I gave it my all I couldn’t find the speed to get through the finish line before him on either run. Cole wins the Dual Slalom. High Five Athletes Sweep the podium again! Two for Two.
What an amazing time. One thing that was confirmed at Sea Otter 2021 was that Adaptive Mountain Biking is here to stay. The courses will continue to improve as the riders and technology does as well. This is a new sport and the sky is the limit on how much progression will continue to happen with events like Sea Otter pushing it in a positive direction.
Thanks to everyone who helped put this together. Book your tickets, we will be back next year!