Two weeks ago Neko and the gang kicked off their three race Downhill Southeast series in the small town of Sequatchie just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The second in the series took the series back to the same state, specifically to Windrock Park located just west of the city of Knoxville. The weather fourteen days ago in Sequatchie was about as good as it gets, lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s. The twofer wouldn't be in the cards, as the storm that left the great land of Texas under a few feet of water would make its way up to eastern TN by race day.
Thy Destination - That’s Windrock, easily identifiable by the handful of Wind Turbines atop its summit. Once you exit Interstate 40 on Highway 162 they become visible. Just point and shoot, 23 or so miles later you are there.
The closest town to Windsock is Oliver Springs (founded in 1821) it's a place just over 3,000 people still call home. It’s yet another example of those great old towns that have endured the test of time and you don’t have to look hard to cross paths with some vintage “Americana.” The Sienknecht Store (pictured above) still adorns its facade as the Olga Coal Company from the 1999 movie the “October Sky” with Jake Gyllenhaal.
The Oliver Springs Historical Society building (top image) and the Oliver Springs Police Department (bottom image). The preservation of Oliver Spring's unique history is what makes these little towns so damn appealing and interesting.
It's nowhere the scale it once was back in the early 1900s under the management of the Bessemer Coal, Iron and Land Company, but coal mining still goes on today. Pictured is the Coal Miners Memorial Wall located on the grounds of Windrock Park, with more than 1000 names of those that once worked on or in the mountain.
The largest and busiest part of Windrock Park is its OHV Trail System. On any given weekend, you’ll find literally hundreds of ATVs, Crawlers, and motorcycles on the mountain. The off-road highway vehicles do have their own section of the mountain and we REALLY wanted to document some four wheel action, it just wasn’t in the cards this weekend. There was just no time.
Friday was a play day. Make Dad/Mom, your significant other, or your bud shuttle you up, take a lap, chill, refuel, and shoot the sh**t with your bros. Base camp central for chillin’ was Yeti’s, Shawn Neer’s travel van.
The struggle was real with Isak Leivsson’s, Procores. Not sure what the problem was… parts, fitment, or pressure; he worked a good hour or so on getting things back in order. Isak (on the right) getting some help from his favorite Canadian brothers, Dad and Adam Robbins.
The Marian University DH team has been active within the Downhill Southeast series. They raced round one and two, no doubt they’ll be at Bailey Mountain Bike Park this coming weekend to complete the series. Stoked to see you all support the series!
Shawn Neer in process of the converting the SB6c into the “Do It All Bike.” Just a simple swap of the single to the dual, some minor adjustments, and he was ready for a weekend of Windrock punishment.
While Neko was on course with some last minute trail prep and course taping, brother, Logan Mullally doing what he does, playing mechanic and building one of Neko’s wheels. Probably the better deal, sitting on his can and enjoying a cool beverage.
Don’t know him? You should… Jamie Wilson is one of the nicest dude’s in Brevard, NC. One of those guys that you can always count on to be there, always lend a hand with anything and everything you might need, and has that “just get sh**t done” attitude. Thanks for all that you do Jamie Wilson that no one really knows that you do. Guess what, they do now!
One more person to acknowledge, Sean Leader. One heck of a (Pivot Cycles) rider, one heck of a talented guy behind the lens (for Pivot Cycles) and most importantly, pivotal (pun intended) to bringing the series to Windrock Park. Thanks, Sean!
The original plan was to have racers run the full length of the mountain with a revised Windmill Trail. That course was essentially done, but still needed some time and weather to help it settle and set in. In the meantime, the course would be Startin Sh*t, Middle Finger, Snake Rock, The Spine, The Ghetto (aka Gold Digger, Gold Teeth). All different angles of the first feature on SS, Caroline Washam (top photo), Chuck Pitts (middle photo), Ian Bongard GROM Racing (bottom photo).
Phillip Steele of GROM Racing was looking on point early on during Saturday practice, in the end, Windrock got the best of him. Unfortunately, Windsock always gets one or two… it’s that rough. He suffered a broken clavicle and is hoping to be back on two wheels to make a trip out west to Sea Otter. Heal up quick bud!
Billy Goat Bikes', Josh Rogers pops out of the shadows during the 30 minutes of sun that eastern Tennessee would have on Saturday. The chat amongst the makeshift pit area at the bottom of the mountain was not very positive in regards to the impending rain that would no doubt roll in overnight into Sunday morning.
The above three images capture the start of Middle Finger. Insert here: switchback after switchback after switchback, boulder and baby head laden techy sections, and short steep runs. Stay on your game; it keeps throwing it at you and never lets up.
The fastest junior, David Kahn/Danny’s Cycles, pictured here during Saturday practice, went 28mph into a tree on The Spine (or speed trap) during his race run. Another one who was bitten by Windrock. He later posted on social media he had traumatic pancreatitis and a bruised liver. You didn’t walk away empty-handed David, one of this photographer's fav shot from the weekend. Healing vibes David.
There was lots of carnage at this right-hander. Rocks, roots, and to top it off, three natural springs. One at the top of the corner, one midpoint through the section, and finally one at the exit of the straight shoot. It never stopped coming out of the ground. The ruts and slop grew deeper and deeper, swallowing rider after rider as practice went by.
Following the previous image/caption, if you took the high line you could avoid the last spring via a natural rock wall ride. I wonder if Kiran MacKinnon saw me wedged between the crack in the rock?
Gravity Pirate, Raphael Ferreria, part of the Charlotte crew, pounded lap after lap each time fine tuning those lines. On race day, it seemed to work for him, ninth place in Amateur Men with a 4:06.423. Arghhhh!
Luca and Walker were running the train most of the day, Luca first, Walker second… a change up, Walker first, Luca second... and repeat. So cool to see brothers feeding off one another with the littlest of tweaks to get faster and faster.
Isak Leivsson seemed to prefer the solo runs during Saturday practice. It seemed to be working for him as, at least to me, he seemed to be the smoothest and fastest from top to bottom on the course.
The popular spectator hang out was the Creek/Canyon Gap. It was literally on the side of the access road to the top of the mountain. At any given time you’d see 10-20 spectators taking in the action. Even the OHV people would stop for a moment to see what all the hub-bub was about. Neko Mullally clearing it by a mile and making it look easy in the late afternoon practice session.
Twas the night before race day, not a creature was stirring... I wonder if Mom and Dad approve of what Josh Rogers was sharing his bed with?
Ben Ritcher of Beech Mountain Gravity, in the background, had a heck of a race day. At age 12, he took the long distance Canyon Gap jump award, beating the entire field (WC boys included) with a 28-foot distance and he took the gold in Juniors 12U with a 4:14.744. Keep in mind that time would have put him fifteenth in Amateur Men and 27th in Pro Men. Watch out for this shredder! There's a bright future in store for this young man.
The eldest Shaw (Walker) coming a wee bit close to the tree during his race run. He has had better days with a thirteenth in Pro Men.
Andrew Slowley hit the Canyon Jump Gap at the wrong angle, pivoted mid-air, and came down with his weight shifted to the right and whoosh, down he went in the pea gravel. As he slid across the ground he took out two poles, completely obliterating one of them into 50 pieces, and just about impaled himself with one of the metal stakes. He shook it off and continued on. Man of Steel! Andrew ended the day with a fourteenth in Pro Men.
Adam Robbins has it figured out; always on, all the time! He was a pleasure to watch all weekend. He’s only 17 years old, but can run with the best of them. He took ninth spot in Pro Men with a 3:12.813. Keep on keeping on bud!
Just two weeks earlier Max Morgan/Worldwide Cyclery was on the podium for round one at TTC. I didn’t catch what happened to his race run, but no doubt he wasn’t happy with the seventeenth spot after race runs.
Neko finished in fourth with a 3:03.584. We should note that between second, third, and fourth, the split was as close as it gets, 0.347 secs. Tighter than a gnat’s ass… Combined with his second at round one/TTC, he’s in the third spot for the series overall with forty points, one point behind Luca Shaw and three points behind Isak Leivsson. The final round at Bailey Mountain this coming weekend should be an interesting one.
Luca was right on Neko’s heels just eight-tenths back with a 3:04.687. He’ll be looking to move up a few spots heading into the final round at Bailey Mtn.
Great to see Dakotah 'The Wildcard' Norton back on the scene and making the trip from the bitter cold state of Michigan. One might think he’s a bit rusty from the winter months, but he’d prove you wrong. He missed round one, but finished second in Pro Men here at round two. Rusty? Neah, not at all.
As mentioned earlier, Isak Leivsson, seemed to have it all worked out during practice. We should’ve taken that bet, he was up almost ten seconds from the second spot. Man on Fire! Nice run Isak and one heck of a weekend!
Going into the last round, the series points leaders in both Pro Men and Women Open are both of the Norwegian's, Isak Leivsson and Frida Helena Ronning (same team and also happen to be boyfriend/girlfriend). Come on now ya'll, are we going to let that happen on our own turf? (Kidding of course). Full Results HereWhat's Up Next?
The series finale at Bailey Mountain, Mars Hill, NC is just days way, March 19-20. You can Register here
and find all other race info here
If you are planning on attending the final round at Bailey Mountain Bike Park, Please read this
noting an emphasis on carpooling. Parking space is very limited and the Bailey Mountain staff are working to accommodate everyone.Downhill Southeast Series Sponsors: Worldwide CycleryScott SportsIndustry NineShimanoDeity ComponentsOskar Blues BreweryEl AztecaTrucker CoWindrock Park mountain biking trails