The biggest bike party the East coast gravity scene has witnessed since the Windham World Cup departed in 2015 went down this weekend as the US Open of Mountain Biking made a triumphant return to Mountain Creek. Throngs of rowdy spectators lined the track as hundreds of riders battled on a brand new course. The Open was a huge deal in its heyday, drawing international luminaries like Sam Hill, Gee Atherton, Brendan Fairclough and Troy Brosnan to northern New Jersey. The event was shuttered after the 2011 race, leaving a big hole in the summer race calendar. The rebirth of the Open this year was a bit of a miracle.
Clay Harper, one of the young riders who developed the bike park at Mountain Creek (then known as Diablo Freeride Park) and started the whole US Open phenomenon, bought the rights to the event from his former partner Shawn Orecchio just a few short months ago. In a Herculean effort, Harper and his team created the event from nothing, lined up a stable of top-shelf sponsors and built a new track in the blink of a race-organizer's eye. "Some people thought I was crazy. I was playing chicken with the clock," said Harper. "Everyone's budgets were closed and people weren't returning my calls." But then Shimano jumped on board, quickly followed by Fox, Clif, GT, and Red Bull and the Open was, as they say, off to the races.
The US Open is unlike other big races in that it is a standalone event with no points of any kind on the line. Money, prizes, bragging rights and a big bike party are the only incentives. The track was designed for the event by Harper, George Ryan and Aaron Chase with the trail trail crew working on their days off to get it built in time. "The thought process behind the design was lines—multiple lines. We wanted to leave everything wide open and not let riders turn off their brains and just follow the tape," said Harper. "With the super long wheel bases and slack head angles on today's bikes we wanted the track to be fast. We tested the section above the Independence Jump and we were hitting 40mph."
When he first walked the course Mullally thought it was "whack" but as it burned in "it became really challenging and fun to race. I'm feeling awesome on my new team and this year is going really well for me. I knew that on this course I had everything I needed to be able to win and it was just up to me to put it all together.Full Results