Photo Epic: DH Finals - US Open of MTB 2018

Aug 5, 2018
by Dave Trumpore  




Just when racers thought it couldn't get any more wet and wild at the 2018 US Open, nature would again have the last laugh. A massive storm front rolled through overnight and with it, extended periods of extremely heavy rain saw the track in Killington reach its saturation point. Unable to absorb any more water, the fresh-cut DH track would become a river with flowing and standing water making up much of the racing line for Saturday morning's practice. For a little while, this actually made the track easier to ride, but once the ruts began to deepen, even the cascading water was having a hard time finding a good flow.

After the weather gods had stuck the knife in, they gave it a turn just for good measure in the form of sunshine. Blazing hot sun graced the slopes of Killington just prior to amateur and pro race runs, turning the open sections of track to sticky peanut butter in an instant. By the late afternoon, as the fastest riders were about to drop in, conditions were their worst.

The race would become a battle to stay on the bike through the many steep sections through the final section of woods - an extremely physical affair, as riders had to muscle through ruts and holes, and sprint with mud-packed wheels to carry speed. The few puddles that remained did little to clean out tires and messed with rider's vision more than anything else. To put in lightly, race runs were a brutal affair.

In the end, two recently crowned national champions would climb to the top step of the podium, with Canada's Vaea Verbeeck taking the win for the women, and US national champ Neko Mulally for the men. For Neko, it would be extra special, as he won the US Open last year and would become the only rider (other than Sam Hill) to have won the prestigious event two times. Both winners would take home hefty checks for their efforts - a cool $6,000. Not a bad payout for a day of mud wrestling in Vermont.

After the awards ceremony, there was supposed to be a whip-off competition on some impressive purpose-built jumps adjacent to the finish area. But, as soon as the massive crowd began to party, and the first few riders began got sideways, the weather gods again stole the show. A late afternoon thunderstorm rolled through. Rain saturated the jumps and lightning strikes surrounded the venue, too close for anyone's comfort or safety. Needless to say, the party was shut down in a hurry.

The mud was flying all day in Killington.
The mud was flying all day in Killington.

It poured rain all night but as practice got underway the clouds started to lift and the sun began to poke through for the first time in a few days.
It poured rain all night, but as practice got underway, the clouds started to lift and the sun began to poke through for the first time in days.

Visibility was a bit of an issue again first thing in the morning.
Visibility was a bit of an issue first thing in the morning.


Dylan Conte sends it up into the tree branches during the very wet morning practice.
Dylan Conte sends it up into the tree branches during the very wet morning practice.

Having won the US Open last year Neko Mulally wanted nothing more than to go back to back with another win in 2018.
Having won the US Open last year, Neko Mulally wanted to go back to back with another win in 2018.

Isaac Allaire drags a foot as he exits the woods with the finish line in sight.
Isaac Allaire drags a foot as he exits the woods with the finish line in sight.

Rachel Pageau gets a face full en route to 5th in the Pro Women s race.
Rachel Pageau gets a face full en route to 5th in the Pro Women's race.

Raining ruts and keeping it rubber side down on a track that caused numerous crashes Vaea Verbeeck would take the US Open Women s title by an 8 second margin.
Railing ruts and keeping it rubber side down on a track that caused numerous crashes, Vaea Verbeeck would take the US Open Women's title by an 8 second margin.

Dillon Lemar trying to stay inside on one of the more rutted out corners near the top of the track.
Dillon Lemar trying to stay inside on one of the rutted-out corners near the top of the track.

Jackson drew was having fun all week in training and it showed in is riding. A 2nd place will definitely give his some confidence heading into next weekends World Cup just up the road in Quebec.
Jackson Drew was having fun all week in training and it showed in his riding. A 2nd place will boost his confidence heading into next weekend's World Cup up the road in Quebec.

Heavy rain overnight left a literal river running down many sections of the track.
Overnight rain left a river running down many sections of the track.

Before the sun started to shine the large amounts of standing water dumped in an overnight storm actually made the track easier to ride.
Before the sun started to shine, large amounts of standing water actually made the track easier to ride.

Alex McAndrew trying to see through the mud and fog fist thing in the morning.
Alex McAndrew trying to see through the morning's mud and fog.

Ross Soriano flings the mud about during practice.
Ross Soriano flings the mud about during practice.

10th for Connor Fearon despite running in 2nd at the first three splits.
Tenth for Connor Fearon, despite running in 2nd at the first three splits.

As the sun began to shine the standing water and mud quickly turned to peanut butter in more than a few tricky sections.
As the sun began to shine, standing water and mud quickly turned to peanut butter.

Sean Leader unfortunately suffered a puncture on his race run and would finish way down the order.
Sean Leader unfortunately suffered a puncture on his race run and would finish way down the order.

Wyn Masters smash though the mud to take 3rd on his new 29er.
Wyn Masters smashes through the mud to take 3rd on his new 29er.

Frida Helena Ronning of Norway would grab 3rd in the Pro Women s race.
Frida Helena Ronning of Norway would grab 3rd in the Pro Women's race.

What a ride from Ella Skalwold to take 2nd place amongst some very fast company.
What a ride from Ella Skalwold to take 2nd place among some fast company.

top 20 for young Colombian racer Steven Ceballos.
Top 20 for young Colombian racer Steven Ceballos.

Gaetan Vige drops out of the start gate as the fog finally began to lift of the top of the mountain.
Gaetan Vige drops out of the start gate as the fog finally begins to lift off the top of the mountain.

Rafael Gutierrez would end the day just inside the top ten with a 9th.
Rafael Gutierrez would end the day inside the top ten, with a 9th.

Many a good run would come to an end on these muddy and greasy rocks.
Many a good run would come to an end on these muddy and greasy rocks.

You can just look at Joey Foresta s jersey if you are curious how his race run turned out.
Look at Joey Foresta's jersey if you are curious how his race run turned out.

Steve Rioux coming undone in the rocks.
Steve Rioux coming undone in the rocks.

Jake Kahn cleans the last rock garden that claimed more than a few riders just 20 seconds from the finish line.
Jake Kahn cleans the final rock garden that claimed more than a few riders - just 20 seconds from the finish line.

Wyn Masters was about one inch away from throwing away his 3rd place run exiting the final rock garden.
Wyn Masters exits the final rock garden - one inch from throwing away his 3rd place run.

6th place for Vermont local Mazie Hayden.
Sixth place for Vermont local Mazie Hayden.

Current US National Champ Samantha Soriano would finish the day in 4th.
Current US National Champ Samantha Soriano would finish the day in 4th.

7th today for Nik Nestoroff and just one second off the podium.
Seventh today for Nik Nestoroff and just one second off the podium.

Isak Leivsson had an outstanding ride to claim 4th.
Isak Leivsson had an outstanding ride to claim 4th.

Dakotah Norton wasn t pushing too hard this weekend as he focuses on rehabbing an injured shoulder ahead on next weeks World Cup in Mont St Anne.
Dakotah Norton wasn't pushing hard this weekend. He is focused on rehabbing an injured shoulder before of next week's World Cup in Mont St Anne.

6th place finisher Kiran Mackinnon did his best to empty all the water out of this puddle for the remaining riders on track.
6th place finisher Kiran Mackinnon did his best to empty the water from this puddle for the remaining riders on track.

A very Happy Jackson Frew took 2nd a long 6 seconds behind Neko Mulally.
A very happy Jackson Drew took 2nd, six seconds behind Neko Mulally.

Even after the sun scorched the track all day visibility was still a challenge due to all the rain that fell overnight.
Sun scorched the track all day, but visibility was still a challenge, due to all the rain that fell overnight.

A hard day at the office for Conor Fearon.
A hard day at the office for Conor Fearon.

The sticky mud made for a brutally physical race and Neko needed a few minutes at the bottom to catch his breath before he could even think about celebrating.
Sticky mud made for a brutally physical race, and Neko needed a few minutes at the bottom to catch his breath before he could think about celebrating.

The fastest women at the 2018 Fox MTB US Open Downhill.
The fastest women at the 2018 Fox MTB US Open Downhill.

A very nice payday indeed for Vaea Verbeeck
A very nice payday indeed for Vaea Verbeeck

Neko Mulally made it back to back US Open titles just one week after also clinching the national championship title.
Neko Mulally earned back to back US Open titles one week after clinching the US National Championship title.

There was meant to be a whip-off comp immediately following the podium ceremony. But before Bernard Kerr could even get warmed up a massive thunderstorm rolled in and shut the event down just a few riders in.
There was a whip-off immediately following the podium ceremony, but before Bernard Kerr could get warmed up, a massive thunderstorm shut the event down.

Tyler McCaul sat out the DH after it turned into a mud fest but he was seen throwing it sideways just before the whip-off was postponed due to rain.
Tyler McCaul sat out the DH after it turned into a mud fest, but he was seen throwing it sideways just before the whip-off was postponed.



32 Comments

  • + 34
 Neko has the best kit in the World Cup game
  • + 17
 No joke. Black on black with a beer sponsor lid and Tennessee state flag gloves. Love it.
  • + 4
 Red Bull gives you wings, Beer gets you laid. Beer please.
  • + 15
 Amazing coverage, especially given the unrelenting tropical deluges. A shame the weather made things so sloppy on what looked to be an otherwise brilliant track. But bravo to Neko and Vaea for mastering the conditions and taking the W's. Btw, in Jackson's first pic his last name is Drew rather than Frew.
  • + 16
 Is there any truth in the rumour that Wyns front wheel did not touch the ground the whole way down?
  • + 4
 He raced without it I heard.
  • + 3
 They had to photoshop the wheels back on the pictures because the rules say you have to have 2 wheels.
  • + 12
 I can't wait to ride this track... once it dries out... Killington is such a great venue, I hope it becomes home to more big races!
  • + 2
 They are not keeping it open to the public. After racing it in the wet I know why, I dont know anyone that made it down clean over the weekend.
  • + 2
 Yeah it's not going to be left open but it will be getting poached on the reg so I think it will stay somewhat open
  • + 6
 Jackson Drew! Jackson Frew’s long lost döppelgångèr.
  • + 5
 Thanks for the catch. I literally have to undo my auto-correct every time I type his name in, and it looks like I missed it on that one.
  • + 4
 I've been hoping to see Connor Fearon on the podium after successful qualifying... bummer :-/
  • + 2
 He went over the bars in one of the muddy sections and busted his front brake lever.
  • + 1
 @schwaaa31: shit... that tells why he just finished 10th.
  • + 3
 " A very happy "Jackson Drew" took 2nd, six seconds behind Neko Mulally." - Jackson Frew will be bummed to have been edged out.
  • + 2
 Clay Harper, you're a madman...congrats!! Great job with the coverage, Dave!
  • + 2
 I spy with my little eye - Dale's Pale Ale mud covered socks. Very cool, indeed.
  • + 0
 The OB helmet was easier to pick out
  • + 2
 So much fun trying to navigate the course from behind the yellow tape. Great event and the riders were incredible.
  • + 4
 Neko by 6. Dang
  • + 3
 Epic shots as always Dave
  • + 4
 yes Ella!!! Way to go!
  • + 4
 @lacykemp Highlight of the weekend
  • + 0
 Ella crushed it off the top
  • + 1
 Man this place is like 2h from where I live but I had no idea you could ride there! No way Im missing that next year!
  • + 1
 Great event. Sadly I missed it this year. I’ll be there next year for sure.
  • + 1
 Congrats jackson great result in crazy conditions!
  • + 1
 ah darn no more Hope Tech for Vaea Verbeeck?
  • + 1
 shit yo
  • + 1
 sick

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