Qualifying Photo Epic: A Tennessee Mud Bath - 2019 Windrock Pro GRT

Mar 8, 2019 at 18:55
by Dave Trumpore  



Once again, Windrock Bike Park plays host to the opening of the US Pro GRT series, and as in years past, has attracted a star-studded list of international riders. With the first World Cup just over a month away and quality pre-season races few and far between, riders from across the globe have started to make the trek each season to ride the rocks, ruts, and steep off cambers of Windrock. And with lots of riders on completely new bikes or new suspension equipment, it's a great venue to get in some testing and tuning. So much so that SRAM have had their entire gravity roster of DH and EWS riders here all week for a testing and set up camp.

The track itself has not changed too much from previous years. Just a few catch berms here and there to help keep things flowing and some slightly re-taped corners. Other than that, it is business as usual...other than the weather, of course. The track was dry and fast when riders got their first glimpse of it on Thursday, but by Friday's training and qualifying, things had turned downright sloppy. A steady drizzle of rain fell throughout the day, only pausing just long enough to start turning the slick mud into sticky peanut butter. With rain coming and going, some riders qualified with the track looking more like a dirty river of water than a mud bog, while others really had to manage some real nasty slop.

It's hard to tell if the weather was a factor or not, but regardless, it's safe to say that newcomer Ethan Shandro threw down an amazing run to not only win the junior race but also post the fastest time of the day. It will be interesting to see where he finishes tomorrow where we hope for a more consistent day (of constant rain, rather than so on and off). Ethan's Trek Factory Racing teammate Charlie Harrison took top honors in the men's race just ahead of Loris Vergier. Neko Mulally rounded out the top three while in the women's qualifying it would be Frida Roenning who would crush all challengers by nearly 40 seconds.

Tomorrow is when it really counts though, and with heavy rain and thunderstorms in the forecast, it's going to be a wild day at the rock!

Rolling fog over Eastern Tennessee.
Rolling fog over Eastern Tennessee.

The Smoky Moutains were smoking all day today with fog and a lot of rain.
The Smoky Mountains were smoking all day today with fog and a lot of rain.

With cold temps and rain all day lots of riders were huddles around fires in the pits in an effort to stay warm.
With cold temps and rain all day, lots of riders huddled around fires in the pits in an effort to stay warm.

Marcelo Gutierrez prepping goggles and roll offs before battling it out with the rain and mud.
Marcelo Gutierrez prepping goggles and roll-offs before battling it out with the rain and mud.

Fog filled the valleys this morning while riders made their way up to the plate. It had stopped drizzling but only for a moment.
Fog filled the valleys this morning while riders made their way up to the plate. It had stopped drizzling but only for a moment.

Loris Vergier blasting the whoops.
Loris Vergier blasting the whoops.

Nik Nestoroff would qualify in 8th.
Nik Nestoroff would qualify in 8th.

Marcelo Gutierrez is here getting some race prep in as well as some time on his new Fox suspension.
Marcelo Gutierrez is here getting some race prep in as well as some time on his new Fox suspension.

Frida Roenning pretty much destroyed the women s field to take the win in qualifying by 40 seconds
Frida Roenning pretty much destroyed the women's field to take the win in qualifying by 40 seconds,

6th in the mud today for Luca Shaw.
6th in the mud today for Luca Shaw.

Mark Wallace would end his wet and muddy day in 11th.
Mark Wallace would end his wet and muddy day in 11th.

Navigating through the rocks Rachel Pageau tip toeing her way down.
Navigating through the rocks, Rachel Pageau tiptoeing her way down.

Railing ruts with Max Morgan.
Railing ruts with Max Morgan.

Caroline Washam over the moto bump.
Caroline Washam over the moto bump.

Derailleur deep ruts were becoming a problem as practice wore on.
Derailleur deep ruts were becoming a problem as practice wore on.

Charlie Harrison sizing up the rocks.
Charlie Harrison sizing up the rocks.

The peanut butter conditions got the best of most riders this morning. The rain subsided however the rocks and roots were unpredictable.
The peanut butter conditions got the best of most riders this morning. After the rain subsided, the rocks and roots were even more unpredictable.

18th on the day for Henry Fitzgerald.
18th on the day for Henry Fitzgerald.

Kerstin Holster drops into the second of two tricky rock gardens on track.
Kerstin Holster drops into the second of two tricky rock gardens on track.

Mitch Ropelato has switched from enduro back to DH this season.
Mitch Ropelato has switched from enduro back to DH this season.

Forest Riesco would round out the top 10 in qualifying.
Forest Riesco would round out the top 10 in qualifying.

Sending the big stepup with a little style.
Sending the big step up with a little style.

Walker Shaw keeps it low of the big drop near the bottom of the track.
Walker Shaw keeps it low of the big drop near the bottom of the track.

Charlie Harrison took top honors in qualifying and will be the last man down the hill tomorrow.
Charlie Harrison took top honors in qualifying and will be the last man down the hill tomorrow.

Defending National Champ and the event s promoter Neko Mulally qualified in 3rd.
Defending National Champ and the event's promoter, Neko Mulally, qualified in 3rd.



Riders who cam down in the rain were lucky. The added moisture made the normally pasty sticky mud more into dirty water than anything else.
Riders who came down in the rain were lucky. The added moisture made the normally pasty, sticky mud more into dirty water than anything else.

Keeping clear vision was a battle that ragged all day long.
Keeping clear vision was a battle that raged all day long.

Kye A hern would come 2nd on juniors but would be some 10 seconds off the pace.
Kye A'hern would come 2nd on juniors but would be some 10 seconds off the pace.

The woops sections rattled teeth and bikes alike.
The whoops sections rattled teeth and bikes alike.

Samantha Soriano sending the step in her seating lap. She seemed reluctant in the conditions at first but found her pace by the end of the day.
Samantha Soriano sending the step down in her seating lap. She seemed reluctant in the conditions at first but found her pace by the end of the day.

The bike wash queue was a long one today with bikes getting caked in mud each practice run.
The bike wash queue was a long one today with bikes getting caked in mud each practice run.


The only clean part on the entire bike.
The only clean part on the entire bike.

not an east day for the mechanics.
Not an easy day for the mechanics.

Neko suiting up for qualifying.
Neko suiting up for qualifying.

Tear-off out on full force for some goggles off for the rest.
Tear-offs out on full force for some, goggles off for the rest.

It was no doubt cold and damp out there. Propane heaters were really appreciated.
It was no doubt cold and damp out there. Propane heaters were really appreciated.

Cold up lifts.
Cold up lifts.

One more go at trying to figure out the sloppy track.
One more go at trying to figure out the sloppy track.

Mitch Ropelato is said to be competing in the full world cup schedule this season and he s already up to speed here.
Mitch Ropelato is said to be competing in the full World Cup schedule this season and he's already up to speed here.

Just close your eyes and hope for the best I guess.
Just close your eyes and hope for the best, I guess.

Dakotah Norton is still recovering from shoulder surgery and while he was out on track during practice he will not be racing this weekend.
Dakotah Norton is still recovering from shoulder surgery and while he was out on track during practice, he will not be racing this weekend.

Titus Nicholson tries to keep speed through the steep and slippery switchbacks.
Titus Nicholson tries to keep speed through the steep and slippery switchbacks.

Samantha Soriano qualified in 6th.
Samantha Soriano qualified in 6th.

Sending the step down before the mean step up.
Sending the step down before the mean step up.

Loris Vergier qualified 2nd less than a second back.
Loris Vergier qualified second, less than a second back.

See you tomorrow for the final runs.
See you tomorrow for the final runs.

You just couldn t pray the rain away.
You couldn't even pray the rain away today in Oliver Springs, Tennessee.



47 Comments

  • + 46
 Pick up yo fckng tear offs!!
  • - 2
 Aren't most of them made of bio degradable plastics these days? Or only the expensive ones?
  • + 64
 I knew this comment was inevitable... That tear off was in a riders pits and was picked up at the end of the day with the rest of the trash... Don't get too worried over it.
  • + 22
 I have to imagine that at a race this size, the organizers are prepared to pick up tear offs after the race.
  • + 1
 @davetrumpore: good stuff
  • + 7
 @davetrumpore: this is an all-time amazing photo epic! Thank You.
  • + 42
 There's some great photography here.
  • + 24
 My name is Mud...
  • + 18
 Let's just hope that mud doesn't make it all the way to winonas big brown beaver
  • + 14
 @weebleswobbles: jerry was a dh racer...
  • + 3
 @rocky-mtn-gman: and he rode so Goddamn fast. He never made rob warner scream he goes fastest, but he never did come in last.
  • + 5
 Evidently someone didn't like the primus references or them being changed to include rob warner.
  • - 1
 @weebleswobbles: Some people happen to think that primus sucks.
  • + 0
 @IntoTheEverflow: you are entitled to that opinion. But fact of matter being that each member of the band is a musical genius in their own right. Cheers
  • + 2
 @weebleswobbles: Evidently you did not like my primus reference.
  • + 4
 @IntoTheEverflow: haha I totally forgot about people chanting primus sucks it was an early slogan yeah
  • + 1
 @IntoTheEverflow: How quickly people forget!
  • + 10
 The gleaming shock shaft in an ocean of muddy bike is a truly stunning image, among many others in this set.
  • + 8
 Really cool photos! I actually prefer the photo posts to videos when they are this good. Nice work!
  • + 8
 Great photos, but not technically the Smoky Mountains. Windrock lies in the Cumberland Mountains.
  • + 2
 Don't feel bad, I'm from West Virginia, and have to listen to the damn country roads song every time my states in a video. We have no blue ridge mountains or Shenandoah River.
  • + 7
 Photo verification that Neko had an actual back projector on at one time in the pits.
  • + 0
 A lot of these dudes where a protector under their jerseys
  • + 2
 @Mntneer, you missed the reference bud. In 2017 Neko got disqualified for using a piece of cardboard in place of a back projector at a venue where it was required.
  • + 7
 Not to be confused with Bill or Jack or Pete or Dennis
  • + 4
 It's always been, cause I'm the most boring
  • + 2
 @g-monster: summa bitch ud ever seen
  • + 2
 I dress in blue, yes navy blue, from head to toe I'm rather drab except my patent shoes
  • + 7
 Vergier on Monster and wearing the new Fox Rampage Helmet?
  • + 5
 So is loris riding with monster now?
  • + 4
 I swear every time I see photos of this place it’s been raining. Tennessee get rain all year round?
  • + 1
 It rains here all of the time... 67 inches last year. At the rate we are starting out this year it will be even more.
  • + 2
 @kody2fast: Cairns here in Oz had 30 inches just in January but still seems like the driest place on earth when you see the World Cups from there haha
  • + 5
 Stoked to see Ropelato back at it!! And that step up :0
  • + 5
 10/10 perfect photos.
  • + 5
 Where is Gwin?
  • + 16
 In church.
  • + 5
 Terrific photos, fellas
  • + 3
 Makes me homesick .... but not for the rain. That’s there’s creek boat weather!
  • + 4
 Thank you Dave and Andy!! Sooooo good!!
  • + 2
 Man..I wishI was selling front mud fenders there....all needed them..few had them..!
  • + 1
 What a wet and mucky mess! Every bike needs some TLC this evening before the big show tomorrow!!!!
  • + 1
 i rode my rz1000 up at windrock a few years ago during this time of year, and windrock without a doubt is a muddy cold sob
  • + 2
 Great shots
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