The Return of a Classic: 2017 US Open – Qualifying

May 27, 2017 at 20:22
by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur  
US Open DH 2017


After a six-year hiatus, the US Open downhill has returned to the scene and is looking to regain its status as a must-attend event on the downhill calendar. More than 200 racers turned out for the reboot of this classic event. When the Open was last held in 2011, the venue was still known as the Diablo Freeride Park and such luminaries as Aaron Gwin, Gee Atherton, Steve Smith (#longlivechainsaw) and Jill Kintner were all breaking the beam. Luca Shaw was racing in the junior category and Richie Rude Jr. was on a downhill bike. Though much has changed over the years some things remain the same: Gwin and Kintner are back at the Open and the mountain retains its reputation for unforgiving geology and full-throttle racing.


US Open DH 2017
Mountain Creek is located in rural northern New Jersey. The region is home to an unlikely mix of high-end vacation homes and vegetable/dairy farms. Though modest in stature, the mountain packs a wallop of steeps and rock gardens that take no prisoners.

US Open DH 2017
Rain was a common theme in the days leading up to the Open, including a series of strong thunderstorms on Thursday night. As practice opened Friday morning, racers faced soft and soggy conditions on many of the tracks freshly-built sections.

US Open DH 2017
The one-of-a-kind cabriolet gondola transports racers to the top of the mountain with sweeping views of the Vernon area below.

US Open DH 2017
The track features a blend of classic segments with a healthy dose of fresh offerings. The US Open philosophy is to tape a wide track and offer plenty of line options. There were plenty of open slope sections including the opening stretch that crosses under the gondola.

US Open DH 2017
Just in time for Memorial Day a colorful American flag painted bridge near the top of the track brought racers to a key section.

US Open DH 2017
Just after the bridge, a quagmire of puddles and deep mud posed a persistent headache for racers all weekend. The slop was followed by a gently rising slab traverse so anyone who got bogged down lost valuable seconds before gravity took hold again.

US Open DH 2017
The first big technical puzzle was the Ninety Nine rock garden. The rocks and roots through this section became tracked with mud making this a slick trouble spot.

US Open DH 2017
Returning to the open slope, riders got a short breather before the next big obstacle. Samantha Kingshill raced to a fifth in qualifying on Saturday.

US Open DH 2017
The Red Bull rock garden was undoubtedly the crux of the course. The jumble of rocks was unearthed on a steep pitch adjacent to the legendary Asylum rock garden. There were several unappetizing line choices and a slew of riders, including Drummer Racing's Jack Williams, went over the bars trying to negotiate the maze.

US Open DH 2017
Those that survived the rock garden went hard on the gas to the Fox MTB Independence Jump, a new feature that launched racers over a long table.

US Open DH 2017
Soft dirt again plagued riders as they linked a pair of berms before the new CLIF bridge, a typically impressive Mountain Creek wooden feature over the Greenhorn trail.

US Open DH 2017
After a series of moto whoops, racers dropped off the steepest pitch on the track that ended in a harsh G-out.

US Open DH 2017
A rooty chute was the final big technical challenge on the track.

US Open DH 2017
The bottom of the course was scratched out of a half pipe with hips and corners connected by dicey off-camber traverses. Jordan Newth and Isaac Allaire teamed up on one of the steep corners in practice.

US Open DH 2017
Cornering skills were essential to keeping a quick pace on the bottom of the track. Wiley Kaupas, racing for Specialized, shows how it's done.

US Open DH 2017
A pair of booters put the finishing touches on the course.

US Open DH 2017
After practice on Friday, a huge crowd of bikers and spectators headed up the hill for the Fox MTB Best Whip Contest. Held on the Independence Jump, the event was an absolute blast with a Red Bull DJ, trains of riders and an endless supply of whips.

US Open DH 2017
The stoke was high as waves of riders launched off a pair of kickers.

US Open DH 2017
Radio personality Matt Murray, the original US open announcer, worked the mic during the comp. Murray's enthusiasm boiled over when Iron Maiden made an appearance on the playlist.

US Open DH 2017
Commencal's Luca Cometti took top honors with a series of huge filthy efforts.

US Open DH 2017
Cash and bragging rights were awarded to Cometti by US Open owner Clay Harper, right. Andras Simon took the runner-up spot and freeride legend Tyler McCaul was third.

US Open DH 2017
Practice and seeding took place on Saturday. A steady stream of riders wheeled across the pedestrian bridge from the parking lots.

US Open DH 2017
The women's open class was dominated by national champion Jill Kintner. The Red Bull athlete topped the field by an 11-second margin and is looking to defend her long-held US Open title.

The Return of a Classic 2017 US Open Practice
Caroline Washam, winner of the Windrock ProGRT earlier this year, was the only woman in reach of Kintner.

US Open DH 2017
Progression Cycle Pro Kaytlin Melvin took the third spot. Melvin runs a busy race schedule on the west coast.

US Open DH 2017
Chelsea Kimball, another west coast racer, took fourth about two seconds off Melvin's pace.

US Open DH 2017
Defending US Open champion Aaron Gwin eeked out the top spot in qualifying for the men. Gwin's bike was loaded with a manner of telemetry as he appears to be gathering data about bike performance during the event.

US Open DH 2017
Gwin's YT Mob teammate Neko Mullaly was second, just a couple hundredths of a second behind Gwin.

US Open DH 2017
Santa Cruz Bicycles Pro, Kiran MacKinnon, who has been red-hot of late, took the third spot, nearly five seconds off the winning pace.

US Open DH 2017
Ever-stylish Dakotah Norton, racing for Morpheus bikes, earned a fourth place in qualifying, just a couple tenths behind MacKinnon.

US Open DH 2017
MacKinnon's Santa Cruz teammate Max Morgan, recently back from injury, appears to have regained his speed with a fifth place in qualifying.

US Open DH 2017
Who will be crowned 2017 US Open champion on Sunday? It's time to make your pick.

Views: 3,681    Faves: 5    Comments: 2



32 Comments

  • + 20
 went to mountain creek last year and those rock gardens are absolutely no joke.
  • + 4
 I didn't expect this to be in New Jersey. Though, i do remember Paulie Gualtieri and Christopher Moltisanti being lost deep in the woods of Jersey and Bobby Bacala in full duck camo kit saved them.
  • + 4
 What? You mean they actually have DH races in the U.S? Joking, but not really as we hardley EVER see a U.S DH race on PB. It seems a pitty as DH racing originated there yet most pro races are in Europe????
  • + 6
 We cover most all of the Downhill racing going on in the U.S. It is very much alive, though when posted to Pinkbike, it's geographically specific so you may not see it if you're registered outside the U.S.
  • + 8
 So sick!
  • + 5
 That crash as 1.23min....
  • + 2
 I'm coming from Andorra la Vella (Vallnord world cup) and you can see the difference in jersey, no much followers but yes it was a nice experience to be there, I hope this grows here.
  • + 4
 track looks awesome. Shame there's no US round in the WC this year.
  • + 1
 "Fox MTB Independence Jump" ... let's all read that aloud and reflect on the state of the sport for a moment.
  • + 2
 What ever happed to Angel from YT mob?
  • + 3
 Think he crashed about a week or two before Lourdes.
  • + 1
 @Buzzyny: yes, he crash twice in lourdes...
  • + 2
 Vital MTB has full results
  • + 2
 Of the seeding yes...
  • + 2
 The lift is named the Gonjola.
  • + 1
 That looks like a brutal coarse, wonder how hard it really is?
  • + 5
 Certain sections are crazy
  • + 2
 It's brutal! #truth
  • + 2
 wasnt all that bad except for the red bull rock garden, the faster line was a big risk.
  • + 5
 Was there for the finals yesterday. The tech level in the rock gardens was pretty high. The mere mortals in the amateur categories mostly negotiate their way through it. The top pros make it look like they were riding down a rail trail. They flatten that stuff right out. It's really insane the skill level of some of these riders. Videos and pics just don't give a true sense of how gnarly some of that Sh-t is!
  • + 1
 the guy rocking #69 and put his race plate on upside down
  • + 1
 we are mere mortals and that is our riding in reality.
  • + 1
 I wish.
  • + 2
 Results would be nice.
  • + 1
 Results is kind of the point of racing, what would the point of a race especiallyagainsed the clock with no results?
  • + 2
 @inter71 @aljoburr:Look at the clock, and wonder if the event has ended yet???
  • + 2
 Neko won over Gwin. That's all i know. Gwin had a small crash so
  • + 1
 @leopaul: no results on PB. FAIL.
  • - 2
 Not a cabriolet.
  • + 3
 lol then what is it?
  • + 4
 @mi-bike: The lift is named the Cabriolet

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