World Cup Caliber? Pro GRT Windrock Track Walk 9

The land of black coal yields two-wheeled gold as the Pro GRT kicks off the official #USDH national season at Windrock, Tennessee.

World Cup Caliber? Pro GRT Windrock Track Walk

Windrock Park is situated just outside of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a town which was secretly established in 1942 for The Manhattan Project, the joint effort between the USA, Canada, and England to develop the atomic bomb. It's for this reason the holds the nicknames "The Secret City" and "The City Behind The Fence".

- Photos, story and interviews by Zach Faulkner

The mysterious nature of the area was lifted and has been a civilian-run establishment since 1959. 20 minutes north in Oliver Springs, tucked into the rugged hills is a 72,000-acre plot owned by the Coal Creek Company. While they no longer mine coal here, the remains can be found on the hillside, among their large investments in oil, timber, and wind resources. The resource of playing in the dirt on wheels is why the Pro GRT has found its way to this venue in Tennessee. Coal Creek created Windrock, the largest O.H.V. park, it is open year-round and has been a mecca for downhilling in the Southeastern U.S.

The man with the plan. Neko Mulally has been as busy as it gets. He was still walking the track today trimming odds and ends, as well as checking tape...and that was all after pounding stakes into the parking lot during an electrical storm all day Tuesday. His sense of pride in his work and maximum effort-plus-two is something to applaud.

Last year, Neko Mulally and Sean Leader were brought on board to develop and manage the bike park at Windrock, providing shuttles, trail maintenance, trail creation, and promotion. For 2017 Neko and Sean, with some helping hands, crafted a true beast of a race track for the Pro GRT. It is as gravity-fed and wild as one could hope. However, it is a thoroughbred elite track and is not suitable for multi-category racing if it rains. Since the forecast is calling for a wet weekend, Neko opted to run a neighboring track, and add in some new bits.

One might think, "Oh, that's lame to put it on something easier...", and you would be wholly wrong in thinking that. The alternate track is by no means tame, lame, or uninteresting. It's going to be full-on, top to bottom with crux rock gardens, plentiful inside and outside lines, and some seriously steep bits to deep corners. Add in a couple of hucks for the bold and that's what the riders are facing. It's raw, it's rider-built, and it's exactly what a DH track should be.

There's "gold" in them hills! Windrock Park is a 72,000 acre O.H.V. park, the largest in the country, and is also still a working oil extraction operation and wind farm. The coal mining has been shut down, but the remains of the operation are still scattered around the mountain and the mountain bikers fit right in.

With grit and desire, in back-to-back weekends Neko has managed to reshape the image of racing in the USA and shine a light on how it should be done. My faith in domestic racing has been restored after seeing what the first two races of the season have to offer, as it's been anything but groomed and dumbed-down.

Bruce Klein still assumes some of the repsonsibility of maintaining his new bike. He's absolutely thrilled to be on the new bike and ready to tackle some non-Bootleg and Fontana track.

Audio - Bruce Klein

The riders are excited, you the viewer should be excited, and at the end of the weekend, rain or shine, I hope everyone will be extra stoked for a season of World Cups and summer downhill racing. For rider, by rider, bringing the glory of domestic racing back one weekend at a time.

Luscious locks with Damon! He drove 38 hours from Whitefish, Montana, and is hoping to do well enough to make it onto the Jr. Worlds team this year! The drive alone should get him on.

Jake Kahn, starring down the sun.

Back at it with course prep and miscellaneous tasks, Mickey Denoncourt took a rogue bramble to the face when he and Neko were doing some prep in the torrential rain.

Audio - Damon from Montana

Relatively, this isn't even notable gnar compared to the rest of the track.

Audio - Anthony Evans from Canada

Audio - Henry Fitzgerald

Alex McAndrew giving his bike some TLC after riding on Tuesday in the soaking wet conditions.
I took two laps with Alex McAndrew on Trail 1 here at the end of the day after track walk...it did not disappoint.

Audio - Juice Rogers

Privateer life isn't always so bad. Steve Estebrook living it up!

Audio - Luca Cometti

Audio - Jason Schroeder

Josh Rogers gazes on towards a pile of rubble, which is also in the course. Line choice will be a tricky affair.

Stay tuned to Vital for all the action from Windrock as riders hit the track on Thursday. #USDH

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9 comments
  • Shawn_Trudell

    3/9/2017 10:26 PM

    Love the handlebar-a-la-longhorn hood ornament.

  • jet

    3/9/2017 5:20 PM

    I've been saying that about Windrock since the first DH races were held there many years ago.

  • bizutch

    3/9/2017 7:08 PM

    My prediction is that at least one top pro will get injured badly. Not because they can't ride the place but because the smallest wreck there is always wicked. At pro race pace, even more violent

  • jet

    3/11/2017 8:35 AM

    I remember seeing the fella on a Yeti lose it on the waterfall and hit that GIANT boulder at the bottom and move it.
    Those original courses may have been a bit more difficult too.

  • bizutch

    3/9/2017 8:34 AM

    Is it saying he isn't going to use the new track for the race?

  • crbarlow2

    3/9/2017 10:05 AM

    The newest public trail, Talladega, is straight up flow trial - steep and fast. The race is on the more gnar tech trails with the pro race being on super new, super steep trail. If by new you mean Talladega, no. If by new you mean the new pro line, yes (for the pros).

  • bizutch

    3/9/2017 10:17 AM

    If you read the above post he makes it sound like they aren't running the pro track for pros. What I think he means to say is the Amateurs are racing Snake rock with a few tweaks and pros are racing the fresh new pro trail?

  • crbarlow2

    3/9/2017 10:50 AM

    That's been my understanding all along. I hope so. I can't wait to see how those guys negotiate trail that steep at speed.

  • bizutch

    3/10/2017 4:10 AM

    Nope. Using something else. Says it's unrideable if it rains. Spooky.

    I must be mental...makes me want to ride it even more