East Coast Rocks and Ruts - U.S. Open DH Practice 2

Mud, rocks and roost greet riders for the first morning practice at the U.S. Open.

It was a slow start to DH practice at the 2017 U.S. Open of Mountain Biking. Riders were apprehensive about conditions after a night of rain, knowing that the fresh sections would likely be waterlogged and the rocks would be slick. They correctly surmised the state of the course, much to their dismay. A few wild souls seemed to be handling the squirmy conditions with aplomb, letting the bike dance its way down the rowdy hillside, while a strong majority of competitors held back a bit and rode conservatively to preserve themselves and their bikes in anticipation of a sunny and dry forecast for the remainder of the weekend. The consensus was, “fun but slow”, and those with stronger opinions admitted it was only the wet and soggy conditions which were really causing a less-than-positive practice experience, further adding that if the track dries out, it’s going to be insane.

The day ahead was uncertain, Shane Leslie mulling over what he might encounter on track.

First rider on track for the 2017 US Open!

The scenery from the lift is a good way to get stoked each morning.
Wasting no time, Mauricio Estrada was up to pace quickly, as Mountain Creek is pretty much his home mountain.

The gnar is calling!

Lucas Cowan, starting the day right.

Lucas Cowan

When riders can see you from the lift, you're often rewarded with the best. Luca Cometti delivering.

Luca Cometti on winning Whip Off

One of the true East Coast OGs, Erik Hudson hasn't missed a US Open since 2003.

Eric Hudson, O.G. East Coast Hardcore

Clay Harper has been flat-out making sure the reboot of the USO goes off without a hitch. He hadn't even had coffee yet when we spoke, and he'd come up the hill with his breakfast cereal. Next level!

Clayton Harper, the man behind the U.S. Open

Sean Leader mid-train with Dak Norton and Tommy Zula. The dudes were riding together all day, dialing in lines and just having a great time in general.

The day-wrecking rocks like to hide in fringe, and will catch out riders and hikers alike.
The open slope has little sniper plants which added some slickness to the already dew-kissed morning grass.
The track started to get turned out pretty quickly, and the loose soil began to hide all but the biggest stumps.
It was still wet for most of the morning.

The roost was plentiful today.

Walker Shaw pre-jumps into the mud bog, a section that was unpleasant for all riders.

The struggle out of the mud was no joke.

The track looks smooth, but at ground level, it is easy to see how rough it actually is...
East Coast engibeering. (not a typo)
The Mud Bog.  Gross.
The view from the track is certainly a nice one.
The train of dudes, with a view.  Dak Norton leads out Sean Leader, Tommy Zula, and Seamus Powel.

The contrast in kits, foliage, and mud makes for quite the color pallet when spectating.

A staple of US/East Coast DH racing, Chris Higgerson has been here since the beginning. He's the tallest rider around, but on an XXL bike, the NY native looks right at home here on semi-home soil!

Emily Gacad is almost camoflaged in the New Jersey greenery!
Dylan Conte and Jordan Newth take a quick pit stop to say hello and talk about shades of green.
A carbon Evil Undead in the wild.  A rare sight indeed!

East Coast shredder and GT employee, Ryan Burney gets to count this weekend as job experience.

It was like a Family Circus cartoon on track, with all of the tread marks showing the different riders' lines.
More mud, more treadmarks.
Name the tires!

It was a little dark in the woods starting off the day, but Kiran MacKinnon persevered and got on with finding lines.

The muck was getting dragged onto the rocks, making for some sketchy lines and slick sections.

Caroline Washam took on the challening conditions with confidence and was on it all morning.

Neko Mulally won the Amateur Open here in 2007, so he knows what it takes to be on the top step here at Mountain Creek.

Neko Mulally

Lines are a-plenty in the corners, with a few inside/outside combos on offer the whole way down due to the large variance in speed and style of riders on track.
Who was on line and who was not?  Drift marks tell the tale!
Some of the mud was gloopier than the rest...

Is this a moto track or an MTB race?

Tire selection was a tricky call.

Sometimes, a track walk isn't enough, so Steve Walton decided to hangout and watch other people make mistakes so he didn't have to - ride smarter, not harder, right?

Max Morgan had a rough go at things this morning, but hopefully he can find his groove in practice before qualis.
Ruts with puddles, the combo meal you didn't ask for...
The giant on Giant, Hunter Fryndahl easing into the ugly rock garden.

DH race bikes are tools not jewels. Mauricio Estrada putting his through its paces.

Looking on form and leading the train all day, Dak Norton ends up in a rare sun spot existing the nasty rocks.

Dakotah Norton

Magnus Manson was looking ridiculously fast on track all morning.

Magnus Manson

Oliver Levick floating it out over one of the many jumps on this freshly built track.

The lichen is likin' all the rain at least. #rimshot
I'm pretty sure you could hear the ferns growing after the 2-inches of rain from the night before soaked into the dirt.

The track is only so wide, but somehow people find a whole of of room to ride.George Ryan, course builder and O.G. shredder

Jill Kintner has won here in the past at Pro GRT events, so she knows how to ride smart at one of the roughest hills around.

Jill Kintner

If you don't know who Wiley Kaupas is, you ought to start learning. 23 and in from CO, he's a darkhorse for a result here.

Locdawg and long-time shredder, Jay Memmelaar is rocking the SB6 DH custom machine as usual - don't think that he needs a DH bike to shred.  Another one of the OG's here, and perfect-attendance holder for US Open races!
Lucas Cowan took so many runs, and looked flawlessly consistent in each one...machine!

A lot of riders didn't push too hard in practice. Bruce Klein was not one of those riders. Pinned from start to finish, he seemed to really be enjoying his time between the tape.

Bruce Klein

Track-side hangs are what the USO is all about because everyone makes the trip down for this event.  Ryan Burney and Seamus Powell!
Riding like he was being chased, Jake Baxter was on the charge in practice.
Steathed out in rain gear, Josh Rogers may have also been trying to keep the ticks at bay (smart) because they are out in force this year.

So-Cal shredder, CJ Selig was steady on all morning, looking composed and comfortable on track.

Foot out, flat out - Walker Shaw knows how it goes.

This was a popular place during and after practice.

Jerry Of The Day nomination.  Truthfully, this guy wasn't riding slow though!
The stoke is real!  People are fired up to be racing at a major event, because it means they also get to meet some of the riders they admire!  Jill Kintner, selflie with a fan.
It's like you want me to take your sandwich.

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