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The U.S. Open of Mountain Biking is Back!

As NORBA fell out of favor with riders and the American DH scene was wobbling into uncertainty, one annual event managed to hold steady and keep the scene on high: The US Open of Mountain Biking. Spanning from 2003 to 2011, it saw World Cup-level racing with the top names of the decade in attendance and on the podium. Sam Hill, Sabrina Jonnier, Tracy Moseley, the Athertons, Stevie Smith, John Kirkcaldie – the legends of the sport came to Mountain Creek Bike Park in New Jersey for the rough track and big cash purse, and in the process inspired the next generation of American downhill racers. In 2008, Neko Mulally won the Amateur category here, and a very young Richie Rude got 4th (oh, and the person typing this landed in 3rd!).

- By Zach Faulkner

Right out of the gate, things are fressshhh.

Caroline Washam

Every Memorial Day weekend, we would make the trek to New Jersey chasing early-season glory. The snow had barely melted enough to even be on bikes, so it was a tough start to the riding season for those of us from the North East. Spurred on by the atmosphere of a world-class event, we managed to brush off the cobwebs quickly and started smashing wheels…the courses were notoriously rocky back in the *glorydaze* of the USO. Being able to race the same track as childhood heroes, and see them in action was supremely exciting. Sleep was lost not only at the thought of racing, but also at the idea of meeting our idols.

Trill Will

Trill Will considers the pros and cons of sending the biggest unintended huck.

Wide open into the woods! Wrong. There is a sneaky 90-degree corner just after those rocks.

Spring is in full swing.
The ground is soggy and muddy thanks to some heavy rain today.
These aren't your average rocks...these are big, and they don't move.

Mountain Creek is known for mostly one thing: Rocks, a lot of them, in all shapes and sizes.

Bruce Klein

The spectators were something local boys had never experienced, and when the main rock garden filled up with people, air horns, boom boxes, and boozed-up fans, the anxiety of just clearing the section was heavier than the prospect of pushing hard the whole way down. It wasn’t just a race, it was a celebration of the sport and the return of summer and the race season. This venue is more than just a revamped event in 2017, this is the true symbol of the return of American DH racing.

Ferns, they're everywhere here.
Think Duncan would fish this?

Jordan Newth

It's dark and gloomy, but riders are hopeful for good weather.
In reality, it's probably harder to walk this track than ride it right now.

Seamus Powell

The re-route to the upper track slows it down a lot and adds more time in the trees.

Go left?  No, right!  The dreaded Aslyum rockgarden is out, but...
This is it instead.  Nasty.
Freshly groomed.
Jump for show, right?

The highly discussed jump mid-track looks like a solid sender.

Wiley Kaupas

Everyone was obeying the tape.
The lips looming large.
Allergies anyone?
Sneezing yet? about now?  *sniffle*

Don't worry, this will be open tomorrow. It's not the U.S. Closed after all.

Beyond the sign lies a little gap with a mint 180 berm as a run out.
Unofficial bar drag bounty will be going down here.
Bridge to?
Roller Coaster!  Hands up for the camera!

Kiran MacKinnon

That's a serious piece of construction over the Greenhorn Trail.  Builders were thoughtful in making sure everyone who comes to spectate still get to shred!
SX season just wrapped up, so why not bring stadium features to the Outdoors?  Long whoops into a tight right!

Max Morgan

The US Open has always been a test of metal, as the saying goes, but literally as well. It punished bikes and riders equally, with brutal rock gardens, unnerving jumps, and big speed through flat and banked corners alike. After a walk down the track and conversations with riders, it seems the spirit of the old track lives in this new one, with all the potential for gnar, glory, and wild times all around. These may just be photos of the ground and objects, but these sections and features are what make Mountain Creek’s tracks unique, and the US Open of Mountain Biking a stand out race.

This section after the whoops is...tricky.  Blind huck?  Roll?  Go Around?  Go Home?
Post-whoops gnar huck quandry.
There are jumps everywhere on this track!
Like a putting green, the grass straights have been properly groomed.

The tight woods will keep things interesting.

Stumps have received a trim if needed.
And so have rocks apparently?

This seems like a real missed opportunity for a unique feature in the race. /s

Shane Leslie

That must have been a heavy pole plant.
Some one lose this?

One of the hardest workers around.

The track zips and zags its way down the hill, traversing a whole lot of real estate.
Boost or scrub?  Table or Whip?
The corners down the halfpipe into the finish look wild, with this cool carve on the left likely to inspire some neat bike english.
There are two jumps into the finish, because two is better than one, right?
The finish area will be a prime spectating spot, with four corners and three jumps all in view of the beirgarten!

Seriously, it's soft right now.

Ryen Melton

The pits were nearly empty, but a few brave souls come out in the evening to prep after rain.

Ryen Melton and Luca Cometti are prepared privateers.
Wiley Kaupas burning the midnight oil.

Luca Cometti

It's just like on TV!

Now that is...
...pretty slick.

Being here is this weekend is the race equivalent of coming home, as this was my first DH race, ever, in 2005. Having the privilege of covering the action this weekend is something I’m very excited about, and watching my close friends mix it up with the likes of Jill Kintner, Aaron Gwin, and an adult Neko Mulally is something I’m reveling in. Clay Harper, the original founder of the event, has poured his everything into this, and with a dedicated team behind him, he’s shaped up quite the weekend for us all. Stay tuned!

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