A New Era of American DH Racing

Neko Mulally won the U.S. Open in the Amateur classic in 2008, and now, nearly a decade later, has won the U.S. Open as a Pro. “I really wanted to win," he said. Mountain Creek is his home turf, having grown up racing on the rocky tracks during the years the park was known as Diablo Freeride Park. The local fans remember him from before the time he had a drivers license and the support from the crowd was palpable on race day. With a strong gathering of family and friends, Neko had a personal crowd of spectators. He was the second-to-last man down the hill, and with only his teammate Aaron Gwin still to ride, there was a subtle tension in the finish arena. As Gwin gave it his all crossing the finish line, the time showed that Gwin hadn't quite done it; there was a new winner of the U.S. Open. - by Zach Faulkner

To say that Neko Mulally wanted to win would be an understatement. He rode like a man possessed all weekend. That desire and heart is what put him on top. 1st in Finals, adding to the prestige of having also won the Amateur U.S. Open in 2008.

Everyone went wild when timing and scoring showed Neko had won.

NEKO MULALLY

All eyes were on Jill Kintner come Finals, and she left a scorched track behind her. Ten seconds faster than her Seeding time, and 2nd place, Jill won with authority.

JILL KINTNER

On the Women’s side, Jill Kintner put in a stellar performance, taking her second USO title, holding onto her title from 2011, and remaining the running Women’s champion for another year. Her partner Bryn Atkinson also holds two USO titles (the very first one in ’03 and ’07), with Sabrina Jonnier joining them in the 2x winner's bracket (’05 and ’07), and Sam Hill the only 3x winner (’04, ’05, and ’09)! Jill is still on another level with her talent on a bike, and she’ll be certainly defending this title with some tenacity next year!

Every event needs a fun and upbeat live band!

THE BAND


It was a great weekend at work for Ryan Burney. 26th in Finals for the literal GT Factory racer.

RYAN BURNEY

Perpetually smiling and having a laugh, Jay Memmelaar letting loose in the centrifuge corner.  16th in Finals.
There is a focused drive behind those goggles.  Shane Leslie put in the hard work this weekend, going 7th in Finals.

What a boss. George Ryan pulled to the moon on the hip when he saw me and clicked this table. 27th for the local hero.

GEORGE RYAN

Tongue counter-balance, proper #69 placement, and textbook head angle. Wiley Kaupas, doing it all correctly. 24th in Finals.

You could see the focus from way down track.  Logan Binggeli putting in an inspired ride to 8th in Finals.
He pedaled really hard when I cheered after him as he went by.  28th for Lucas Cowan.
Josh Rogers, lean doggie.

Sending it to the inside, Angelina Polermo kept it pinned in Finals for 4th!

Swolinator, ready to race.
Loose as can be entering the deepest corner on track, Steve Walton was on a mission.  15th in Finals.

For someone who is slowly warming back into the season, Dylan Conte sure rode wild at the bottom of the track. 19th in Finals!

Quietly killing in it, Luca Cometti on one. 10th in Finals.

We joked that he and his XXL bike wouldn't fit around the radius of this corner.  Chris Higgerson proving it can be done, 22nd in Finals.
Ferociously flying.

Precise riding and a methodical approach to learning the track kept Caroline Washam on a fast pace all weekend. 2nd in Finals, and setting a wicked tone for the summer ahead!

CAROLINE WASHAM

Hard work doesn't go unnoticed. Dak Norton spent a lot of Sunday on the ground, but he found the middle ground between checkers and wreckers. 3rd in Finals, well earned.

DAKOTAH NORTON

The giant on the Giant, Charles Frydendal was riding flat-out every run.  Good to see him with consistency, 17th in Finals.
East Coast shredder Jordan Daigle held it down for the local boys, blasting his galactic jersey into 13th in Finals.
His last DH race was this very race six years ago.  34th for Tyler McCaul.

Fast and low, Sam Kingshill kept things quick for 3rd in Finals.

Dog Whisperer, Tanner Stephens, managed to get some good laps in when he wasn't wrestling with dogs in the pits.  14th in Finals.
Tanner and his real objective for the weekend. Unleashed and loving it.

Max Morgan gave a clinic this weekend on how to rally after a bad day. Finishing 6th in Finals, he's looking his usual self once again! #noexcuses

He might not be quite as big as his teammate Magnus, but Anthony Poulson has serious speed.  33rd in Finals, keep an eye on this kid.
25th for the 25 year old Tommy Zula.  It's fun watching him progress this season.
9th in Finals for Emily Gacad!

Confident and clean riding put CJ Selig into 5th in Finals!

He was determined to do well this weekend, and it showed. 4th for Rafael Gutierrez!

RAFAEL GUTIERREZ

Jarod Hanson heckled me in Port Angeles during track walk and thought he'd never make Vital coverage because of it.  Little did he know, I thought it was hilarious.  20th in Finals for the funny guy.
Do you know Steve Estabrook?  You should.  The quiet Vermonter lets his riding talk for him.  29th in Finals.

Magnus Manson had the most aggressive and impressive E.T.'s off the jumps into the finish. Maximum effort paying off with a 5th in Finals.

MAGNUS MANSON

There must be something in the water in The Green Mountain State!  Isaac Allaire scrubbing into 21st in Finals.
He hit this corner, hard.  23rd in Finals for Sean Bell.

Walker Shaw is one of those riders with deceptive pace. He looks so composed all the time, you forget he's hauling freight. 12th in Finals.

600mm lens, torso-length beard (not pictured), this older man was my favorite spectator this weekend.
Do you want to play a game?

Racing was tight this weekend, and Kiran MacKinnon put down a heater of a run for 11th in Finals.

In its return, the U.S. Open has shined a light upon US DH and its potential. With proper organization, a healthy Pro Purse, and plentiful family and kid-friendly activities and events, domestic racing can be a thriving and welcoming scene. It’s never easy putting on a new event and people weren’t quite sure what to expect (from either side of the tape), but on a whole, the weekend was a grand success. Racers, riders, and spectators were already talking about “next year!”, and that is telling enough for how things went!

Mikey Haderer likes to all about the fun factor. 30th in Finals.

Packing is never fun, especially if it's the night before an international flight and you've never packed a bike before...Ryen Melton, struggling.
Tara Seplavy is a long-time friend of Vital and mine, and her new road bike has some excellent stickers for inspiration.  She'll be racing the Trans Provence in a few weeks, so our catch up was short lived, as Watts needed to be ground out!
All registered racers were entered to win a one-off custom US Open pit bike.  Jay Memmelaar was the winner.
He comes from a family of rippers, his dad is still twisting throttle at 58 at their home track, and now this little beast will keep the heritage alive!  (Jay has a big bike, but who doesn't like the imagery of him chaseing his dad on this thing?!)

JASON MEMMELAAR

Mauricio Estrada (9th in Finals) and his daughter Ivanna (1st in AM Women). This is was the USO is all about!

MAURICIO ESTRADA

IVANNA ESTRADA

Cutting this corner as tight as possible, Aaron Gwin was leaving no time on track this weekend. 2nd in Finals, have a listen in his audio about the day.

AARON GWIN

Neko has a huge crew of friends and family at domestic events, and they all came out to see this fanatastic feat achieved.

Neko and Clay Harper (the event organizer) have been long-time friends, so for Neko to win Clay's event was a huge deal for them both.
Neko and girlfriend Callie revel in the moment.
Women's Podium (LtR):  Angelina Polermo; Caroline Washam; Jill Kintner; Sam Kingshill; CJ Selig.
The Women's and Men's winners, Jill and Neko!
Men's Podium (LtR):  Rafael Gutierrez; Aaron Gwin; Neko Mulally; Dakotah Norton; Magnus Manson.

HUGH REYNOLDS

The guys gave Clay a congratulatory champange shower.

JOHN NICHOLSON

A well-earned celebration by all!

CLAY HARPER

Testing out the new hardwear.

CLAY HARPER ON NEKO'S WIN

This was the main priority for everyone after the race, including the MC.

A heart-felt thanks from myself and Clay to all the people invloved in this event, and to everyone who tuned in for the daily coverage from this historic event.

Helluva weekend.

#USDH

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