2018 FOX US OPEN of MTB RECAP
2018 FOX US OPEN of MTB RECAP
The 2018 Fox US Open of Mountain Biking drew over 8000 fans, dozens of the biggest brands in the mountain bike world and hundreds of competitors to the lush green slopes of Killington Resort. The sun played hide and seek throughout the week, and the weather added even more challenges to an already tough course - even making Thursday's track walk an adventure for the riders.
The summer rainstorm made its presence felt at Friday’s qualifying session as well - wreaking havoc on the trails and leveling the playing field for some of the open division participants. Over 70 elite riders took their turn on the legendary roots and rocks of Vermont. More riders than not were caught off guard by the slippery slopes which made the racing more about survival than speed. At the end of the day, defending Open champion and newly crowned US National Champ Neko Mullally edged out fellow Fox athlete and World Cup competitor Connor Fearon by just over a second to take the top qualifying spot heading into Saturday's finals.
The skies turned angry after the qualifying sessions on Friday night and soaked the hillside throughout the night. Saturday morning saw a welcome break in the weather as the clouds receded and the sun broke through late in the morning. The temperature continued to rise into the early afternoon drying out the track and making for some exciting racing as the elite men took to the field. The first participants took turns in the hot seat as riders who had fallen during qualifying showed their true speed on the firmer conditions the sun brought out. Germany’s Bernard Kerr and New Zealand’s Wyn Masters owned the top spot for much of the afternoon until Australian Jackson Frew threw in a flyer to take the #1 spot. In the end, the race came down to a competition between Saturday’s two top qualifiers.
Kona/Fox rider Connor Fearon took the start and wasted no time showing his speed on the dryer course. He was the fastest at each of the first three checkpoints until the challenging fourth segment put an end to his podium hopes as he went rubber side up through the rocks. Showing that his speed was not an illusion he remounted and still finished in an impressive 10th place despite his crash. The last man at the start house was up next, and Neko Mulally lived up to all the expectations he and his fans had placed on his shoulders. He bested Fox teammate Fearon’s times at each of the first three checks and made it through the tough fourth segment unscathed to finish with an emphatic 6.2-second win to claim his second win in two weeks and his second Fox US Open title in as many years.
"It was awesome," Mulally said "there were tons of spectators here; the course was really tough. Lucky to come out on top, I defended my title and won two years in a row. Just stoked that the US Open is such a great event and I was happy to be a part of it."
Neko walked away with a winner’s check of $6000 for his efforts. Equal prizes were given to the women’s division winner, Vaea Verbeeck of Canada, who dominated the women’s field by over 8 seconds. In addition to the Elite open DH contest, the weekend included an Enduro race, the legendary kids DH Grombomb which featured over 70 youth racers, an inspiring and exciting adaptive DH race and the Always crowd-pleasing whip off powered by Red Bull.
"The US Open holds a special place in the history of North American mountain bike racing. Fox is excited to be the title sponsor for the next three years and to help bring the excitement of gravity racing and competition to a new generation of North American mountain biker. Our goal is to help position the Fox US Open of Mountain Biking as the leading gravity event in the U.S. in 2018 and beyond," said Dave Ahumada, "Global Marketing Manager, Fox MTB. "Plans are already underway to make next years event even better by bringing more brands, athletes, and fans to Killington Resort for the 2019 edition".