Photo credits: Hefel photography; TRP Cycling
Intense Factory Racing’s, Neko Mulally, successfully defended his US National DH title in Winter Park, CO on July 28, 2019. Mulally retains the Stars & Stripes on his sleeve and continue to represent the United States as the men’s National Champion on the World Cup circuit. As Neko notes, this race is about pride and the dream that carries over from many athletes’ idealistic beginnings in the sport to their professional careers.
“Winning the National Championships is all about pride,” said Neko Mulally in an interview with one sponsor, Newground. “There are races during the year that have big prize money or big bonuses, but this one is just about being the best from your country and representing the national sleeve on your arm when you’re racing abroad for the whole season. So I’m really proud to win it. It’s definitely something that means a lot to me and is really special.”
The day started with Bruce Klein, a TRP rider with Commencal-100%, putting down a burner. His time posted at 5:05.03. Bruce was the first rider down due to a crash in his seeding run, which left him minutes in arears, but his race run’s time would hold all the way through the event until the last three riders came down.
With all three final riders on course at nearly the same time, it was a nail bitter for both Bruce and the spectators who came out to cheer on the pro competitors Sunday morning. Despite the mid-morning start times the crowd on the mountain was raucous with plenty of spirit and even a few chainsaws to amplify their efforts.
In the end all three podium places went below Klein’s amazing 5:05 time, and Neko finished nearly three seconds up on second place.
Neko Mulally/Intense Factory Racing – 1st
Bruce Klein/Commencal-100% – 4th
Winter Park’s Trestle Bike Park ran a modified version of their Trestle Downhill trail for the event, punching the standard trail out onto the adjacent 30-plus degree ski slopes in three different places. The surfaces ranged from the rutted and rough new sections to beat in but loose sections of old trail. The new trail and its connections to the stalwart DH track helped even the playing field for the amateur categories and gave the pros spots to wow the crowd. The pro racers were—absolutely—pinned through the duff and dust of the fresh cut sections of trail to the amazement of most onlookers.
“This course was completely different than West Virginia,” said Mulally. “I’ve won Nationals twice, both on the East Coast and in the mud; so, to back it up and win here [in the Rockies] in the dust was pretty special.”
There was also a fair amount of pedaling on the track, which was certainly a factor considering both the course’s length and the elevation, which put the start at over 10,000ft. “I don’t really like it,” Mulally said of the ample pedaling, “but I’m good at it, so I guess it evens out.”
Neko stopped the clock with a 5:01.42, nearly three seconds ahead of second place.
Less than one-half-hour after Mulally crossed the line for the win in Winter Park, IFR team mechanic John Hall had Mulally’s bike boxed up and ready for the trip back to Europe.
The World Cup picks up this coming weekend in Val di Sole, Italy on August 3-4. Both Mulally and Commencal-100%’s Bruce Klein will be back on the steep and relentless courses in Italy and Switzerland before the final push of the season in North America. Canada will host world championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne and World Cup finals will be close to home for Mulally in Snowshoe, West Virginia.