The Fox U.S. Open

The Fox U.S. Open

Matthew Sterling (leading here) took second place in his battle with the pros in the Red Bull Best Whip contest. The 17-year-old future star (who was profiled in our last issue) also placed 10th in Open Men’s Downhill racing against some of the top pros in the sport.

Having first been launched at Mountain Creek, New Jersey, back in 2003, the Fox U.S. Open of Mountain Biking came to be regarded as one of the premier gravity events in American mountain biking. This year, the race moved to Big Bear, California, and it looks like it’s found a new home, according to the event director and co-founder, Clay Harper.

Cody Kelley scored the victory in the Pro Men’s Enduro class, picking up $2000 for his efforts. Photo: Chris Vanderyajt

Austin Warren (far right) knocked out Kyle Strait (left) en route to the win of the Open Men’s Dual Slalom event. The race ended so late in the evening that the riders in the finals only completed one run before it got too dark to race anymore. Matthew Sterling ended up taking second behind Warren in the Open Men’s final pairing.

Harper was a pro mountain bike racer from New Jersey nearly 20 years ago when he came up with the idea to create an exciting mountain bike event that both riders and spectators could love. Centered around downhill racing, the U.S. Open offers top amateur riders the chance to compete against the sport’s best pros with major prize money paid out to the fastest riders.

Loic Bruni had won the World Championship and the World Cup Series title in the last two weekends before this race, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when he won the Fox U.S. Open Men’s Downhill.

Southern California’s Cole Picchiottino took third in the Open Men’s Downhill, picking up $2000 for his efforts. He had earned the #1 plate a day earlier by scoring first in the qualifiers against the fastest guys in the world.

For this year’s running of the event, three of the greatest downhillers in history showed up to compete. Greg Minnaar, the three-time UCI World Champion and winningest World Cup racer in history was on hand. So was Aaron Gwin, the winner of five World Cup series titles and number two in the list of all-time World Cup race winners. Then, to top it all off, today’s top downhill rider on the planet, France’s Loic Bruni, who had just won his fourth UCI World Championship and the overall World Cup title, showed up to continue his impressive win streak.

Vaea Verbeeck (left) and Jill Kintner (right) battled for the win in the finals of the Pro Women’s Dual Slalom.

To add to the excitement, the event also hosted a Red Bull Best Whip competition on a 40-foot jump custom-built for the event by Snow Summit’s hard-working bike park crew.

On top of that, the Fox U.S. Open weekend included a California Enduro Series race and a Friday night dual slalom race.

Vaea Verbeeck shows some skill on her way to second place in the Women’s Open Downhill.

Allan Cooke won the Best Whip title in the Open Men’s division

Leading up to the DH finals, Sunday morning was all about the kids, with the USO Next Gen Youth Downhill race drawing nearly 100 intermediate and expert racers under 15 years old.

U.S. Open adaptive downhill athletes also got on track Sunday morning —including motocross legend Doug Henry.

All in all, this was an event that had to be seen to be believed.

THE BEGINNING OF THE FOX U.S. OPEN

Greg Minnaar took second place in the Men’s Open Downhill, finishing just 0.53 seconds behind Loic Bruni. Allan Cooke won the Best Whip title in the Open Men’s division.

Clay Harper recalls how he started the U.S. Open back in 2003: “I had just stopped racing,” he told MBA. “We weren’t really excited about the DH events we had to choose from. We established Diablo Freeride Park at Mountain Creek Resort in New Jersey, and we had the opportunity to put on an event exactly how we wanted it—open class, big prize money and a party.”

Aaron Gwin was vying for the win in the Open Men’s Downhill when he blew out a turn and crashed near the top of the course. He had finished less than 0.3 seconds behind Loic Bruni in the Qualifiers, so Gwin was one of the favorites going into the finals, but he finished well outside the top 10 after his crash.

Clay and his team managed to get the support of the community and enough sponsorship support to put on one of the biggest downhill races in America. He was also able to put together enough purse money to draw riders from all over the U.S. and even some from other countries. Australia’s Bryn Atkinson won the Open Downhill class that very first year, and the event earned instant credibility for both its organization and the rider turnout.

The USO stayed at Mountain Creek for nearly ten years, until the resort changed ownership in 2012, leaving the event without a venue. Clay, who had stepped away from the business around 2007, decided it was worth bringing the U.S. Open back on his own in 2016.

Loic Bruni, center, took $10,000 for his win of the Fox U.S. Open Men’s Downhill. With him here (L to R) are Luca Shaw, fourth; Greg Minnaar, second, $5000; Cole Picchiottino, third, $2000; and Dakotah Norton, fifth.

He pulled together enough industry support and re-launched the U.S. Open in 2017 at Mountain Creek. The event was once again a success and with the support of Fox Racing, the decision was made to host the newly titled “Fox U.S. Open of Mountain Biking” g at Killington Bike Park in Vermont for 2018. Scheduled back-to-back with the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup race, the Fox U.S. Open attracted a strong field of athletes and thousands of spectators to Vermont. Clay and his team had planned to keep the USO at Killington again in 2019, but the resort’s construction plans made it difficult to agree on a date. In the end, the decision was made to take the U.S. Open to the West Coast for the first time in its history. Snow Summit Bike Park and the town of Big Bear Lake, California, were welcoming hosts and the rest is history. “We were definitely a little nervous moving the event to the other side of the country,” says Harper, “but we’re very happy with the decision. This year was awesome, and we are already working on the 2020 Fox U.S. Open in Big Bear Lake!”


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