The Fox US Open of Mountain Biking took place under the sunny Southern California skies at Snow Summit Bike Park in Big Bear, California. Thousands of fans and hundreds of racers made pilgrimages from around the globe to spectate and compete in downhill, enduro, and dual slalom racing. Known as the original gravity mountain biking location, Snow Summit has hosted multiple national and global mountain bike races over the 30 plus years of the sport. This year, the Fox US Open brought world cup elite racing back to the southland for the first time in nearly 20 years. The crowds were not disappointed as some of the world’s best fought it out over four days of racing and riding.
The riders started arriving on Thursday for track walks and practice runs on the enduro and downhill courses. The field was stacked with some of the top competitors in the world such as 4-time world champ Loic Bruni, multiple world cup overall winner Aaron Gwin, and multiple world cup winners Tahnée Seagrave and Loris Vergier. Things heated up on Friday with the dual slalom. Over fifty athletes competed for gold. Fox athlete Bas Van Steenbergen led the charge but came up short against eventual winner Bubba Warren. On the women’s side, Jill Kitner took home the first of her two gold medals by edging out the current Queen of Crankworx, Vaea Verbeeck.
Saturday morning saw athletes take to the course for the GT Enduro Race. Many of these athletes were using the event as a warm-up before the EWS in Zermatt, Switzerland. Their training showed with some fast racing on the dusty trails in and around Snow Summit. EWS riders Cody Kelley and Anneke Beerten took home wins on their way to the EWS finals next weekend. Later that evening, the freestyle riders took center stage at the Best Whip competition. Global athletes and local shredders wowed the crowd with boosted airs and tweaked bikes over the huge double and wall ride built specifically for the event. Fox athletes Ethan Nell, Cam McCaul, Kirt Voreis, and D.J. Brandt entertained the crowd for nearly two hours. In the final, it was BMX and MTB legend Allan Cooke taking the top spot for the adults and local stud Ryan Pinkerton taking top honors in the Grom category.
On Sunday, the action shifted to the downhill course where some of the best athletes in the world took to the track vying for the $10,000 first prize purse. With equal prize money for men and women, this was one of the largest purses for a downhill event in the world. The morning saw the Grom and Next Gen categories take top billing with the DH stars of tomorrow showing that the future is bright for gravity racing in the U.S. The elites started early in the afternoon with the women taking to the course first. Sadly, Fox athlete Tahnée Seagrave was unable to make it to the start-house due to illness, so it was teammates Laura Bruneau and MTB legend Claire Buchar flying the Fox flag. Both athletes performed well with Laura taking 12th place and Claire bringing home a podium position in fourth place. As in the Dual Slalom event, it was Vaea Verbeeck and Jill Kitner battling for the top position, with multiple time US Open winner Kitner taking gold.
The men’s downhill competition would close the day and the weekend. The world cup athletes in the field were pushed to their limits by many of the local and regional rippers. The top qualifier was SoCal’s own Cole Picchiotino, who bested world champ Loic Bruni by under a second. Hundreds of fans lined the course as nearly 60 elite riders made their way down the rough and dusty track. Cowbells, horns, and chainsaws made sure the athletes knew how much the SoCal fan base was behind them, and the volume was pinned at eleven all day. Fox ambassador and Youtube star Phil Kmetz worked his way to 16th place just ahead of Bas Van Steenbergen. FMB Slopestyle World Champ Brett Rheeder ran his first DH race in years and finished twelfth just behind fellow Fox rider and former World Cup winner Chris Kovarik. The finalé saw multiple-time world champion Greg Minnaar and Loic Bruni face off in an amazing battle. Their split times were nearly identical at every checkpoint with current Champ and Fox athlete Loic Bruni edging out the South African by just six-tenths of a second! It was the third huge weekend in a row for SuperBruni after the World Championships and World Cup finals. It was an amazing finish to an amazing race and an incredible weekend in beautiful Big Bear. Plans are already underway for the 2020 edition of the Fox US Open of Mountain Biking. We’ll be making our way back to Snow Summit. Stay tuned for more details on next years edition of the number one gravity mountain bike event in the U.S.!
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Defending UCI World Champion, Loic Bruni, put on a magnificent performance to claim his 3rd UCI MTB DH World Champs title in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. In the closest of contests, Bruni edged out his nearest competitor by 0.2 seconds to take his 2nd consecutive World Champs title.
LOIC BRUNI, 4th
Unlucky since the beginning of the year, “Super Bruni” is relieved to be back: “I wasn't really happy when I passed the finish line because I was in 2nd and I saw it was super tight! But it was good, I stuck to the plan, kept it smooth, and made it to the bottom. It's my first podium of the season so 4th is perfect in the end, I'm happy enough tonight. I feel this is my first proper race of the year, in Lourdes I almost couldn't make it to the bottom because of the weather, Fort William I crashed and Leogang I even didn't race! I'm stoked to be here on the box and this has helped to build my confidence and I hope we are moving on to bigger and better things.”
LORIS VERGIER, 6th
After finishing second back to back in Leogang World Cup and Crankworx Les Gets a few weeks ago, Loris had every right to be a bit disappointed for missing the podium by only one place, but he's absolutely not and he explains why: “I'm happy because it's a long track and I started my finals run a bit too strong. I wanted to try to push my limits, but after the first minute I realised that I was a bit tired and I decided to stay focused, and try to stay on my bike! In the end, I'm 6th and only 3 seconds from the podium which is very good. I got good points for the overall, I'm now 4th which gives me a bit more confidence! I'm so happy for Loïc who's riding almost at his best again, it's cool to see him back on the podium!"
CONNOR FEARON, 28th
His run was spectacular but he crashed very close to the bottom: “I was so tired at the end and I had a stupid crash. I just couldn't hold on anymore but I'm not too disappointed because what you have to do to do well here is to leave it or on the track. The thing is, you have to go so fast here and obviously more people than usual crashed here, luckily everyone is mostly ok. Either way, I'm stoked and looking forward to Lenzerheide.”
FINN ILES, 1st IN JUNIOR CATEGORY
It's now the 3rd victory for the Canadian rider for this year. He won the race by a full 5 seconds and his time would have placed him 7th in the Elite category! “I felt that everything sort of worked on my run, I had like a few parts where I was trying to push too hard and got a bit sketchy but I think I was carrying good speed everywhere and I rode my bike well, so I'm happy! I was pretty calm this weekend even though I was a bit nervous this morning. Because this is so similar to some of the stuff I ride at home, I'm prtty experienced on steep stuff.”
TAHNEE SEAGRAVE, 2nd IN WOMEN CATEGORY
After taking her first ever win at the previous round in Leogang, Tahnee was hoping for big things again in Andorra: “Myriam Nicole (the winner of the day) has always been good here and I've never get a good result here, and it's such a contrast from here to Leogang I'm just really happy because I had a point to prove after everyone saying that the track in Leogang was too easy.
I know that my style of riding is not very aggressive even if people think it is, I love riding berms with my mates so I think Lenzerheide will suit me better”.