Trek World Racing's Justin Leov and Neko Mulally were in action yesterday at the third round of the US Grand Prix of MTB at Highland Park, New Hampshire, on the East Coast of the US. Neko stunned the field in Sunday morning qualifying with a run that was 5 seconds quicker than any rider, but unfortunately crashed in the finals in the first wooded section. Justin on the other hand was nursing a broken finger from Windham and was a conservative fifth in qualifying but laid it down for the final run.
Fresh after his announcement that this year would be his last on the World Cup circuit, Justin showed why he is still considered one of the class acts in Pro Men's DH racing. After the drama of last weekend where he was set to have a great World Cup race and then smashed his hand against a tree on his last training run, Justin wasn't sure he could race at Highland Park as the pain was still very evident. Nevertheless he buckled down and put in a solid run, one that he thought would be enough for second. After the podium he got news that he wasn't expecting. Originally told by the Albany Medical Center that his fingers were free of any fractures, a late email came from the same medical center shortly after he'd won the race yesterday saying in fact they have since noticed a volar plate fracture in the finger. Justin will now be having the finger seen to on his return to New Zealand this week to ensure it's all good for the next World Cup in a few weeks.
Justin said: "I feel less soft now, haha! Seriously though, this weekend was tough for me, after the crash of last week I honestly didn't think I could really race this weekend. Cotton wool and tape helped a lot and after a roll down in qualifying I knew that I at least wanted to give it a real go in the final. I felt a lot faster and managed to put down a solid run. I know Neko would have beaten that time today if he hadn't crashed, so it's good to see him back on form again. He looked fast and committed all weekend. I'm so pumped to be going home for 10 days, I can't wait to have a little break and get healed for France." Justin now has a commanding lead after round three of the four-race US series.
For Neko it was clearly a disappointing afternoon after posting such a strong time in the morning qualifier, one that stood as fastest of the day; all eyes were on the hill with his teammate in the hot seat, as it all looked set for another 1-2 for the Session 9.9 equipped Trek World Racing. Just a small error at speed had Neko over the bars, uninjured but finishing down in 25th.
Neko said: "All weekend I felt that I'd found the flow that I was riding with at the beginning of the season and I was really pushing myself here today. I attacked the track the way I wanted to on all my runs and was really enjoying it. However, I went over the bars pretty hard in my race run but managed to come away from it unscathed and I'm totally okay. That happens sometimes when you're trying to ride at your limits. I can take a lot of positives out of this weekend, and I'm looking forward to taking on the next race with the killer attitude that I had this weekend."
Many thanks to Matt DeLorme for the images.