Round 2 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup took place today in Cairns, in very difficult conditions that saw the venue pounded by torrential rains during the week, with very muggy and steamy conditions today. The track was extremely slippery in places and brought many an experienced rider undone. Neko Mulally who came into the race ranked 8th in the World Cup qualified well yesterday in 7th, despite a crash, but showed he had the speed to win. With a 1st at the first split, and 2nd at the second split, the signs were good for today.
The 21 year old from Pennsylvania remained focused on race day and was determined to get the job done and not be distracted by all of the attention his form was attracting. In the race run all was going to plan and all of his lines were working well, until just before the second split where a line which he’d been trialling all week had deteriorated with more exposed roots, dropping the rear wheel off line and eventually the whole bike from under him. A quick recovery and a solid finish in the third sector despite damaging a brake in the crash saw Neko cross the line in 2nd, and eventually hold on for an incredible 3rd place. His first ever World Cup podium and the 36th Downhill podium for the Trek Session since Trek World Racing began racing the bike in 2009.
Neko said: “This is a dream come true and something I’ve been working really hard to achieve. This week everything just fell into place, the bike, my set up, having Justin and Chris on course helping me, I just couldn’t be happier. Saying those words, ‘I got third’, it’s just incredible.”
Moving into the next round Neko will hold plate number 4.
Neko’s teammates had mixed fortunes on the demanding track. Brook MacDonald ‘had a messy run’ in his words, but the speed is returning after coming back from surgery, and his 27th is up for 36th at Round 1. George had a crash in his final training session and hurt his hip and this had an impact on his race run. Both Brook and George are looking forward to racing with Neko on the East Coast of the US, in some Pro GRT events, as a good lead up to Fort William, as they did last year.
Greg Williamson had a good smooth run going but crashed on the rock garden, buckling his wheel and was unable to race the rest of his run at speed.
Meanwhile Trek World Racing’s Junior rider Laurie Greenland had his first World Cup race this weekend, and despite a crash and losing time to bigger guys in the heavy muddy conditions, was happy with his 11th and like his team mates, can’t wait to be at Fort William.
Team Manager Martin Whiteley acknowledged the incredible work done by the team mechanics and staff under extremely difficult conditions at the remote venue, and that Neko’s result was a wonderful way to finish what had been a challenging week.