It’s that time of year again, where we begin to crown Overall Champions. As Tim Cotter would say, “This is the favorite part of my job.” He’s not wrong, there’s really nothing quite as special as seeing the smile on an athlete’s face when they’re handed that #1 plates courtesy of the AMA and GNCC.
Charlie Mullins has been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of those #1 plates a few times. The 2011 XC1 Pro Bike Championship and most recently the 2021 eMTB XC1 Championship. Did I mention he’s got three of those, because Charlie has three consecutive eMTB XC1 Championships.
Charlie will be the first to tell you, it’s not getting any easier. While he’s not finished with his racing career, he does see the end in sight.
GNCCRacing.com: Charlie, thanks for joining me today. I do believe 99.9% of GNCC fans know exactly who you are, but for that small percentage that may not, tell us a little bit about who you are, how you got started into racing GNCC and what led you to where you’re at today with the series.
Charlie Mullins: Thanks for having me! I’d have to go back to the John Penton in 1999, I was on an RM80. We were really good friends with Scott Plessinger, we live about 10 minutes down the road from him. My dad told me we were going to go try this GNCC race. So we went and I got smoked. But I fell in love with it. In 2000 we raced the entire season in the mini ranks. I was 14 at the time. I progressed pretty quick and worked my way up to the 250 A class. Which back then I guess would technically be like the XC2 compared to now. I won the Championship in 2005 and went Pro in 2006. I ended up winning the 2011 XC1 Championship. I had a career ending injury that took me away from motorcycle racing. It’s been quite the journey to get where I’m at today. I was always into cycling and we opened up a bike shop. Then when Specialized came on with GNCC with eMTB racing it was a perfect fit for me.
You’ve won the eMTB XC1 Championship all three years GNCC has been running the eMTB races. How has the sport grown all around, specifically in the XC1 ranks?
It’s been amped up for sure. With Nick (Mackie) coming into it as well as Kyle (Smith) getting things figured out this year was the toughest so far. And it’s not going to get any easier next season. It’s a good sign that the sport is progressing. I enjoy the competition and the challenge. It motives me to keep working hard.
I know at the last round you mentioned being on the fence about coming back for 2022. But judging by your comments just now, I’m assuming you’ll be back for 2022.
Yeah, I was sort of up in the air on racing next season or not. But it’s fun, I’m still a racer at heart and I’m not quite ready to hang it up. So I’ll be back. Looking forward to the challenge.
Your son, Daxton, raced a full season this year. He jumped up to the 50 Jr 1 class this past weekend and took the win. What’s it been like watching him race and progress these last couple years?
I love watching him out there. He started last year after summer break. Honestly for the amount of time he rides he does really well. I’ll even ask him during the week if he wants to ride and he says no. He’s busy being a 6 year old kid and I’m okay with that.
With dad being a champ, is that the goal for Dax or is it all about fun right now?
Oh no, no pressure on him to do any of that. If he wanted to stop riding today, I’d be fine with that. If he does want to keep riding, I’ll be right there with him to support him in any way I can. He’s got the racer in him, I see that, it’s just a matter of whether he wants to pursue it.
You have trained some pretty big names in GNCC over the last few years. Tell us about that and what the future holds as far as training.
For sure, Ben Kelley, Josh Toth and Jesse Ansley. It’s been amazing to see what all three guys have done over the last few years. Ben is on the verge of an XC1 Championship, it’s going to be a nail biter for sure. But seeing the hard work those guys put in, it’s rewarding. When KTM came to be originally I was a bit apprehensive about training other people. It was really just a hobby for me, but I’ve really grown to like it. It’s been great training for KTM over the last 5 years and I’m grateful for the opportunity over those year. Moving into next season I’ll be a bit of a free-agent as far as training is concerned. So, any riders out there that might be interested in training, I’d love to help their program out.
Going back to your injury that ended your run on the motorcycle side of racing. What did it do for you mentally to find yourself as a professional athlete again with eMTB Racing these last several years?
When I got hurt in 2014, I believe I had somewhere around 8-9 surgeries. Every doctor I spoke with said it was career ending. I didn’t want to believe that. I started working to do everything I could to come back. I ended up doing two GNCCs in 2016 but I knew my wrists just couldn’t hold up between the training during the week and the three hour race on Sunday. It was a difficult transition in life to go from being a professional racer to trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. Where I’m at now, it’s been an amazing journey. I’ve raced all over the world, including the World Championships. To have success on the international level is pretty cool. I love training, riding and being competitive. I do understand that as I’m getting older my time doing this is nearing an end. At some point I’ll just ride for fun I suppose. I’m getting to that point where even if I end up with a 5th, I’m happy and it’s fun.
How are things going with Gear Bicycles?
Really well, we’re actually about to open our third store. It’s not too far from our PA location. I’m actually here right now with the Specialized rep getting things setup for our grand opening this weekend. It’s located in Butler, PA, about a half hour south of our Grove City location. It’s a good spot, there are mountain bike trails about 200 feet from the shop. We’re excited about it!
Thanks so much for catching up with us! Looking forward to seeing you defend the championship next season. Who would you like to thank?
All the fans out there, everybody that supports Gear Bicycles at the races, my family and everyone else involved. It’s been a really great year and I’m looking forward to seeing what next season brings.