The Gravity East Series will make its fourth stop this weekend, when some of the east coast's top downhillers will converge on Windham Mountain, New York, which was recently selected as an official stop for the 2010 World Cup—the first time the international series will be held on U.S. soil since 2005. The announcement that Windham will host next year's World Cup finals, and that the season champions will be crowned in the U.S., is itself being viewed as a victory for the relatively unknown mountain resort.
In its first three stops of this year, the Gravity East Series has seen some impressive racing through dense forests and riotous throngs of spectators, while also enjoying an increase in entries over previous seasons. And with the fourth of eleven stops set for June 27-28, the promise of rowdy fans armed with cowbells looms large.
Saturday and Sunday’s events will include downhill and dual slalom events, with both courses hinting at what riders can expect for the World Cup, although an entire winter season will ultimately change the face of the courses before Sam Hill, Steve Peat and the Athertons even set foot on the continent. But for racers in the tightly contested Gravity East Series, this weekend will be all business on the tight, twisty, mostly singletrack downhill course that weaves through forests before allowing riders to let loose on connecting sections of wide-open cross-cuts, only to dive back on the binders and return to the woods.
The points battle remains close, with no single rider having a definitive lead. Jason Memmelaar (2wheelfreaks.com/Manitou) holds a narrow lead in the pro men's category over Alejandro Ortiz (NEMA), but nine riders are within one win of the lead in the championship.
The points game allows for three race drops. Race winners Neko Mulally (Specialized Team America) and Sean McClendon each used one of their drop races when they bypassed last week's event in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. Of the two, Mulally has the upper hand, with first- and second-place finishes. Mulally also leads the e.thirteen Dual Slalom standings. With this weekend's events incorporating both downhill and dual slalom, Mulally is expected to attend.
On the women's side, Stephanie Gubernat (Vertical Earth/Cutters Bike Shop), Hillary Elgert and Rae Gandolf (Sierra Nevada) have distanced themselves from the rest of the competition.
In the series' third event, held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania on June 13-14, the downhill-only round brought fast company to the course designed by former World 4X Champion Eric Carter. Fast berms and jumps made for a dual-slalom-like bottom section that wowed the raucous spectators and rewarded aggressive berm-bashing. The men’s pro open win went to Memmelaar by three seconds over runner-up Ortiz, who was followed by Gavin Vaughan. For the women's pro open, Gubernat won her first Gravity East Series downhill of the year by 3.5 seconds over Gandolf.
In the series' second event, held on June 5-7 at the Wisp Resort in McHenry, Maryland, Mulally swept both the DH and dual slalom. A unique double-header race format rewarded two consistent downhill runs, each on a different course, with the fastest combined time bringing home the bacon. Following Mulally in the closely contested men’s pro open class were Geritt Begtagh and Memmelaar. In the women's pro open downhill, Elgert took top honors out of a slightly smaller field. Mulally won the men's dual slalom, with Jason Beckley taking second and Begtagh coming in third.
The first stop on this year's Gravity East Seriescalendar was a quintessentially East Coast event, with the slimy roots and steep off-camber granite slabs of the course at Massanutten Resort in Virginia thwarting everyone's progress. In the men's pro open category, McClendon squeaked past Mulally by only 3 tenths of a second for the victory. Ben Hulse took third place. In the women's pro open division, Allegra Burch took the top spot out of a field of six riders.
2009 Gravity East Series Points
Pro Men’s Downhill
Pro Women’s Downhill