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A rider rolls the rocky terrain at the Massanutten Yee Ha!
Massanutten Yee Ha! hosting round one this weekend
Defending Champion Neko Mulally will compete at the Gravity East season-opening race, the Yee Ha! downhill at Virginia's Massanutten Resort on May 1.
"I'm stoked to do a race at home," said Mulally, who hails from Reading, Pennsylvania, only a few hours away. The 17-year-old signed for Trek World Racing for the 2010 season, and while he'll be racing the full World Cup series, he's still got a soft spot for Gravity East events.
"No other race series would prepare me better for 2010 in the World Cup," said Mulally this past winter. In fact, Massanutten Resort is a former downhill World Cup venue.
The Virginia event will kick off the beginning of the fourth Gravity East season. Last year, the first under the direction and ownership of DHD Marketing and Promotion, the Gravity East series grew from a regional series to one of national prominence. Not only were rider numbers up, but so were the number of mountains wanting to be a part of the series.
The success of Gravity East has seen the return of gravity racing to classic venues from mountain biking's first golden age that hadn't seen a downhill race in years. Sugarbush, Vermont, reintroduced itself to the mountain bike community with a Gravity East race in 2008, and this year Killington, Vermont, joins the Gravity East Series as it hosts its first downhill in nearly six years.
Gravity East is introducing a new, non-championship, event following practice for the classic Yee Ha! downhill race on Friday, April 30. The skinny-tire asphalt racers typically call this kind of preliminary event a prologue, but series publicist Ken Getchell says the term doesn't really capture the true character of the festivities.
"It's not really a prologue in the sense of the Tour de France," said Getchell, "it's more of a schmo-logue where the big ol' Gravity East family can get together for the first time in months and let their hair down before laying all on the line for the first time the next day."
At the heart of the evening will be a Gravity East Inaugural Foot-Down Derby. Wildly popular with New England mountain bikers and Portland cyclo-crossers, the object of a Foot-Down Derby (other than an excuse to drink beer) is to eliminate your competitors by forcing them to put their foot on the ground.
There will be (more-or-less) strict rules about contact in the Foot-Down Derby, and series organizer Dan McDonald said, "unnecessary" groping will be strictly prohibited. There will also be a racing event as muscular downhillers compete, primarily for the amusement of their peers, in a downhill slalom race aboard kiddie bikes designed for kindergarten-aged children.
The downhillers will race the Yee Ha! the following day, Saturday. It's one of the East's most iconic downhill races, and it traditionally draws riders from throughout the US and Canada as they compete in all 15 of Gravity East's championship classes.