America's Gravity East downhill racing series released its 2010 schedule, which includes the the first downhill race in a generation at Killington, Vermont. The news was one of several surprises from Gravity East. The series will span much of the eastern United States from America's northern border with Canada, to the Shenandoah Valley, which was known as the Breadbasket of the Southern Confederacy during America's Civil War.
"We've made a lot of upgrades behind the scenes this winter," said Gravity East's Dan McDonald. "A lot of them may seem relatively minor on the face of if, but they'll add up to a higher-quality experience for our racers and mountains." The standardization of the registration process and race weekend schedules, as well as the utilization of a single timing company for the series are just a few of the background improvements made behind the scenes as part of a series-wide quality-improvement program.
But the biggest change that most racers will notice is the new schedule. The return of Killington, one of the iconic venues of mountain biking's first golden age is a major coup for the series that already boasts former World Cup and National Championship venues for each of the season's first two races at Massanutten and Seven Springs.
On the opposite end of the schedule, the Gravity East Finals have been relocated to the rapidly expanding Vertical Earth Mountain Bike Park at Eastern Pennsylvania's Blue Mountain. "We wanted to bring the Finals to a mountain that was more geographically centered for both our Northern and Southern racers," said McDonald, "And since the finals are late enough in the year that weather can become an issue on the northern mountains, it just made sense to move the Finals southward."
As the series has grown, Gravity East has removed aspects of its program that it felt didn't add enough value for the racers or the sponsors. Gone is last year's dual slalom experiment. "We tried dual slalom last year," said McDonald, "but it drained a lot of time and resources that we felt could be better spent by focusing on our bread-and-butter downhill program."
Also gone are back-to-back race weekends, a change that McDonald was only too happy to make, "Back-to-back weekends really stretch our staff to the limit, they're tough for our amateur racers who have to work for a living, and they don't really benefit the pro riders either since paying for a hotel and rental car for a week is often more expensive than flying back home after the race. Getting rid of them is one of the little things we've done to improve the series for everyone from novice racers to world-class pros like Neko Mulally, who has confirmed that he plans to compete in as many Gravity East races this year as his World Cup program allows."
Mulally won both the men's downhill and the dual slalom categories in 2009. Dawn Bourque won the women's downhill series while Karen Eagan won the women's dual slalom title.
2010 Gravity East Series
April 30 - May 1: Round 1 - Massanutten Resort, McGaheysville, Virginia
June 12-13: Round 2 - Seven Springs Resort, Seven Springs, Pennsylvania
July 3-4: Round 3 - Plattekill Mountain, Roxbury, New York
July 10-11: Round 4 - Highland Mountain Bike Park, Northfield, New Hampshire
July 31-August 1: Round 5 - Sugarbush Resort, Warren, Vermont
August 14-15: Round 6 - Killington Resort, Killington, Vermont
September 11-12: Round 7 - Whiteface Mountain 5km Downhill, Wilmington, New York
October 2-3: Round 8 / Finals - Vertical Earth Gravity Park at Blue Mountain; Danielsville, Pennsylvania