USA Cycling's 2011 Professional Gravity Mountain Bike Tour (US Pro GRT) starts today with the NW Cup in Port Angeles, Washington. The two-day event opens a five-event Pro GRT calendar culminating with the Wildflower Rush in Crested Butte, Colorado, on June 25-26.
The men to watch out for this year are last year's champion Bryn Atkinson (Transition Bicycles), Andrew Neethling (Trek World Racing), Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) and the top returning American rider Waylon Smith (Santa Clarita Velo). Smith finished fifth in 2010 with 117 points. Logan Binggeli, Jared Graves, Jason Memmelaar and Duncan Riffle are others to watch.
At Pro GRT events in 2010, Atkinson earned three podium finishes, including winning the NW Cup and a pair of runner-up results at Plattekill and Northstar.
In 2010, the women were paced by American rider, Jill Kintner (Red Bull/Transition Racing), Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing), Melissa Buhl (KHS Bicycles), Jacqueline Harmony (Vixen Racing) and Darian Harvey (Vixen Racing).
Kintner, a BMX bronze medalist in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, is expected to begin the defense of her Pro GRT overall championship this weekend.
Harmony is looking strong heading into the US Pro GRT opener. She is fresh off winning the Pan American Mountain Bike Continental Championships last weekend in Colombia.
Other rounds of the US Pro GRT include the Highland Bike Park in Northfield, New Hampshire May 14-15, the Plattekill (UCI C3) in Roxbury, New York on May 21-22 and Northstar (UCI C2) on June 18-19 in Truckee, California.
At the conclusion of the entire Pro GRT calendar, a male and female winner will be crowned the series winner based on a season-long rankings system.