August 4, 2009; Warren, Vermont, USA: Chris Heath and Dawn Bourque were the big winners of the Gravity East Sugarbush Downhill last weekend under what has become normal conditions for racing in 2009 — mud. Sugarbush Resort, located in mid-state Vermont, was the location for the seventh stop of the Gravity East Series. Despite it’s relatively remote location, Sugarbush is a very large resort area that is couple with other resorts using a network of lifts that resembles ski areas in the Rockies. And, while Sugarbush might be unfamiliar many young riders, the mountain has a long history of racing rooted in the heyday of Mountain biking in the late 90′s. In just the last two years mountain biking and racing has returned to Sugarbush, spurred on by the increasing popularity of series like Gravity East.
All the major elements of a classic downhill course were represented at this year’s Sugarbush course: fast brake-burning open ski slope, high-speed rock roads, grassy turns and bermed turns that slammed racers into tight technical woods. As brakes were cooling off from the top portion of the course, racers made their way through a tight, wooded course section that started out with some slow tight maneuvering around trees. A slick off-camber stretch led to the rock face. The rock face at Sugarbush resembled a World Cup course and was taped-off very wide. Racers commented that I had so many lines it could give you a headache as tried to decide which line to use. The finishing segment of the course could have been a small Dual Slalom course. Racers were treated to berms, table-tops and step-down jumps before hitting one last, really long sweeping berm that shot them across the finish line.
The 2009 Gravity East Series has been a textbook example of East Coast racing. And Sugarbush was the poster child for what it means to race on the east coast. Rain leading up to the event on Friday night made for a half-dry and partially muddy conditions. Warm sunny day during practices turned several sections into peanut butter by the end of the day and a nice “ripe” smell through the wood section. Race day arrives with cloudy skies, but the course dried out to the point that gave a good amount of traction, while still retaining enough slippery feel to make it fun. Race order for the day started with Cat 3, followed by Cat 2, Cat 1 and finished with Pro. Cat 3 made it down the hill and Cat 2 began their runs. It was time for Cat 1 and Pro to head up the lift to await their runs. As the big dogs approached the lift, everyone noted that a dense cloud cover had swept over the mountain. The cloud cover obscured the top of the lift and the dark clouds gathered around the peaks. Many went and grabbed their rain jackets, umbrellas or trash bags. Rain started to fall half-way through the Cat 2 runs and never slowed down after that. By the time the Pros were scheduled to start the ground had already formed puddles everywhere at the top of the mountain and nothing was left dry. That super-fast open slope section of was now a saturated wet and muddy. What were fast grass turns were now slick skid-steer paths around corners. The woods were covered in wet slime. Crashes were abundant for the remainder of the race. Riders reported having to remove their goggles half-way down the mountain because they couldn’t see through the mud-covered and steamed lenses. The riders that were able to keep both wheels on the ground and blaze the mud turned in some respectable times for the day.
Dawn Bourque of Rhino Bike Works continued her stranglehold on the Gravity East Women’s season, winning her fourth consecutive race by “only” 8.3 seconds over Karen Eagan of team Sam Adams. But, while Bourque may have a winning streak going, Chris Heath has the best winning percentage in Gravity East. Heath, a member of the USA’s Pan American Games team, made the trip from Colorado to win the first Gravity East he’s entered this year. Ben Moody (Rhino Bike Works), winner of the last Gravity East at Attitash, was a close second only 0.27 seconds behind Heath.
Despite the weather, the weekend was a good weekend for racing. The staff of Sugarbush executed a flawless event. Registration was a breeze and everything stayed on time. Sugarbush’s bike shop provided necessary support and parts to the racers of the weekend and was well-stocked with the brake pads that everyone needed due to the muddy conditions. Fox Racing Shox were also on hand again to support racers with any suspension issues they may have had.
The next race on the 2009 Gravity East Calendar is the double-double big-dollar event at New York’s Whiteface Mountain on August 29-30. The Whiteface 5K is a 3 mile, 8-plus minute downhill that doubles as both a Pro Gravity Tour and Gravity East event with the pro men’s race paying two THOUSAND dollars to win. The weekend will also feature a round of Gravity East’s inaugural e.thirteen Dual Slalom Series. For more information on Gravity East, see www.GravityEastSeries.com.
source: Brady Owens