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Neko Wins, Heath Takes ProGRT Title

Fun, Fun, Fun Until Daddy Took the Chainring Away (Oh wait, That Was Fun Too)

September 1, 2009; Conshohocken, PA, USA: New York’s Whiteface Mountain lived up to its billing as a wild ride this past weekend. The Whiteface 5K featured a lot of rocks and even more roll as 202 competitors in 19 classes attempted to become one of the few to crack the 8 minute barrier down this massive mountain. With the downhill portion of the Gravity East weekend also counted as the final event of USA Cycling’s new Pro Gravity Tour national series, an east vs. the nation was expected but never materialized as the home field advantage saw Gravity East regulars on top of the podium.

The weekend began with the Gravity East e.thirteen Dual Slalom and the Lars Tribus “How (not) to Snap the Start” clinic. The dual slalom track at Whiteface is out of character for the venue as it’s about the only part of the mountain that can be described as smaller than average, making the start even more critical. In his second heat, Tribus (Chumba/Rockshox) anticipated the start – but guessed wrong. Snapping into the still-closed start gate, he went over his handlebars right at the gate. Tribus was able to come back and, having already demonstrated how to take out the front end of one’s bike on the start, showed how to take out the back end in the final for third and fourth against Kyle Sangers (J & J). As the gate dropped, Tribus snapped so hard that he snapped his cog into pieces, costing him the race but putting him in serious contention for the unofficial “Hulk-Out” of the year. In the pro final, Pennsylvania’s Neko Mulally (Specialized Team America) bested Pro GRT competitor Logan James (Pedal the Peak-e.thirteen) from Utah.

On Sunday, things got more serious as both the speed and the consequences for failure increased significantly. Whiteface served as the eighth round of the 11-race Gravity East Series. It’s also the longest downhill course in the East, and one of the longest and fastest in North America. With the inaugural Pro Gravity Tour title also on the line, it was ‘game on’ from the start of the day. The Pro seeding runs saw NY veteran World Legend Jurgen Beneke (unattached) run an 8:18 to take the first seed ahead of Dave Trumpore (Evil Bikes) and Neko Mulally (Specialized Team America).

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day with sunshine and cool, autumn-like, temperatures. Throughout open practice, it was clear that the track was getting consistently better, and faster. Giant Bicycles had planned to give a bonus to fastest rider through Whiteface’s infamous speed trap. Unfortunately, the speed gun broke down, causing officials to change plans and award the $200 to the best amateur time — and make just about everybody ask the question, “Why don’t speed guns ever break down when they’re pointed at my car?” Compounding the ignominy was that the bonus was won by a rider who isn’t even close to being old enough to get a speeding ticket. 14 year old Gravity East regular Richard Rude Jr. (Santa Cruz Allride) had people shaking their heads in disbelief when he came down the mountain with a time of 8.17.80, two-tenths quicker than Jurgen Beneke’s pole-winning pro seeding run. When the dust had settled at the end of the day, it was realized that Rude’s time would have placed Richard in 10th in the men’s pro field and was quick enough to win his class by over forty-eight seconds.

It was obvious now that the build up to the Pro runs were going to be insane. First in the Hot seat was none other than the consummate Pro Gavin Vaughan (Sinister Snowfire) with a time of 8:19. Vaughn sat in the hot seat awhile before some astounding times sent him back to the pits. First to break the 8 minute mark was Jason Memmelaar (Hayes/Manitou/SunRig) with a 7:58. Memmelaar’s time was quickly smashed by Jurgen Beneke’s 7:52. Then Gerrit Beytagh (Morewood Bikes) clocked an amazing time of 7:50. Finally, as all eyes watched the mountain, Neko Mulally came in with a record time of 7:48.15 to win the $2,000 dollar first-place portion of the Men’s Pro Purse. Fastest of the visiting ProGRT riders was series leader Chris Heath(Manitou/Hayes) from Colorado who grabbed 6th to clinch the Overall for the Men’s ProGRT champion’s Jersey from USA Cycling and the Helmet Trophy from Dylan Dean.

In the Pro Women’s race, the first to sit in the hot-seat was Massachusetts native and well-known northeast pro Karen Eagan (Sam Adams Brewery). Eagan held on to the hot-seat as rider after rider was unable to eclipse her time of 10:05.50. Eagan stayed in the hot seat until top seed Dawn Bourque (Rhino BikeWorks) of New Hampshire blew away the competition with a 9:41.29 to capture the Win and the $500 Women’s first prize. Jennifer Wolf (Vixen Racing) was the only Pro GRT series regular to show for the women’s race. Unofficially, Wolf scored enough points to take over the runner-up position in the final ProGRT standings as Darian Harvey had already clinched the season title following her win at Windham Mountain. Final points are still being calculated for the Pro GRT women’s series.

Following the official race, 39 riders got “pumped” and went back to the top for the chainless race. Some took the race more seriously than others; Richie Rude showed up at the start with two none-drive side crankarms, eliminating his chainring and bashguard. For the second year in a row, the win was grabbed by none other than Moorewood Bikes own Gerrit Beytagh. Beytagh grabbed the win with a time of 8:03.73, smashing 2nd place finisher Jurgen Beneke’s time of 8:24.72. Rounding out the top three was Heikki Hall with an 8:30.03.

The next Gravity East weekend takes place at Blue Mountain Resort in Danielsville, Pennsylvania on September 26 and 27. The double-header weekend will feature not only the Gravity East Downhill, but also a round of the Gravity East e.thirteen Dual Slalom series on the Neko Mulally-designed slalom course at Blue Mountain. For more information, see www.GravityEastSeries.com.

source: Ken Getchell,

The first batch of photos (and one video) from this past weekend’s Whiteface 5K ProGRT/Gravity East event can be found at
http://downhillmike1.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/whiteface-5-k-dh-race-report/
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