As the five-round US Professional Mountain Bike Gravity Tour (Pro GRT) enters its second year, hopes are high that it will help prepare US downhillers for world-class competition following a disappointing showing by American racers in recent years.
The overall leaders of the series after round three will earn automatic spots at the UCI World Championships on 5 September in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.
“The idea is to offer top calibre events to our athletes and offer the points to get them into World Cups,” said Andrea Smith, USA Cycling’s communications director. “We need to get them to start competing on the international stage. If you don’t get in there and start competing at that level then it’s hard to improve. We want to get them used to racing at the higher levels and competing more.”
US national champion Aaron Gwin (Yeti/Fox Shox) was the highest ranked American downhiller on the World Cup circuit last year, with his best result being a third place finish at Mont-Saint-Anne in July.
“Typically US racers have not done well at World Cup or World Championships [in the past decade],” said Dylan Dean, director of the Pro GRT. “With the recent exception of a few riders like Aaron Gwin, typically the US riders are outside the top 20 or 30 in downhill.”
This year the series boasts three new events: the UCI-sanctioned Plattekill Gravity Open in New York, Northstar-at-Tahoe in California and UCI-sanctioned Crankworx Colorado at the Trestle Bike Park in Colorado. The Plattekill and Northstar-at-Tahoe rounds will be junior downhill qualification races for the World Championships.
Returning events include the kick-off to the series at the Northwest Cup in Washington and the final round at the Whiteface 5th Annual 5k Downhill in New York. Chris Heath and Darian Harvey are the defending Pro GRT champions.
“This series will help by encompassing the best races in the US, attracting international riders and teams like Trek World Racing this year, and offering a higher level of competition,” said Dean. “In turn offering a better platform to develop skills needed to race at world-class levels.”
2010 USA Cycling Pro Mountain Bike Gravity Tour (Pro GRT)