Massanutten Yee-Ha! – Gravity East Series, Race #1

As with anything else, we all have strong and weak aspects of our riding skills. Some of us are climbers, and some are downhillers. In an XC sense, my skill set has always leaned toward descending. As such, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at downhill racing, and fortunately I was able to do just that this past weekend at the Massanutten Yee-Ha!, which also just so happened to be the first race of the 2010 Gravity East Series (GES).

Thanks to Robert Seth Chrismon for the above image, and the top four gallery images. Robert is owner and photographer of Kinetic Images, based out of Greensboro, NC.

Fortunately, the kind folks at Commencal and BTI hooked me up with a Supreme DH (affectionately referred to as “Greenie” from here on) to support my DH racing experiment. Let me tell you, this bright green machine is something to behold with its Fox 40 RC2 fork and DHX RC4 rear shock. Talk about tune-ability…

So, the race was this past Saturday and “Greenie” arrived the prior Tuesday—at least I had all day Friday to setup the Greenie, get familiar with the bike, learn the course and then figure out the fast lines. No big deal…

Massanutten’s DH course played host to the DH World Cup in 1997, and has been hosting races ever since. After riding the lift up, you’ve got a bit of a push to the course start, which I found to be a nice warm up. The course starts off with a technical rock garden, offers a mixture of smooth and technical turns through the middle, then spits you out through a gnarly rock garden to the finish. There’s a fair bit of pedaling involved in going fast on this course, notice how high Greenie’s seat is placed. Seemed to be a good balance of maneuverability and pedaling efficiency for me.

Overall, I had a hell of an enjoyable experience racing DH for the first time. The whole process is pretty amazing when you think about the fact that all of your effort and expense for the weekend hinges on one three to four minute run—don’t screw it up.

It was an absolute treat to watch the fast guys and gals ride the course so quickly, and with such grace. During practice, I’d simply stop and watch riders come through a section that was giving me difficulty, and shortly thereafter I’d have a eureka moment—”Oh, that’s how you ride this section fast!”

So, how’d I do in my first DH race? Far better than expected, much to my surprise and pleasure. I raced Cat 2, ’cause I didn’t want to be a sandbagger in Cat 3. Turns out, I should’ve raced Cat 1, or the Open class—I was sandbagging in Cat 2. See the final results here. Oh well, now I know where I should be racing for GES race #2 at Seven Springs, PA June 12th.

Yours truly, on the podium. Men's Cat 2 19-29.

Special thanks to Commencal for providing me with a sweet bike and to the kind folks who put on the  Yee-Ha! and the Gravity East Series for inviting us to race!

Check out this video of the event:

Some photos from the weekend, for your viewing pleasure.

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