USA Cycling’s 2011 Professional Gravity Mountain Bike Tour (Pro GRT) starts with the NW Cup in Port Angeles, Washington, on April 9-10.
The kick-off of racing opens a five-event Pro GRTPro calendar culminating with the Wildflower Rush in Crested Butte, Colorado, on June 25-26. Among the riders expected to compete at the NW Cup are Jared Graves (Yeti), Jason Memmelaar (MemmelGnar) and Duncan Riffle (Giant Off-Road).
The men to watch out for this year are last year’s Pro GRT champion Australian Bryn Atkinson (Transition Bicycles), Andrew Neethling (Giant Off-Road), Justin Leov (Trek World Racing) and the top returning American Prop GRT rider Waylon Smith (Santa Clarita Velo). Smith finished fifth in 2010 with 117 points.
At Pro GRT events in 2010, Atkinson, who is expected to attend this weekend’s NW Cup, 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 (SRed Bull/Transition Racing), reigning world DH champ Tracy Moseley (Trek World Racing), Melissa Buhl (KHS Bicycles), and Vixen Racing teammates Jacqueline Harmony and Darian Harvey.
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 at the NW Cup. Harmony is looking strong heading into the Pro GRT opener as she won the DH at the Pan-American Mountain Bike Continental Championships a week ago.
The Pro GRT Tour has the Highland Bike Park in Northfield, N.H., on May 14-15 before going to the Plattekill (UCI C3) in Roxbury, N.Y., on May 21-22 and Northstar (UCI 2) on June 18-19 in Truckee, Calif.
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.