August 20, 2009; Conshohocken, PA, USA:  “I’m not one to boast, much, but mine is longer and harder,” says “Downhill Mike” Scheur.  He could be talking about his course for the Whiteface 5K at the end of August, which doubles as the next race on the Gravity East calendar and the final race of the inaugural Pro Gravity Tour.  At least that’s what I’m hoping he’s talking about.  “I’ve always said size matters.”  OK, now I’m getting a teensy bit uncomfortable.  “Let me show you the van.”  Arrgh…

I’m greatly relieved when we go outside and Downhill Mike shows me one of the mountain’s shuttle vans with the slogan “size does matter” on the outside.  Beyond the van is the mammoth Whiteface Mountain, site of the skiing competitions at Lake Placid Winter Olympics.  “Most racers haven’t raced down a mountain, they’ve only ridden down hills,” smiles Downhill Mike.  “We’ve built the gnarliest course we could.  Hard and technical.  But we also have two speed sections where the riders have been topping out at nearly 50 mph, that’s the speed the Tour de France guys come down a mountain on a smooth paved road.  But even with the speed sections, only eight guys finished in less than 8 minutes last year.  A lot of racers think we must have a lot of climbing to make a course this long, but they’re wrong.  And to prove it, we have a chainless race at the end of the day.”

Whiteface Mountain is located in New York’s Adirondacks Mountains.  Situated about 20 minutes away from Lake Placid, the whole region is run by the Olympic Regional Development Authority and caters to those with big cajones:  the ski jumpers and freestyle aerial skiers at the Olympic venues practice their hucks on a plastic surface until the snow comes, while thrill seekers pay to sit in a bobsled as it careens down one of the word’s most difficult and dangerous tracks, even in the summer.  Racers with really large ones, or really small ones, can go down the road to Santa’s Workshop at North Pole and ask Santa for a new bike while he spends his annual summer holiday on Whiteface Mountain.  Stranger things have happened here, after all.  Lake Placid was where many of us first learned to believe in miracles and, at least for a little while, where all of America turned into hockey fans.  
 
I’m thinking about how my parents brought me here to Santa’s workshop when I was young, and how to sneak into the Olympic hockey rink, just to catch a glimpse, when my daydreaming is interrupted by Downhill Mike.  “Did I mention that Whiteface has the biggest purse in the Gravity East this year?  We’re paying $2,000 to win.”  Then, as he turns and heads off to the mountain bike park, I hear him chuckle, “Size does matter.”
 
The Whiteface 5K Gravity East/ProGRT takes place August 29-30 at Whiteface Mountain, New York.  The event also includes a Gravity East e.thirteen Dual Slalom race.  For more information, see www.GravityEastSeries.com.

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