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Pruitt, Rennie plunge to front in Snowmass DH

Kathy Pruitt completed the Luna-team double at Snowmass Village, Colorado, on Sunday, winning the women’s NORBA downhill race and adding to Alison Dunlap’s win in the short-track earlier in the day. In the men’s downhill, Australian Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) ended Greg Minnaar’s three-race unbeaten streak to collect his second career NORBA downhill win. On a super-fast course that reminded riders of NORBA downhills of old, Pruitt edged her Luna teammate Marla Streb by 1.79 seconds for the win. “The key was to be consistent and not go off the course,” said Pruitt, the 2000 world

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By Kip Mikler, VeloNews editor

Close call: Rennie won by a whisker.

Close call: Rennie won by a whisker.

Photo: Kip Mikler

Kathy Pruitt completed the Luna-team double at Snowmass Village, Colorado, on Sunday, winning the women’s NORBA downhill race and adding to Alison Dunlap’s win in the short-track earlier in the day. In the men’s downhill, Australian Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz Syndicate) ended Greg Minnaar’s three-race unbeaten streak to collect his second career NORBA downhill win.

On a super-fast course that reminded riders of NORBA downhills of old, Pruitt edged her Luna teammate Marla Streb by 1.79 seconds for the win.

“The key was to be consistent and not go off the course,” said Pruitt, the 2000 world junior downhill champion. “This was very old school as far as how fast we were going. We haven’t hit speeds like this since I started racing in ’98.”

The 1.76-mile Snowmass course started above 10,000 feet and dropped more than 1500 feet to the finish. Dry, sunny conditions made the surface loose and dusty.

Leading lady: Pruitt leads the DH series with one to go.

Leading lady: Pruitt leads the DH series with one to go.

Photo: Kip Mikler

The fastest woman qualifier, Bernardita Pizarro of Chile, finished third, 3.41 seconds back.

Pruitt now leads Pizarro (Red Bull-Michelin) in the overall standings, followed by Maxxis-Puma rider April Lawyer, who finished sixth at Snowmass.

When Rennie came across the finish with a time of 3:57.32 in the men’s race, he knew it was a good time; the fastest qualifying time earlier in the day, posted by Rennie’s fellow Australian, Joel Panozzo, was 4:00.03. But with 24 riders still to go, Rennie wasn’t sure if it would hold up.

“I was a bit conservative in a few places,” Rennie said as he watched competitor after competitor fail to beat his time. “The outside lines on a lot of the turns were soft, so I was trying to stay inside.”

In the end, Rennie’s strategy paid off. The interesting story of the men’s race, in addition to Rennie’s first win since he broke through at Crystal Mountain, Washington, in 2000, was the foreign domination. Non-American riders took the first seven placings, and the top American was surprise entry Myles Rockwell, racing his first NORBA downhill since 2002.

Rockwell, who was arrested in May for suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, said he decided to race at Snowmass to “put all the bad stuff behind me and show everyone that I’m still me, I still love to ride my bike.”

Rockwell, the seventh rider out of the gates in the finals, turned a 4:00.53, and said he had no idea if it was a good run or not. “Just one out of a hundred, we’ll see,” he said.

The 31-year-old resident of Durango, Colorado, whose marijuana case is still in the courts, ended up with the best time of all the Americans, good enough for eighth overall.

Times at the top were tight, with Panozzo (Progressive-Intense) coming within one second of Rennie. Canadian Dustin Adams (Giant-Pearl Izumi) finished third, 1.47 seconds off the mark, putting him third overall in the series with one race left.

Minnaar’s win streak ended with a sixth-place finish, but the South African rider heads into the finals with a safe lead over New Zealander John Kirkcaldie (Maxxis) in the overall.

Photo Gallery

Results

NORBA Championship Mountain Bike Series, Snowmass Village, CO. August 6-8

Men’s downhill

1. Nathan Rennie (Aus), Santa Cruz-Syndicate, 1.76mi in 3:57.32

2. Joel Panozzo (Aus), Progressive-Intense, at 0.62 seconds

3. Dustin Adams (Can), Giant-Pearl Izumi, at 1.47

4. Bryn Atkinson (Aus), Iron Horse-Mad Catz, at 1.71

5. John Kirkcaldie (NZ), at 2.37 seconds

6. Greg Minnaar (SA), G-Cross, at 2.41

7. Jared Rando (Aus), at 2.86

8. Myles Rockwell, at 3.21

9. Justin Havukainen, Intense-Oakley, at 4.04

10. Travis Collins, RockShox-SRAM, at 4.43

Men’s overall standings

1. Minnaar, 884

2. Kirkcaldie, 847

3. Adams, 762

4. Panozzo, 752

5. Atkinson, 750

Women’s downhill

1. Kathy Pruitt, Luna, 1.76mi in 4:22.90

2. Marla Streb, Luna, at 1.79 seconds

3. Bernadita Pizarro (Chile), Red Bull-Michelin, at 3:41

4. Melissa Buhl, KHS, at 17.13

5. Tracey Hannah (Aus), Edge Cycles, at 20.27

Women’s overall standings

1. Pruitt, 964 points; 2. Pizarro, 937; 3. Lawyer, 790; 4. Streb, 757; 5. Buhl, 746