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Gracia, Pruitt take Schweitzer DH

For one rider, the Schweitzer NORBA downhill win was a breakthrough victory;for another, simply par for the course.French 25-year-old gravity sensation Cedric Gracia (Siemens-Cannondale)won a close race at the Schweitzer Mountain NORBA downhill Sunday, justedging out Sam Hill, 18, of Australia by 1.4 seconds over the long 2.5-milecourse. In the women’s event it was American Kathy Pruitt with a breakthroughwin, beating out Sabrina Jonnier (Intense-Fox).For Pruitt, the win comes as confirmation after placing qualifying firstbut placing third at the Grouse Mountain World Cup in Vancouver two

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By Neal Rogers

For one rider, the Schweitzer NORBA downhill win was a breakthrough victory;for another, simply par for the course.French 25-year-old gravity sensation Cedric Gracia (Siemens-Cannondale)won a close race at the Schweitzer Mountain NORBA downhill Sunday, justedging out Sam Hill, 18, of Australia by 1.4 seconds over the long 2.5-milecourse. In the women’s event it was American Kathy Pruitt with a breakthroughwin, beating out Sabrina Jonnier (Intense-Fox).For Pruitt, the win comes as confirmation after placing qualifying firstbut placing third at the Grouse Mountain World Cup in Vancouver two weeksearlier.“I had a good run,” the 20-year-old Pruitt said. “I didn’t get too tired,and I didn’t make too many mistakes. I’m really happy. I hope this winshows that I’m capable of winning against the best in the world. The USAneeds to take back the mountain biking scene.”Jonnier, winner in the previous day’s Mountain Cross, was satisifiedwith her result, but admitted that the long, technical course was moredifficult than what she’s used to.“My hands were so tired I couldn’t move my bike,” Jonnier said. “Thiscourse was more difficult than most I’ve raced. It was long and technical.I am better on courses that are fast.”Pruitt’s teammate Marla Streb crashed halfway into her run but finishedin seventh-place and managed to salvage her overall series lead by 46 pointsover Fionne Griffiths.“My hands were really tired,” Streb said. “I think I just sprinted alittle hard at the top [fire road section] and then I was anaerobic andmy hands went out. I couldn’t even squeeze the brakes. I lost a lot ofpoints today, it’s very upsetting.”In the men’s event, Nathan Rennie (Iron Horse-MadCatz) set the fastesttime of 4:35.55 early on after a crash had landed him 49th in his qualifyingrun.Rennie’s time withstood 30 or so riders until John Kirkcaldie (Maxxis)crossed the line with a 4:33.81. When Hill came across with a 4:31.65,the “oohs” and “aahs” of the crowd hit a fever pitch, and after Chris Kovarik(Intense-Fox) and Joel Pannozzo (WTB-Santa Cruz) were unable to unseathim, it appeared he’d scored the biggest win of his career. But that wasbefore Gracia, last out of the gates, came through, a swirl of the powderyIdaho dust behind him, with a time of 4:30.25.Ever the showman, Gracia, second in the World Cup overall last yearand winner at the NORBA’s last downhill at Mount Snow, immediately removedhis body armor and began an explanation of how a crash in his qualifyingrun had affected his final.“I crashed on the first run,” Gracia said. “I was going way faster,but I ate shit then. I was going way too fast. I thought, ‘I’m just goingto cruise down the final.’ I tried to pin it once but thought, ‘That’snot a good idea.’ Then I sat down and ride good. I made some mistakes,but everybody makes mistakes, I think.”With only the Durango final remaining, Intense-Fox’s Chris Kovarik leadsthe series with a slim 12-point lead over Greg Minnaar (Haro-Lee Dungarees),and only 38 points ahead of Hill.
 Men
1. Cedric Gracia, Siemens-Cannondale, 4:30.25
2. Sam Hill, Iron Horse-MadCatz, 4:31.65
3. John Kirkcaldie, Maxxis, 4:33.81
4. Joel Panozzo, WTB-Santa Cruz, 4:33.83
5. Nathan Rennie, Iron Horse-MadCatz, 4:35.55
6. Jared Rando, Giant-Pearl Izumi, 4:37.82
7. Greg Minnaar, Haro-Lee Dungarees, 4:38.11
8. Rich Houseman, Intense Tire Systems-Santa Cruz, 4:38.65
9. Chris Kovarik, Intense-Fox, 4:38.84
10. Gary Houseman, Intense Tire Systems-Santa Cruz, 4:39.5Women
1. Kathy Pruitt, Luna, 5:23.58
2. Sabrina Jonnier, Intense-Fox, 5:26.85
3. Tracy Moseley, Kona Clarks, 5:32.71
4. Mio Suemasa, Trek-VW, 5:33.14
5. Fionne Griffiths, Foes Azonic, 5:38.47
6. Melissa Buhl, KHS, 5:43.48
7. Marla Streb, Luna, 5:47.14
8. April Lawyer, Maxxis, 6:01.95
9. Tai-Lee Muxlow, Tioga-Orange, 6:08.82
10. Dawn Bourque, Dried Plums-Orbitz, 6:22.03