Word to the downhilling wise: ‘Be very precise’
In the Hunter S. Thompson classic “Hell’s Angels,” he describes that finite line you encounter when you’re pushing a motorcycle to the brink of its high-speed cornering capabilities.One odd pebble in your path, the doctor suggests, might mean your undoing.Of course, Hunter S. Thompson has never ridden a mountain bike. And he was talking about hogs on blacktop there.But, after listening to a handful of North America’s top mountain bike downhillers, that same elemental clash – out-of-control versus in-control, sane versus insane – comes to the fore.”Speeds are very fast so you have to be very precise. And here, you must continue going very fast even when you’re getting thrown around, even when you’re think you’re just going to absolutely lose it,” said Kathy Pruitt of Lake Almanor, northern California. “You almost have to be overconfident.”Pruitt, 21, the 2000 downhill world champion, won the women’s pro division downhill race Sunday afternoon in the final day of the Snowmass NORBA National Championship Series racing.
Pruitt blitzed the course – 2.4 twisting miles of rock and dirt, dropping 1,700 feet over jumps and berms to the finish on Fanny Hill – to win her third straight National Series downhill in 4 minutes, 22 seconds. Marla Streb of Los Osos, Calif., was second (4:24) followed by Bernardita Pizarro Lazo of Santiago, Chile, in third (4:26).”Every course you try to memorize,” said Pruitt, “and I did six runs the first day of practice – way more than I usually do. “I know how to ride, but you’ve got to know where to go.”In the men’s pro downhill race, Nathan Rennie of Australia’s Gold Coast was the last man standing after 60-plus racers took their one crack at the Bonzai Downhill course. Rennie’s time of 3:37.32 was enough too, as the top eight finishers were bunched at closer four minutes or better. Fellow Aussie Joel Panozzo was second (3:57.94), followed by Dustin Adams of Kamihoops, British Columbia, in third (3:58.80); Bryn Atkinson of Carins, Australia, in fourth (3:59:04); John Kirkcaldie of Wellington, New Zealand, in fifth (3:59.70); Greg Minnaar of Peietermartsburg, Russia, in sixth (3:59.74); Jared Rando of Ainslie, Australia, in seventh (4:00.18); and then the first American, Myles Rockwell, of Durango, in eighth (4:00.53).That makes four Australians in the top group.”We all like to ride in the loose stuff, and we all like to go fast,” said Rennie, 23. “We’re good at this rocky, dry ‘n’ dusty type of racing.
“We’re all really good friends, too; help each other out where we can, but we’re very competitive as well. That’s just how we do it.”Rennie’s sheer mass may have had something to do with his success. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, he reckons he’s the heaviest weight on the National Series tour.”You’ve really got to concentrate on keeping your speed, hugging the inside line and not getting caught up in the debris,” he said of the Snowmass course. “On the faster courses, you’ll see the times pretty close together like this, but as soon as it gets technical, that separates the men from the boys.”The win marked Rennie’s second career victory in the NORBA National Championship Series.The tour now shifts to Durango for the series final.”That was race No. 9, and we’ve got five to go,” said Pruitt, ticking off the national championships, world championships, World Cup finals …A mountain biker of six years, Pruitt wears a blue-Lycra Luna Bar suit stretched over body armor for protection in case of falls. “I rode motocross from age 3 to 13, if that helps you understand,” she laughs.
“The venue is beautiful and there’s been a good vibe and support base here,” she added. “I’m looking forward to coming back next year.”Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.