August 30, 2004 – The NORBA National Championships Series came to a close this afternoon in appropriate form with the pro men’s and women’s downhill finals. Greg Minnaar (RSA) and Kathy Pruitt (Lake Almanor, Calif.) posted victories today and secured their top spots in the overall standings.Â
Virtually the entire downhill course was visible to spectators from the chairlift, making for a crowd pleasing finale. The 1.6 mile run featured a vertical drop of 1501 feet and a gap jump of 40 feet at the finish.Â
Â The women’s race was set to be a showdown between series leader Pruitt and Bernadita Pizarro Lazo (Chile), who was second in the standings going into today’s runs. After taking a fall in the qualifier, Pizarro still seeded tenth, but had a disappointing final run of 5:34.98 that put her into 14th position. She was still able to hold onto second place in the series however.
Pruitt posted a 4:25.85 in the finals to take over the hot seat from Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz.). There were still three women at the top, including 16-year-old Tracey Hannah (AUS) who earned the top seed in the morning qualifying run with a 4:25.73. Marla Streb (Los Osos, Calif.) and Missy Giove (Santa Fe, NM) were the next women down the mountain, but neither were able to best Pruitt’s time. The crowd waited in anticipation as the youngest competitor made the final run in the women’s event. It looked to be close as she came into sight, but a 4:37.82 put Tracey Hannah into second place.Â
Giove posted the third fastest time to take the bronze medal, while Buhl and April Lawyer (Murrieta, Calif.) took fourth and fifth.Â
Women’s Final Downhill Series Standings
1. Kathy Pruitt (Lake Almanor, Calif.)
2. Bernadita Pizarro Lazo (Chile)
3. April Lawyer (Murrieta, Calif.)
4. Melissa Buhl (Chandler, Ariz.)
5. Marla Streb (Los Osos, Calif.)
Today’s Women’s Downhill Results
1. Kathy Pruitt
2. Tracey Hannah
3. Missy Giove
4. Melissa Buhl
5. April Lawyer
Much like in the women’s race, there were two men expected to battle for the Series title: Greg Minnaar (RSA) and John Kirkcaldie (NZL). Minnaar held the #1 spot going into the finals, but Kirkcaldie was only 46 points behind the current World Champion, meaning he was still a contender for the overall win.
As the strongest men began their runs, Dustin Adams posted the time to beat in 3:45.8. The crowd became excited as Kirkcaldie, who qualified in seventh, was spotted on his descent down the mountain. A late run crash, however, killed his chances at taking over Minnaar’s spot in the standings. Kirkcaldie ended up in a disappointing 28th position in today’s finals, moving him down to fourth in the overall standings.
Mick Hannah (AUS), Joel Panozzo (AUS), and Nathan Rennie (AUS) came down with top five times, and then Minnaar was all alone on the mountain to bring an end to the NORBA National Mountain Bike Series in a world champion’s form. Descending with authority, Minnaar was 2 seconds faster than his nearest threat, giving him the race win and the Series title. With impressive performances today, Joel Panozzo and Dustin Adams moved themselves up in the overall standings to second and third.
Â Men’s Final Downhill Series Standings
1.Â Greg Minnaar (RSA)
2.Â Joel Panozzo (AUS)
3.Â Dustin Adams (CAN)
4.Â John Kirkcaldie (NZL)
5.Â Â Bryn Atkinson (AUS)
Today’s Men’s Downhill Results
1.Â Greg Minnaar
2.Â Nathan Rennie
3.Â Â Joel Panozzo
4.Â Mick Hannah
5.Â Dustin Adams