Rockwell wins gold at World Cup

Credit: Al Bello/Allsport
SIERRA NEVADA, Spain For the second consecutive day, American riders claimed gold medals at the 2000 World Mountain Bike Championships.

On Saturday, Kathy Pruitt (Lake Almanor, Calif.) took first place in the junior women's downhill, while Myles Rockwell (Durango, Colo.) won the elite men's event.

Beefing up the medal count were Tara Llanes (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Brian Lopes (Laguna Beach, Calif.), who both earned silver medals in the dual event. Marla Streb (San Geronimo, Calif.) rounded out Saturday's medal haul with a bronze in the elite women's downhill. Saturday's results brought the U.S. medal count for the 2000 World Mountain Bike Championships to five overall, three gold.

Pruitt, the 1999 junior national downhill champion, was the day's first gold medalist. Last year, Pruitt placed second at the World Mountain Bike Championships in Are, Sweden. Earlier in the week, she also placed first in the qualifying run, more than two seconds ahead of her competitors.

On Saturday, she proved to be even faster, getting to the finish line more than four seconds in front of second-place finisher Helen Gaskell (Great Britain).

"I was just thinking that I have to go as hard as I can. I was kind of disappointed with some of the things I did up on the course. I think I used the brakes too much," said 17-year-old Pruitt. "I'm kind of speechless right now."

Pruitt began mountain biking in 1997 and quickly became one of few juniors to reach the pro level. The former motocross racer was honored last year as VISA/USA Cycling's Junior Female Mountain Bike Athlete of the Year. This was her last world championship as a junior.

"This race was my main goal for this year, and I can't believe I got it," Pruitt said. "I can't believe how many people had faith in me, and I'm glad I was able to do it."

Just four hours after Pruitt was crowned, Rockwell was taking his place at the top of the world. Rockwell, who won his only World Cup race in 1997 in Austria, qualified as the third-fastest racer earlier in the week, which meant he raced third-to-last.

"I wasn't riding real smooth, but I was just letting it all hang out," said Rockwell, who currently leads the Chevy Trucks NORBA National Championship Series. "I've never claimed to be the best rider, but each time I go out I try to have a lot of fun and do the best I can.

"This was the most pressure I've ever put on myself, and I guess it worked out for me. My father always told me when I wanted to win this race, I could. Last night I told myself I wanted to win it today. To win by that close of a margin is unbelievable."

After starting his race career nine years ago, Rockwell has faced several obstacles in his career. In 1996, he missed most of the season with a broken knee. The next year, he broke both his legs in a motocross accident, spending six weeks in a wheelchair while recovering.

After a successful '99 campaign, Rockwell was forced to miss the national finals and world championships due to a knee infection.

"I've overcome some big things in my life, and that's why this is so incredible. I've thought about quitting two to three times a day. Sometimes I think I'm no good anymore. Today, though, I'm really stoked and so happy," Rockwell said.

Streb, who placed first in the qualifying run, came close to snagging the top spot, but mistakes at the end cost her time.

"I dragged the brakes too much in the last section. I started to really blow it closer to the finish, and I almost went off the course at the second-to-last turn," said Streb, who currently ranked fifth in the world. "I rode very conservative today. I crashed hard yesterday in practice and hurt my wrist. I was really looking for first, but I'm still pretty happy. I'll take it."

This year marked the first year the dual was a full-medal sport.

Lopes, who has won the first three rounds of the dual World Cup Series, went up against qualifying-round winner Wade Bootes (Australia) in the finals. Llanes, who won the dual in '98 when it was a demonstration sport, faced eight-time world downhill champion Anne-Caroline Chausson from France in the women's finals.

2000 WORLD MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS, JUNE 10, JUNIOR AND ELITE DOWNHILL

Pro Men: 2.739km; average speed, 41.96 km/h

1. MYLES ROCKWELL, Durango, Colo., at 3 minutes and 55.01; 2. Steve Peat, Great Britain, @ :00.57; 3. Mickael Pascal, France, @ :00.67

Other Americans: 5. Eric Carter, Temecula, Calif., @ :01.55; 13. Kirt Voreis, Santa Barbara, Calif., :06.32; 16. Dave Cullinan, Mission Viejo, Calif., :06.75; 25. Jason Sigfrid, Hood River, Ore., @ 11:27; 31. Gary Houseman, Temecula, Calif., @ 12:41; 34. John Tomac, Cortez, Colo., @ :13.08.

Pro Women: 2.739km; average speed, 38.20 km/h

1. ANNE-CAROLINE CHAUSSON, France, at 4 minutes and 18.13 seconds; 2. Katja Repo, Finland, @ :01.13 back; 3. Marla Streb, San Geronimo, Calif., @ :01.90

Other Americans: 4. Elke Brutsaert, Durango, Colo., @ :04.20; 9. Missy Giove, Durango, Colo., @ :13.71; 11. Cheri Elliott, El Dorado Hills, Calif., @ :14.38; 12. Lisa Sher, Laguna Beach, Calif., @ :16.49; 14. Tara Llanes, Newport Beach, Calif., @ :18.43; 17. Leigh Donovan, Capistrano Beach, Calif., @ :23.53

Junior Women: 2.739km; average speed, 36.11 km/h

1. KATHY PRUITT, Lake Almanor, Calif., at 4 minutes and 33.08 seconds; 2. Helen Gaskell, Great Britain, @ :04.02 back; 3. Fionn Griffiths, Great Britain, @ :04.26

Other Americans: 6. Melissa Buhl, Chandler, Ariz., @ :15.34; 8. Danielle Connolly, Novato, Calif., @ :16.46

Junior Men: 2.739km; average speed, 39.73 km/h

1. JULIEN POOMANS, France, at 4 minutes and 8.19 seconds; 2. Michael Hannah, Australia, @ :00.22 back; 3. Jean-Paul Labossiere, France @ :02.46

Americans: 8. Chris Rodgers, Big Bear Lake, Calif., @ :07.06; 18. Corey Lewis, Henderson, Nev., @ :11.12; 20. Jason Codding, Foothill Ranch, Calif., @ :11.86; 22. Caile Noble, , @ :12.78; 24. Jesse Whitsell, Monroe, N.Y., @ :14.03; 54. Chris Del Bosco, Vail, Colo., @ 32.41

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