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NORBA National Series #2 - NE

Sugar Mountian, NC, USA, June 10-June 11, 2006

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Race 4 - June 11: Downhill

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi

By Steve Medcroft in Sugar Mountain

Sam Hill'
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
(Click for larger image)

Australians Sam Hill (Monster Energy) and Tracey Hannah (Team Edge) managed to keep the rubber side down better than anyone else on the world-class Sugar Mountain downhill course on Sunday, winning their respective pro-category races. Hill, who recently won the Fort William World Cup, rode a level above his competition; finishing a full thirteen seconds ahead of second placed Justin Leov (Yeti/Fox). The next eight finishers posted times within ten seconds of each other. Seventeen year-old Hannah, little sister to pro downhiller Mick Hannah, took her first NORBA win beating the UCI World Cup's second highest ranked rider, Sabrina Jonnier (Monster Energy).

Course management 101

As with yesterday's cross-country, the winners had nothing but good things to say about the course. "This is probably the second best track I've ridden this year; after Fort William." said Hill after the race. "It was a real challenge and you had to use all your bike handling skills."

Hannah said that after her practice and qualifying runs, the course was tough enough that she decided to take a conservative approach. "The track is really technical and I knew that if you could stay on you're bike, you'd be lucky. Everyone was going to crash so I went as fast as I could but made sure I stayed on the bike."

Hill adopted a similar philosophy. "There was no room for crashes on this track," he said. "It's really technical, rocky and slippery. I tried to take it a bit easy in the rough spots and went faster where it was safer."

For Hill, the win is confirmation that his Fort William result was not a fluke and he says that his career is really starting to click. "It makes a big difference to be working with a good group and I have a really good team behind me now," he said about his seemingly new level of performance. "Everyone from the mechanic to the team manager and my teammates are awesome to work with. We're all best friends. It helps a lot." He also says that trading training tips and racing intelligence with teammate Justin Havakainen (who placed fifth) has helped his racing. "We work together and help each other, talk about where the fast spots are," he said.

17 year old Tracey Hannah'
Photo ©: Steve Medcroft
(Click for larger image)

For Hannah, the win is her first international pro victory; a huge accomplishment being that the Cairns, Australia native is just seventeen years old. "I came over two years ago and did three NORBA's but this is the first time I've been back out of Australia to race," she says. She says the influence of her older brother is a big reason for her success at such a young age. "I've always liked bikes and motorbikes but when Mick started mountain biking, I thought it was pretty sweet. I started riding a little bit, got into it and kept riding."

Hannah, who has never raced as a junior (she's raced as a pro in Australia since she was fifteen years old) is turning eighteen this year and is finished with high school. Which gives her the freedom to pursue more international experience. "I'm going to Vermont (Mount Snow NORBA, June 17) and then the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup the weekend after that. And then I'll do the rest of the NORBA's and head home for about a week." Her ultimate goal this season? "Worlds," she said with a smile.

Photography

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Steve Medcroft/Cyclingnews.com

Results

Men

1 Sam Hill (Monster Energy)    3:28.7
2 Justin Leov (Yeti/Fox)       3:41.2
3 Duncan Riffle (Honda)        3:42.7
4 Cole Bangert (Morewood)      3:47.2
5 Justin Havakainen (Monster)  3:47.4

Women

1 Tracey Hannah (Team Edge)    4:28.6
2 Sabrina Jonnier (Monster)    4:38.2
3 Kathy Pruitt (Jamis)         4:55.3
4 Joana Petterson (Morewood)   5:02.1
5 Wendy Reynolds (Bear Naked)  5:04.7