By Steve Medcroft
After shuffling the deck of the Luna Women's MTB team for 2006, team management unfortunately left former junior world champion and 2005 NORBA downhill series champion Kathy Pruitt off the roster.
"Back in September, I had no idea Luna was going to give me the kind of news that I got the day before Interbike," Pruitt said from her winter stomping ground in Volksrust, South Africa. "I had a lunch meeting with team director Paul McKenzie in Oakland, CA." At the meeting, Pruitt was told Luna was not going to renew her contract.
"Kathy is a fantastic rider and we'd love to keep her on the team," McKenzie said on Wednesday. "But several factors have come into play which have influenced our decision." McKenzie says that with Marla Streb moving away from competition, it is economically difficult to support only one gravity rider and, according to McKenzie, "the state of female gravity competition in the U.S. right now is such that Kathy doesn't have much competition so we didn't want to add another gravity rider."
McKenzie says Luna felt they couldn't support Pruitt's ambitions to expand her role in downhill either. "Kathy wants to/needs to compete on the World Cup circuit," he said. "Our products are distributed only in North America so that's not our focus."
The final factor affecting the decision is that Luna "plans to branch out more next year, competing in some road races, 24 hour events, and XTERRA events." Types of events that don't line up with Pruitt's strengths.
Where does that leave the NORBA series downhill champion? "The change in plans was quick," Pruitt said. "Luckily, I still had Interbike to spread the word that I was now unemployed and looking earnestly for a new sponsor. It's the middle of November. I'm two months into my search for a new team and sponsors to represent during the upcoming mtb race season." And have not yet settled on a program.
"I do have some positive leads though and I truly hope that one of them works out," she says. "It's important for me to continue to represent a company while showing people around the world how fun a mtb can be. It's great to see young kid's faces light up when you are riding down a trail full tilt past him and you hear him say, "cool". Or "that was a chick, wow"
While she searches for a new sponsor, Pruitt will ride out the winter in South Africa. "I go home to Northern California March 26th," she says. "Hopefully, for the racing season to begin and for me to get out there and compete." But without a team, she may be faced with sitting a year out.
Parties interested in talking to Pruitt about opportunities to represent them in 2006 should email her at KathyPruitt@earthlink.net.