2013 Race Team Spotlight: Giant Factory Off-Road 1
As the 2013 gravity and enduro race season approaches, it is clear that Giant Bicycles are ready for results with the rider line-up on the Giant Factory Off-Road race squad. Let's take a look at the talent and equipment that we'll see blazing between the tape in 2013 at World Cup downhill and Enduro World Series events.
Giant Factory Off-Road Downhill Riders
Familiar gravity faces from previous years return in the form of Danny Hart and Andrew Neethling, now joined by newcomer, Marcelo Gutierrez. The Colombian up-and-comer rounds out the downhill specialists on the team.
Danny Hart - @DannyHart1 on Twitter / DannyHart8 on Facebook
Danny, famous for his nasty motowhips and mind-blowing World Championship-winning run at Champery in 2011, is looking for redemption in 2013 after a shoulder separation cut his 2012 season short. Prior to his injury last year, Danny had earned three 2012 World Cup podiums, proving his 2011 World Championship was well-deserved. The 2013 World Cup downhill season kicks off at Fort William, so Danny will have a home court advantage as the season kicks off. Fort William has been good to Danny with 2nd place finishes in both 2011 and 2012. The steep, aggressive track of Val di Sole follows Fort William on the UCI World Cup downhill calendar which also bodes well for Danny's fast and loose riding style. With the potential for solid early season results, we're already on the edge of our seats in anticipation for World Cup racing to begin.
Andrew Neethling - @AndrewNeethling on Twitter / AndrewNeethling00 on Facebook
South African downhiller, Andrew Neethling, returns to the Giant Factory Off-Road squad with series of top 10 finishes in 2012. Known for his smooth style and diverse abilities on the downhill bike or the dirt jump hardtail, Neethling seeks a break-out performance in 2013. "Needles" has been chipping away at the mental aspect of the World Cup downhill game. His riding skill and bike handling ability are more than capable of putting him on the top of the box. In 2010, he earned a 4th place podium finish at Val di Sole, proving he has podium speed, but he has yet to carry momentum from his strongest finishes through the season. His experience on the 2013 courses should be a major asset and World Championships in his home country of South Africa should fuel his fire this season.
Marcelo Gutierrez - @MarceloGuvi on Twitter / Marcelo-Gutierrez on Facebook
The 2013 season isn't even really underway yet, but the new kid on the Giant block has three heavy victories under his belt. The Colombian native proved his addition to the high-profile team was no fluke by winning three big DH races before spring. Marcelo started by winning the 2013 Manizales Urban DH race, the Gouveia International DH race in Portugal (against his fellow team mates and other World Cup riders) as well as the pinnacle of all Urban DH races, the Valparaiso Cerro Abajo. Racing on dirt or on cement stairs, Marcelo has proven he has the competitive spirit to tackle the top of the World Cup field. No stranger to the World Cups, Marcelo was part of the CG Racing Brigade in 2012 consistently finishing in the 30's and pounding out a 10th place at the 2012 World Championships in Leogang. It's safe to say all eyes are on Marcelo in 2013.
Take the winning Urban DH run at Valparaiso Cerro Abajo with Marcelo Gutierrez
Giant Factory Off-Road Enduro Athletes - Adam Craig, Carl Decker, Kelli Emmett and Josh Carlson
The buzz for 2013 is all about enduro, a race format which Giant has embraced for a few years now. Giant increases the scope of their enduro focus with the addition of Adam Craig. Previously a member of the Rabobank-Giant team (now the Giant Pro XC Team), Oregon do-it-all shredder, Craig, joins the already-stacked Factory Off-Road Team. As the 2012 U.S. Super D Champion, Craig says of 2013, "I have a pretty sweet schedule lined up, pretty much hitting all the most interesting races out there."
Adam Craig Shredding at Home in Bend, Oregon
As Giant reported in their team press release, "Craig will be joined by fellow Oregon resident Carl Decker, the three-time defending champion of the Downieville All-Mountain World Championship, as well as Kelli Emmett, the current U.S. women’s Super D national champion. And Australian Josh Carlson, a breakout talent on the enduro-racing scene last year, rounds out the enduro/XC arm of the 2013 team."
Giant Factory Off-Road Team Bikes
A few weeks ago, Andrew Neethling posted up this photo of a 2013 Giant Glory race bike that he had been testing. In addition to the Glory DH bikes, Giant indicates that the downhill team riders will also use Giant Reign X bikes for competitive DH events when the tracks mellow out. Aside from graphical changes and possible geometry changes we can't detect, the 2013 Glory downhill frames look identical to what the team used in 2012. Why change a good thing? The team continues to run full SRAM drivetrain and brake kits, RockShox suspension and Schwalbe tires. For comparison, you can view Andrew's 2012 Giant Glory race bikes here.
The real news bike news from Giant came a few days ago as we broke the story on prototype carbon 650b bikes that Giant displayed at the team media camp. Giant Factory Off-Road Enduro and XC riders, Adam Craig and Kelli Emmett had prototype bikes featuring carbon fiber main frames and 650b wheels. There were two different bikes, one longer-travel bike (possibly 5-6-inches) and one shorter-travel bike 4-inches).
The enduro and XC riders will continue to race on Anthem X 29 and Trance X 29 bikes, but the introduction of these 650b bikes is quite interesting. Is it a statement about the performance of 29ers on the technical, rough courses? Did the riders ask for a 650b bike option for tight, aggressive enduro course? Will these 650 bikes be available to the downhill riders for races like Sea Otter? Time will tell and we can't wait for the answers.