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2013 Race Team Spotlight: Santa Cruz Syndicate

2013 Race Team Spotlight: Santa Cruz Syndicate

The Santa Cruz Syndicate is synonymous with racing. It all started in 2005, when Nathan Rennie, John Waddell and Steve Peat went rampaging through the World Cup together under the newly formed Santa Cruz team and since then The Syndicate has been one of the most successful downhill teams of all time.

Today, two of the three riders on the team together hold over 100 World Cup podiums, 3 World Championship titles, 6 overall World Cup titles, and 33 World Cup wins. The team is notoriously quiet in the off-season, so it was no big surprise to find its downhill roster unchanged for 2013 - the way it has been since 2008. Read on to get to know this incredible collection of talent, both on the bikes and in the company producing them.

Steve Peat - @StevePeat on Twitter / Steve Peat on Facebook
In the 1990's, who was giving Nico Vouilloz a hard time? Steve Peat was. Who was there to put up a fight when Minnaar and Rennie burst onto the scene? Peaty was. Who gave Sam Hill a good run for his money? Sir Steve Peat did. Who was snatching wins from Gee Atherton? The King, of course. Who went head-to-head with Fabien Barel, with Cedric Gracia, with Marc Beaumont? Sheffield Steel, who else? Who, at the age of 37, finished ahead of every young gun and new kid on the block aside from Gwin at the 2011 Windham World Cup? Old Skool did. Speaking of school, who took all the pumptrack slayers and berm slashers back to the classroom with a second place at the Sea Otter Dual Slalom a few weeks ago? That's right, you guessed it, the one-and-only Steve Peat did.

Peaty and the Syndicate as it stood in 2006 with John Waddell, Nathan Rennie and Jamie Goldman. -gordo

Peaty (right) turns 38 during the 2012 Mont Sainte Anne World Cup - photo by Sven Martin

Peaty on his way to 2nd place in the 2013 Sea Otter Dual Slalom. Photo by Cade VanHeel

Steve Peat started racing bikes when dinosaurs walked the earth, and as a true testament to the man that he is, he survived that whole species. From back in the days when you'd race XC and DH on the same bike, Peaty has been along for the whole ride. He started his 100th World Cup DH race in 2012 - when you know how short a DH season is, that really puts his career into perspective. And not only has he been around since the very beginning, he has remained competitive throughout it all - with 52 World Cup podiums, 17 World Cup wins, 3 overall World Cup titles, 9 British Champion titles, and 1 World Champion title to his name. The man from Sheffield could easily make a case for the title of Greatest Of All Time (if such a title were ever needed).

After so many years of frustration and near misses, Peaty finally grabs his World Championship in Canberra in 2009.

Steve Peat and the Downhill World Championship, that's a story in itself. (Actually, you can buy the book here). For all his success, that one title looked like it might elude him forever. After so many near misses, and real heartache along the way, the world, and maybe Peaty himself, had come to accept that he would not be defined by that one race. Finally the stars aligned, and in 2009 the big man used every ounce of his trademark speed-carrying skill to bang out the run that would break the Mother of all Ducks in Canberra, Australia. All of mountain biking collectively sighed of relief.

Steve Peat wins the Downhill World Champion gold medal at Canberra, Australia 2009 Credit: John Lawlor

For 2013, what will racing bring for Peaty? Only time will tell, but what we already know is what Peaty will bring to racing. Aside from a full World Cup schedule (we're not going to talk about the R-word in this article...retirement), Peaty is heavily involved on every front, giving back to the sport that he loves. The Steve Peat Syndicate (SPS) provides a full race support program to up-and-coming talent around the world. His Steel City DH race raises money for forest management and trail building around Sheffield. His involvement with Ultimate Experience has raised over 55000 pounds for the fight against cancer. He's even giving Enduro a shot for 2013 - Peaty just finished a respectable 30th at the inaugural Enduro World Series race in Punta Ala, Italy. With all that, you'd forgive the big man for slowing down a little - only that's not true, is it? After being hampered by injury in 2012, he looks fresh and once again ready to take on the fastest racers in the world for 2013. Cheers Peaty!

Greg Minnaar - @GregMinnaar on Twitter / Greg Minnaar on Facebook

Your current 2012 World Champ, Greg Minnar. photo by Sven Martin

You'd be forgiven if you wanted to turn Greg into Peaty's nemesis - in truth, they are the ultimate definition of teammates. Having come into the sport a bit later than Steve, but with a very similar track record, you'd be tempted to say he's nipping at Peaty's heels, when in reality, we are talking about 2 athletes at the very top of their game, and who have been there for a very long time. Minnaar's first World Cup win came in 2001, and since then, he's gone on to add 15 more. Greg has taken the overall World Cup 3 times, the World Championship title twice, and has finished 2nd overall in the last 4 seasons (to Hill, Atherton, and twice to Gwin).

Greg Minnaar shredding the life out of most every track on earth, and shooting the breeze with Spomer

The South African is certainly one of the most complete riders in the game today (or ever). He has phenomenal bike skills, is as fit as an XC racer, and could jump a house if he needed to. He is pretty much at home on any track, but perhaps his most impressive trait is his ability to always be competitive. Bad run in quali's? No problem. Greg will pull seconds back in his race run and end up on the podium. Fastest qualifier, last man down the hill, unfathomable pressure to perform? Covered. Greg will hit all his lines and hold on to top spot. You can even ask the man to pull backflips on his DH bike he'll do it in style:

The Syndicate filming for "This is Peaty" Season 2

For 2013, Greg won't find it hard coming up with new goals. First of all, he'll be a bit tired of coming 2nd in the overall World Cup standings, after doing so 4 years in a row. With his consistent speed, we expect him to once again challenge for the top spot this year. There are many tracks that suit him well on the schedule, and none where he appears to struggle.

Greg Minnaar pouring on the style down the motorway at Fort William, Scotland. Photo by Chris Bortels


Topping it all off, the 2013 World Championships will be held in his hometown Pietermaritzburg, South Africa - a track where Greg has already won a World Cup and which suits his fitness and speed to a T. Although Greg already holds all the impressive titles you can win in downhill mountain biking, you can be sure he'd rank a hometown World Champs victory in front of his friends and family right up there on his most-wanted list. Go Saffa!

Josh Bryceland - @Ratboy_Bryce on Twitter / Josh Bryceland on Facebook

Bryceland Airlines. photo by Duncan Philpott

Hailing from Manchester, UK, Josh "Ratboy" Bryceland is still the youngster on the Syndicate, even though he's been part of the team for 6 years. Junior World Cup Champion in 2007 and 2008 and Junior World Champion in 2008, Josh is ridiculously talented on anything with 2 wheels (and he fancies himself quite the drift king on 4 wheels too). One of those riders with effortless speed and style on the bike, you can bet Josh will be the one to whip all the jumps and let it all hang out through the rockgarden. Typically a flat pedal rider, he has dabbled with clips in the odd World Cup, searching for that ever-elusive extra advantage - it's probably fair to say that the jury is still out on that one.

The Syndicate and CG giving the all-new Santa Cruz Bronson a thrashing it won't soon forget. Josh in the red shirt...

Josh is a regular top-10 World Cup rider, with occasional podiums and a career-best 2nd place to date (in Mont Sainte Anne in 2011). 2012 was his most consistent World Cup season so far, which saw him finish in 6th place overall, showing that he has the speed and the consistency to contend at any venue. He also has a win at a round of the highly competitive British Downhill Series to his name, and good placings in various other events.

Ratboy getting loose as a goose in Mont Sainte Anne - photo by Sven Martin

Josh seems highly motivated going into 2013. With a few of the other riders of the recent generation bagging their first World Cup wins in 2012 (Brook Macdonald, Stevie Smith), Josh will be anxious to finally prove that he can get the job done on the big boy tour too.

English Language Test with Josh Bryceland


In an audio clip we left out of the Enduro World Series 1 slideshow, Josh indicated that he would have rather been in the gym, working on his training program than racing the enduro. For "Miami Bryce" to want the gym over riding proves he is 100-percent focused on a World Cup DH victory in 2013.

Honorary Syndicate Member: Cedric Gracia - @CedricGracia on Twitter / Cedric Gracia on Facebook

Although Cedric Gracia is technically not a member of the Syndicate per se, ever since he brought his CG Racing Brigade over to Santa Cruz from Commencal in 2010, he has been very much part of the Santa Cruz family. And what racing family wouldn't want CG? One of the sport's most iconic figures, CG has had a hand in everything gravity racing since, well, forever. Junior World DH Champion in 1995, first World Cup win in 2000, winner of the 2003 Red Bull Rampage, consistently among the world's top 5 DH and 4X racers in 2005, 2006...CG's bio is impressive.

CG Racing Brigade Team Presentation 2013

Victim of a very serious hip-breaking crash at Val di Sole in 2012, you wouldn't blame him if he'd lost his appetite for racing. But that wouldn't be knowing CG very well. He is most definitely back and looking as menacing as ever on the bike. The ultimate showman, CG is the kind of rider who will pull one-footed tables in the middle of his DH runs, and boy are we happy to have him back! For 2013, he'll race both World Cup DH and the Enduro World Series, and we're already looking forward to his unpredictable antics both on and off the bike. Go CG!

CG at the 2010 Rampage, checking the wind (aka flipping Sven Martin the bird!).

Santa Cruz Syndicate Bikes

Greg Minnaar on the 2013 Santa Cruz V10. Photo by Brandon Turman.

The Santa Cruz V10 is a legendary DH bike if ever there was one. It's actually been around since 2001, but today's version has very little in common with the original, except for the name, travel, and general linkage style. Now a FULL carbon frame (since  2012), the V10 offers adjustable rear travel, 8.5-inches or 10-inches. The Syndicate is all in at the carbon table, with ENVE Composites providing carbon DH wheels and carbon bars and seatpost. Shimano supplies drivetrain and brakes, while FOX is on suspension duty. The Syndicate rolls on Maxxis rubber.

CG on picking a bike for Enduro.

For Enduro racing, the Syndicate riders are spoiled for choice. Between the all-new Bronson, the Blur TRc and the Tallboy LT Carbon, the Syndicate can provide a bike fit for any venue. The Enduro rigs are built using parts from the same suppliers as for the DH bikes (above), including AM carbon wheels from ENVE. Suffice it to say, that if the Syndicate boys don't pull out the results in the Enduro World Series, it's most probably not going to be because of the bikes.

That concludes our look at one of the most tightly-knit and homogeneous race teams on tour. To join in the family fun, check out the Santa Cruz website, or surf on over to the Facebook page for all the latest news, views, and brews...

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