2013 Race Team Spotlight: Specialized Racing
Specialized Racing had arguably the biggest headlines of the transfer season, loosing Sam Hill to CRC but picking up Aaron Gwin from Trek World Racing in the process. Not content with focusing solely on downhill, the gravity team has also invested in a 2-racer Enduro squad to take on the Enduro World Series. The Big S looks as sharp as ever, so let's have a closer look at the 2013 roster riders and their rad rigs.
Specialized Racing: Downhill
Aaron Gwin is obviously the heavyweight on the downhill team, but his two team mates Troy Brosnan and Mitch Ropelato are both speed demons and will certainly not let the top dog rule in peace.
Aaron Gwin - @AaronGwin1 on Twitter / Aaron Gwin on Facebook
What can we say about Aaron Gwin that has not already been said? Few riders have ever reached his level of domination in DH, and certainly none of them as quickly as Aaron did. He started his cycling career off early, racing BMX from age 4, and by the age of 8 was racing all the US nationals. The progression to motocross came naturally, but Aaron quit at 17 mainly due to injuries. In 2008 US downhiller Cody Warren had the wisdom and foresight to lend Aaron a DH bike and get him into racing - Aaron's first DH outing in the Fontana Winter Series got him a 3rd place, and from that point on, history was about to be rewritten.
Yeti Cycles quickly gave Aaron his first pro ride, and 7 months after discovering DH he took 10th place at the 2008 Mont Sainte Anne UCI DH World Cup. 2009 saw him regularly finish World Cups in the top-20, and was also the year of his first DH World Cup podium with a 3rd place in Mont Sainte Anne. He joined Trek World Racing in 2011, which was to be the start of the two most dominating seasons ever seen - Aaron won five out of seven World Cup races that year, never finishing lower than 5th, and taking the overall World Cup victory with a race to spare. He would win another four World Cups on his way to a second overall victory in 2012 - even with a DNF in the last race of the season in Hafjell, Norway.
In addition to his incredible World Cup pedigree, Aaron has a long list of other assorted wins to his name, US Downhill National Champion in 2009, 2010, and 2012 for example. For 2013, there is little doubt that Aaron is still the rider to beat, even though it's hard to imagine him maintaining such outright dominance in the highly competitive World Cup. The one race that has so far eluded Aaron is the World Championships, and although we know he considers the overall World Cup title the most valuable achievement in mountain biking, you can bet he'll have his eyes on the prize in Pietermaritzburg this year. It's not the track that suits him the most, but you can never write off this Cali boy...
Troy Brosnan - @TroyBrosnan on Twitter / Troy Brosnan on Facebook
Troy Brosnan was the Junior World Downhill Champion as well as the overall Junior World Cup Champion both in 2010 and 2011, establishing himself as one of the fastest riders of his generation. He has already proven that his speed translates to the senior races as well, even though his 2012 season was cut short due to a crash that resulted in a ruptured spleen and a dislocated shoulder. Troy has been riding for Monster Energy / Specialized in one shape or another since 2010, which has provided him with an amazing environment to help him progress. Originally paired with Sam Hill and Brendan Fairclough, now in the company of Aaron Gwin on the 2013 Specialized factory team - it doesn't get much better than that! Troy is certainly putting all that talent and good influence to good use:
Taking junior success to the seniors is never an easy task, and not something to take for granted. However, Troy was already rising to that challenge during his last year as a junior in 2011, improving steadily throughout the season until finally making his first senior World Cup podium with an impressive 4th place in Val di Sole. He looked set to go off in 2012, when his season was cut short due to that nasty crash. Having missed most of the racing in 2012, we'll have to take stock after Fort William in June - the track there is a handful and will certainly be a good gauge of Troy's form and pace at the start of this season. He showed good form during the Australian race season, and looked sharp at Sea Otter - let's hope 2013 will see Troy back to his very best!
Mitch Ropelato - @Mitchropo on Twitter / Mitch.Ropelato.5 on Facebook
Your gun Mitch Ropelato is most known for his incredible speed on pumptracks and dual slalom courses, but far from a one-trick pony, he is a very versatile rider. After racing BMX as a kid, he dabbled in park riding (even trying out for the Dew tour), before finally getting into gravity mountain biking in 2006 (inspired by Peaty's part in Alex Rankin's "Earthed 3"). He has been riding for Specialized on various teams and in different configurations on and off since 2010, and he was also a member of the Steve Peat Syndicate North America in 2010. In 2012, he filled in for injured Troy Brosnan on the UCI DH World Cup, ending that season on a positive note with a career high 13th place at the Val d'Isere World Cup.
For 2013, Mitch has been given a full-time roster spot on the Specialized Racing team, with the whole World Cup, World Champs, and many other events on the calendar, which should allow him to develop his riding to its full potential. There is no question that Mitch has the speed and the bike skills, and with a few years of experience under his belt, he could be in for a breakout year. Watch this (air)space!
Specialized Racing: Enduro
Specialized Racing has put together a 2-rider Enduro squad for 2013, comprised of Anneke Beerten and Curtis Keene. With full factory support, the team will take on the whole Enduro World Series, other select Enduro races, as well as certain 4X events for Anneke (including World Championships).
Anneke Beerten - @annekebeerten on Twitter / annekebeertenracing on Facebook
Anneke Beerten started racing BMX as a toddler, and racing is what she has been doing since then. It is not polite to discuss a lady's age, but suffice it to say that Anneke has been a fixture on the gravity racing scene for a long time. As a 4 times 4X UCI World Cup overall winner and twice 4X UCI World Champion, Anneke has little to prove, but the Enduro World Series provides her with a fresh challenge, and one that she is eager to take on:
2013 has been good to Anneke so far. She had a great outing at Sea Otter, taking third in the slalom and then third again in the DH on her 29er Stumpy. She also won the 2 first races in the 2013 Specialized SRAM Enduro Series, in Treuchtlingen and Riva del Garda, before grabbing a solid 4th spot in the first Enduro World Series event of the year, in Punta Ala. She is taking this year to learn the Enduro format, but with her bike skills, XC-level fitness, and competitive drive, don't be surprised to see her contending for EWS podiums in 2013 already! (For more on Anneke, you can check out her interview in our Ultimate Guide to the 2013 Enduro World Series feature as well).
Curtis Keene - @CurtisKeene on Twitter / CurtisKeene on FaceBook
Curtis "The American Dream" Keene has been riding and racing bikes for a long time. Between World Cup DH and other assorted races around the world, he has been shredding Specialized bikes since 2008, and with Curtis looking to focus on Enduro, the reigning North American Enduro Tour champion was a natural choice for the Specialized Racing Enduro team.
2013 is off to a great start for Curtis, with a very respectable 16th place in the opening Enduro World Series race in Punta Ala - finishing ahead of Nicolas Vouilloz, Steve Peat, CG, and many more (among the 380 riders who finished the event!). Curtis will be looking to build on this result and claim his spot among the top 10 Enduro racers in the world in 2013. Go 'Merica!
Specialized Racing Team Bikes
The Specialized Demo is a legendary bike - it 's been around in one shape or the other since the glory days of hucking (when the early model tank-like Demos were the prime choice for landing gear out there), and has by now evolved into a highly refined World Championship winning race weapon. For 2013, the team will actually be running 2 versions of this bike, built around the top-end carbon S-WORKS Demo 8 frame. The main build will feature Rockshox Boxxers, Cane Creek DB rear shock, SRAM drivetrain and brakes, e13 chainguides, Renthal bars and stem, DT Swiss wheels, and Specialized tires, while Aaron Gwin will remain on FOX suspension as his personal preference. Nifty tricks include a custom 9-20 rear cassette that allows the team to run smaller chainrings for improved clearance.
The Enduro team is spoiled for choice - between the Enduro 26, the Enduro 29, and the Stumpjumper 29, there is a bike for any venue. Anneke has been racing both the Stumpjumper 29er and the Enduro 26er so far this year, while Curtis took the Stumpy 29er to the opening Enduro World Series round in Punta Ala - a surprising choice given the technical nature of the trails there, but which clearly shows that any of the platforms available to the team are competitive. Catch our long-term review of the Enduro 29er HERE.
The Enduro bikes will feature SRAM builds, with additional Specialized Command Post BlackLite, S-Works MTB shoes, saddles and tires as well as Roval wheels.