Professional downhill mountain bike racer Cameron Cole, of Christchurch, New Zealand, has signed with Yeti to race the UCI Downhill World Cup series, World Downhill Mountain Bike Championships and selected enduro events for 2013 and 2014.
Cole’s two-year contract with Yeti comes at a pivotal moment in his career as the likeable Kiwi continues his rise to the very top of the world’s elite.
Cole is currently ranked 15th in the world in the UCI standings.
“There is a lot of history in Yeti,” Cole smiles.
“It’s one of those teams that has been quite influential since day dot as far as downhill is concerned. It’s pretty cool to be a part of that and to tap into that depth of knowledge about the sport.”
The Golden, Colorado-based head of Yeti Cycles, Chris Conroy said he had been watching Cole for some time – "since his Junior World Championship".
"People always wonder how Yeti gets so lucky with its racers, but it’s not luck – a lot of what we see in Cam is what we have learned from other riders," offers Conroy.
"We’ll ask our guys who they like and who they feel is ready to uncork it and Cam was right at the top of that list."
Conroy continued to explain that Cole was a great fit in many ways.
"He is a quiet 'get it done' kind of racer and from a testing perspective we liked that he is a big and powerful rider," he shares.
At 6'2" Cole allows Yeti to do the testing that it can’t do with lighter, more nimble riders.
"Cam gives us a chance to do that real-world testing with a big powerful guy that can supplement our lab testing," adds Conroy.
Cole said he was excited to be riding on one of the top brands in the pinnacle sport of downhill mountain bike racing.
"I’ve signed for two years, but I think that will just be a small chunk of it," he explains.
"The direction they are heading is aligned with mine as an athlete on and off the track and I can see this relationship being a strong one."
Cole said he had enjoyed his past two years with the Lapierre International Team.
“It’s always a bit sad leaving a team behind – I’ve had four World Cup podiums with Lapierre – we achieved some good things and I have learnt a lot – I thank the Lapierre International Team for that, but this feels like a new chapter for me and I am really excited."
Kiwi riders have featured on the Yeti team before with Sam Blenkinsop, of Whanganui, and Justin Leov, of Dunedin, racing for the Yeti team over the years.
The Yeti team is fully supported by leading suspension manfacturer Fox Racing Shox.
“I love Fox suspension, so that was an essential requirement for a team and it's a real bonus with Yeti having a really strong relationship there," he shares.
"I’ve been riding Fox since day one of my international career so I am excited to continue working with them, help them develop their products and keep that relationship going. I’ll also be back on Maxxis tyres as well and that’s something I am really excited about, too."
Joining Cole on the Yeti team for the 2013 season will be polished professional Jared Graves, of Toowoomba, Australia, and rising star Richie Rude, of Connecticut, USA.
"Richie will be looking to get a Junior World Championship and he’s well positioned to do so in 2013," offers Cole.
"Richie's right there and I think he’s going to be the next junior to come through and knock on the door of the podium at World Cups. I like being on a team with young blood around – it reminds you why you started racing and the excitement and enthusiasm is contagious."
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Jared Graves and he’s really nice, down-to-earth and one of the gnarliest guys out there when racing a downhill bike. He’s achieved so much in his career and I can learn a lot from him."
Cole said the team manager and mechanics were also part of that vibrant culture that made this team such a success.
"We’re all very similar people and will work well together for the coming season."
Cole will race the 303 DH in downhill races and the SB-66 in selected enduro events.
"I’m looking forward to riding the new 303 DH – it’s quite different to my bike from last year in its design. From what I have seen and heard the design is great and I can’t wait to get on it."
Cole will first ride the new bike in December. In the meantime he is training on the Yeti SB-66 Carbon for enduro and trail riding.
Part of Cole's role on the Yeti team will be bike development.
"That is a big thing – we’ll be involved in the new bikes at a very early stage. I’m looking forward to working with their engineers and getting stuff going right from the start of the design process. It’s a real buzz to see finished products when you have helped design them."
Conroy explained that bike development was always key for Yeti and its racers.
"Whenever we look at racers like Cam we look and say, okay, he’s a top-10 rider – that’s assured. The second thing we look at is, okay, he’s a top-10 rider, but does he have a win in him? It’s a little bit of a different value proposition with a guy who can uncork one for a win versus a guy who is always top-10. Then we talk to our sponsors and the guys who have to work with them everyday. Then we talk to the team guys and we ask is this a person who can fit into our programme. We know that if we get a racer in the team and the chemistry isn’t just right, then it can ruin everything," shares Conroy.
"We asked those questions of Cam and he was a perfect fit for our programme."
Cole proved to be one of the top racers in the World Cups in 2012 and hit the off-season (the Kiwi summer) injury free.
"I’ve kept on top of my fitness – I avoided any slump this year and so my base fitness is really good and I can hit the pre-season races really hard and be strong and ready for the first World Cup at Fort William [Scotland] in June," he explains.
“Fort William is a great track for me and so I am excited to open the season there. I really want to enjoy the season this year – I enjoy the process to get to where I want to go and I feel very motivated. I know I am strong and so I’m just going to build on that," he offers.
“It’s real easy for me to get out of bed and get up and get into my training each day," he admits.
"I qualified first this year at a World Cup and I know my speed is there now – I’m not going to rush in and force it to happen, but I feel like I can win World Cups this year."
“Everything that we have in place with Yeti is going to make that goal a lot easier for me.”