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Editor's note:
I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 Giant Factory Off-Road Team presentation last night in Santa Barbara. It was great to catch up with Duncan and Needles, as well as meet Danny "shaggy" Hart for the first time. It's been warm in SoCal for the last few days and one of the hot topics of the evening was Danny and his "tan."
     The boys are looking fit and have that pre-season fire in their eyes, ready for competition to begin. The DH riders will head to the Port Angeles ProGRT in a few days, back to Sea Otter and then off to Pietermaritzburg for the first World Cup.
     World Cup legend, Oscar Saiz, is coaching the team again this year, using his experience to help each rider develop their focus and program to maximize their success.

     Danny's DH bike was on display and looked pretty stock with SRAM head-to-toe and Schwalbe tires. I noticed a Cane Creek Angleset in there to rake out the fork a bit, but couldn't see anything else that stuck out as custom or modified.
    Thanks to Giant for a nice evening and stay tuned for a Vital video concept that Duncan and Needles guinea-pigged for all of you. -spomer
Giant Factory Off-Road Team bikes.  
And now the official press release (photos by Jake Orness)
South African downhiller Andrew Neethling and British XC Olympian Liam Killeen add depth to Giant’s lineup

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (March 31, 2011) — The Giant Factory Off-Road Team gathered in Santa Barbara, California, this week for its pre-season team camp. With several new riders, including top World Cup contenders in downhill and cross-country, the team will field its strongest lineup ever in 2011.
Neethling on his new bike looking right at home.
This year South African downhiller Andrew Neethling and five-time British cross-country champion Liam Killeen join a diverse squad that includes 19-year-old World Cup downhill sensation Danny Hart of Great Britain. All three of these riders have already collected their first wins in early-season 2011 racing. The California team camp marked the first opportunity for the team and staff to get together and meet with equipment sponsors and the media.

The downhill squad will be led by Hart, who last year emerged as the world’s top young downhill racer. After winning the 2009 Junior World Cup title, Hart made a successful transition to the elites in 2010, racing his Giant Glory to eighth overall in the World Cup series and eighth at the World Championships. The only top-10 rider under age 20, he was widely recognized as the future of downhill racing.  

“I am super happy to be a part of the Giant program for the foreseeable future,” Hart said. “I had a great 2010 season, and this year is going to be better.”

With a win at the March 20 Maxxis Cup opener in Portugal, Hart is already off to a great start in 2011.

Neethling, a consistent top-10 World Cup finisher and winner of the 2010 U.S. Open, already has two wins on the Giant Glory this year. The newest downhill member of the team won both the South African National Championship and the African Continental Championship over the last two months.

“Giant has always had a great racing heritage and I’m really excited to be part of the team,” Neethling said. “I know I now have the bikes, support and environment to reach all my racing goals.”
Riffle ready for the 2011 season.
The third member of the downhill squad is two-time U.S. National Champion Duncan Riffle.

The XC division of the team sees the return of veteran Carl Decker, whose successful 2010 season on the Anthem X 29er included wins at several major U.S. events including the All-Mountain World Championships in Downieville, California, and the Super D at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California.
Danny Hart, striped socks are the key to speed.
Also returning this year is diverse all-around talent Kelli Emmett, defending champion of the Downieville All-Mountain Worlds. Emmett has won races ranging from short-track and Super D national titles to Single-Speed World Championships and will continue to focus on a wide range of endurance events.

New to the XC team is British national champion Killeen, a two-time Olympian who is aiming for his third Summer Games at London 2012.

Also new this year is a team partnership with SRAM. All Factory Team bikes will be “Powered by SRAM” featuring the latest cutting edge components including SRAM drivetrains, Truvativ componentry, Avid brakes and RockShox suspension. Other new sponsors include DT Swiss wheelsets and Schwalbe tires, and Fox Head extends its commitment to the program by supplying kits and apparel.

The team has a full quiver of Giant bikes for every type of terrain—from lightweight composite hardtails to full-suspension bikes. Cross-country riders will race on Giant Anthem X Advanced SL and Anthem X 29er framesets with Maestro Suspension, as well as XtC Advanced SL and the all-new XtC Composite 29er hardtails. For downhill, the team will rely on the Maestro-equipped Giant Glory frameset.

For photos, videos, news and other inside information on the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, follow them at giant-bicycles.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/giantfactoryteam.

2011 Giant Factory Off-Road Team
Carl Decker (USA), XC, ST, Super D
Kelli Emmett (USA), XC, ST, Super D
Danny Hart (Great Britain), 4X, DH, DS
Liam Killeen (Great Britain), XC, ST, Marathon
Andrew Neethling (South Africa), 4X, DH, DS
Duncan Riffle (USA), 4X, DH, DS

About Giant
Giant, the world’s leading provider of high-quality bicycles, has been devoted to cycling culture and sport since 1972. Today, Giant combines innovative technology and manufacturing expertise to create products that are perfectly suited to every type of rider. Committed to inspiring adventure in all cyclists, from casual to competitive, Giant aims to promote the cycling lifestyle all around the world. For more information, go to giant-bicycles.com.
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