MTB Teams 2017
BY SANDRA WALTER
The 2017 season will see many changes to its roster of Canadian mountain-bike teams in the form of new sponsors, riders and additions, as the Norco Factory XC Team debuts with a UCI World Cup designation, 3 Rox Racing gains Cannondale as its title sponsor, whilst MVP Geoff Kabush (BC, Scott-Maxxis) branches off on his own and Forward Racing debuts. Meanwhile, the downhill scene loses two major teams in Devinci Global Racing and OGC/Intense/Fox.
Following the lead of its Downhill/Enduro counterpart, the Norco Factory XC Team has upgraded from a Canadian Trade Team to a UCI World Cup squad, which will see it shift focus from the national to the world stage. The roster has also been pared down to only three riders – Elite woman Haley Smith (ON), Elite man Peter Disera (ON) and U23 man Quinton Disera (ON). “We believe that Haley, Peter and Quinton all have the talent to be successful on the world stage, and elevating the Norco Factory Team program to the World Cup level will provide them the opportunity to develop as we approach the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” said Kevin Haviland, team coordinator.
Meanwhile, Norco continues its domestic presence with the allnew Forward Racing squad, featuring a trio of Canada’s top male cross-country racers – Andrew L’Esperance (NS), Evan McNeely (ON) and Sean Fincham (BC). The project is directed by former longtime Norco Factory Team riders L’Esperance and McNeely, who retained the support of many of the same sponsors, including Norco. “We are very excited to be working with Norco Bicycles. The athletes have a strong history with the brand and are thrilled to be on the Revolver again this season,” said L’Esperance. In addition to select North American events, Forward Racing will be contesting four World Cup rounds.
The long-lived 3 Rox Racing program has made some big changes this year. After its contract with Scott Sports ended in 2016, the squad took on Cannondale as its title sponsor and, in turn, gained Canadian rocket and Olympian Raphael Gagné (QC) on its roster, which includes Canadian champion Derek Zandstra (ON) and American champion Erin Huck (USA), plus newly signed U.S. hotshot Keegan Swenson (USA). They will focus once again on World Cups and major North American races. The team sees headliner Kabush move on, as he continues to ride Scott bikes at a selection of North American events.
The Ontario-based Trek Canada Mountain Bike Team is led by U23 World Cup’er Soren Meeuwisse (ON). She is joined by domestic riders Sarah Fabbro, Jon Barnes and Peter Glassford, who will focus on Canada Cups, Ontario Cups and the Mont-Ste-Anne World Cup.
The Pivot-OTE Team, backed by Canadian Pivot Cycles distributor On The Edge Sports, has expanded its program to include four-time Canadian champion Frederique Trudel (QC) as she competes in her first season in the Elite women’s field. Fellow team newbie former junior National champion Marc-André Fortier (QC) is targeting World Cups in the U23 men’s ranks. Returning members Raphael Auclair (QC), Felix Belhumeur (QC), Mathieu Belanger (QC) and Philippe St-Laurent (QC) will join their new teammates racing on the Pivot LES and Mach 429 SL steeds. Also joining the OTE family this year is former Norco Factory Team rider Evan Guthrie (BC), running his own privateer project “Team Solo Guthrie.”
The B.C.-based Rocky Mountain Factory XC Team is a mix of hardened veterans and young guns. Last year’s Canadian junior women’s XCO champion Emily Handford (BC) will tackle her first year as a U23, while Quinn Moburg (BC) takes his first crack at the Elite men’s ranks. Felix Burke (QC) aims to progress in the U23 men’s category after a strong 2016. The youngsters are joined by Canadian legend Andreas Hestler (BC) and Greg Day (BC).
Club Cyclone d’Alma, based out of Quebec’s remote Lac-St-Jean region, has seen great success in mountain biking on the national and international stages, thanks in large part to 2016 Olympian Léandre Bouchard (QC) and his coach, 2016 Cycling Canada Coach of the Year, Jude Dufour (QC). As Bouchard moves onto international Professional team BH-Suntour, he leaves a legacy for his former Cyclone teammates, including Canadian U23 women’s XCO champion Catherine Fleury (QC), who earned her first World Cup podium last year. She is joined by Canadian Eliminator champion Anne-Julie Tremblay, as well as Stéphanie Tremblay, William Maltais-Pilote and Noémie Tremblay.
Another small Quebec team that has produced great results, courtesy of Canadian Team rider and multiple Canadian Championship medalist Cindy Montambault, is Trek-GPL. Montambault enters the 2017 season with a continued focus on World Cups and World Championship qualification.
The Vancouver-based Dunbar Cycles squad has a long tradition of supporting great Canadian downhill’ers, and 2017 is no exception as Elite men’s Canadian Downhill champion Kirk McDowall (BC) leads fellow speedsters Andrew Mitchell (BC) and Dean Tennant (BC) on the small shop-supported crew.
The Norco Factory Racing Downhill/Enduro squad is headed once again by Kiwi superstar Sam Blenkinsop (NZL). He is joined by young Canuck shredder Henry Fitzgerald (CAN) and Brit Joe Smith (GBR). While Fitzgerald will focus on downhill, both Blenkinsop and Smith will contest a combo of World Cup downhill, Enduro World Series and Crankworx events. “Joining the Norco Factory team is an unreal opportunity for me,” said Fitzgerald. “The team is the full package, with an exciting bike, outstanding support and an awesome crew. I can’t wait [for] my first year of Elite with such a great team to learn from.”
Even though Devinci Global Racing has suspended its downhill
program this year, the brand will continue to support racing through its Devinci Global Racing Enduro Team, led by Frenchman Damien Oton (FRA) and Théo Galy (FRA). In a press release, Devinci Global Racing explained how the tragic loss of its star rider Steve Smith (BC) last spring affected the organization: “This sad news was hard on everyone at Devinci, and it also had a major impact on riders and fans all over the world. Steve’s contribution and commitment to the Devinci brand, but most importantly to the sport, will always be remembered.”
The statement continued to explain the reasoning behind dissolving the downhill program: “Unable to put together a team that met our expectations, we took the decision to step away from UCI downhill racing for 2017. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but we hope to return to World Cup racing in the very near future.”
Rocky Mountain remains a pillar on the competitive Gravity mountain-biking scene with its Rocky Mountain Urge BP Rally Team, the top-ranked squad on the Enduro World Series circuit in 2016. It hangs on to its strong Canadian content in 2017 in the form of Jesse Melamed (BC), Remi Gauvin (BC) and Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau (QC). The roster is topped off with Frenchmen Florian Nicolai (FRA) and Sebastien Claquin (FRA), as well as American Peter Ostroski (USA). Nadeau and Ostroski will focus on the North American scene, while the rest of the crew plans to hit up all of the Enduro World Series stops.
The new Norco Factory XC Team is now as a UCI World Cup squad: (l-r) Haley Smith, Peter and Quinton Disera.
Soren Meeuwisse leads the Trek Canada MTB team on a training ride.
Cannondale-3 Rox Racing’s (l-r): Raphael Gagné, Derek Zandstra, Erin Huck and Keegan Swenson