Van der Haar Podiums at Vlaamse Druivencross!
9th December 2013 - filed under TeamsridersIt’s not a World Cup race, and it's not part of the Superprestige series, but Vlaamse Druivencross has long been considered one of the most important cyclocross events of the season. Held on the same weekend every year since the early 1980s in Overijse, Belgium, it’s nicknamed “The mother of all crosses."
On Sunday Rabobank rider Lars van der Haar had a near flawless ride on his Giant TCX Advanced, finishing second to veteran Belgian rider Sven Nys. The young Dutchman was at the front of the action all day, tackling the steep cobblestone climb at the start of each lap and negotiating the slick descents that skirt around hillside cow pastures.
With three laps to go, the front group was down to four riders. Nys attacked before the final descent, and Van der Haar was momentarily delayed when Klaas Vantornout hit a pole in front of him. Van der Haar recovered and closed the gap in the final stretch, but had to settle for second for a close second place.
Craig Repeats at Singlespeed Cross Worlds!
9th December 2013 - filed under TeamsridersFor the 2013 Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships, Adam Craig left his usual Giant Factory Off-Road Team kit at home, opting for something more fitting of the occasion. As much a party as it is a race, this unofficial official world championship event favors a different sort of look.
But a race is still a race, so, costumes aside, Adam brought the right tool for the job: a prototype Giant singlespeed ’cross bike, which passed the test on its maiden voyage with flying colors. Yes, for the second straight year, Adam took the SSCXWC title—and the ceremonial tattoo that comes with the honor.
And the new bike was definitely put to the test under some extreme weather and course conditions. A major snowstorm plowed into Philadelphia, host city of this year’s race, and the men’s field of about 100 riders faced icy, snowy conditions.
“At the start, the ground was totally frozen,” Adam said. “It was fast but still pretty grippy. Then the snow came down hard, we got a few inches during our race. It was cold, dry snow—pretty ideal.”
About that costume: With the freezing weather, Adam skipped his original costume idea, which would have left him a bit too exposed in a blizzard, and instead borrowed a pirate costume from Team Boston. He also made some last-minute tech adjustments, which helped him snag the win.
“I put a new gear on about two minutes before the start, and was able to easily adjust the chain tension, which was sweet,” he said. “There was a steep hill and I needed an easier gear to be able to ride it. It totally worked.”
Adam got the holeshot early and cruised to the victory—and then to the tattoo parlor later that night.
“A place called Philadephia Eddie’s did the work,” Adam said. “They’re kind of an institution around here. Yep, it came out pretty awesome.”
To see more photos from the races, check out this gallery on the Giant Facebook page.
Craig Leads Giant Crew at CXLA
2nd December 2013 - filed under TeamsridersThe Giant Factory Off-Road Team’s cyclocross crew visited Southern California over the weekend to compete at CXLA, a two-day UCI cyclocross event in downtown Los Angeles that served as the final stop in the 2013 Cross After Dark series. Adam Craig led the squad with a top-five finish on Day 2.
Craig, who is focusing on enduro racing this year and finished top-10 in the 2013 Enduro World Series, is doing a few select ’cross races in the fall and winter on his TCX Advanced team bike.
“Finishing off my UCI ’cross season with the LA combo of sunshine and hardpack was fast and fun, but really it’s all just training for the Single Speed Cylocross World Championships in Philly next weekend,” Craig said, referring to the upcoming December 8 event in Philadelphia.
Racing against a strong domestic U.S. field in Los Angeles, Craig finished sixth the first day, and fifth on day two. He was joined in Los Angeles by teammates Carl Decker, who finished eighth and sixth; and Josh Johnson, an Under-23 development rider who finished 15th and 18th over two days of racing in the elite men's category.
“It’s become an annual event, the trip down south for some CXLA,” Craig said. “Having Carl and Josh there to race in the group on the fast, flat track was a nice treat.”
Van der Haar Defends World Cup Lead, and Podiums at Superprestige!
24th November 2013 - filed under TeamsridersWith a World Cup race and a Superprestige in two different countries, it was a busy weekend for pro cyclocross racing in Europe. Lars van der Haar led the Rabobank squad, defending his World Cup lead in Belgium on Saturday and scoring a podium finish at Sunday’s Superprestige race in the Netherlands. The 22-year-old holds a slim lead in the World Cup series after three of seven events.
Saturday’s World Cup race in Koksijde, Belgium, featured dry, sunny conditions near the North Sea coast. Heavy sand sections provided the biggest challenge for the pro men’s field. Van der Haar got off to a strong start on his TCX Advanced race bike but faded in the final laps to finish 10th, 1:33 back.
On Sunday van der Haar returned to home turf in The Netherlands, where conditions at the Gieten Superprestige were cool and wet. Disappointed with his World Cup finish the previous day, the hometown favorite redeemed himself with a strong second-place finish to Belgian Niels Albert, who pulled off the weekend double.
Also representing Rabobank and Giant over the weekend was Under-23 rider Mike Teunissen. The 21-year-old Dutchman had led the U23 World Cup standings after a win earlier this season. On Sunday, he finished sixth in Koksijde and now sits fifth overall after three rounds.
INTERVIEW: Liv/giant Racer Kelli Emmett
20th November 2013 - filed under TeamsridersKelli Emmett is one of the most well-rounded mountain bike racers in the world. Over the course of her career, the Liv/giant athlete has won major pro titles in races ranging from cross-country to Super D to cyclocross.
This year Kelli made the transition to enduro racing, focusing mainly on the Enduro World Series events in Europe and North America. She finished 10th overall in the 2013 EWS and was the top American. She also played a key role in developing Liv/giant's new mountain bikes featuring 27.5-inch wheel technology.
We caught up with Kelli recently from her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to talk about her first year on the international enduro circuit.
Top-10 overall in your first year on the Enduro World Series. Looking back, are you pleased with how the season went for you?
I guess you always want to do better. There’s part of me that was hoping to finish around eighth. The first race I got seventh, so I was hoping to do better than that as the season progressed. But the courses got much more downhill oriented, and fitness was less of a component. So I think that first race was my best result because it was more fitness-based. Overall, yes, I was pleased with how I finished, but I was sort of shooting for that top-8.
This new international enduro series was a learning experience for everyone, what surprised you most about it?
I didn’t really know how to train going into it, didn’t really know exactly what to expect. The U.S. enduros are more fitness-oriented, so I kind of trained like I do for cross-country. I went into the enduro season racing the Whiskey 50 [XC race] and Sea Otter in the spring. When I started racing in Europe, it felt kind of like downhill stage races. We had lift access, there was no real pedaling in the stages, and that was kind of surprising. I had never raced enduros in Europe at all. A lot of racers have more of a downhill background, and for them the transition seemed a little easier. So I’m changing things up a little bit for next year.
Now that you know what to expect, how do you adjust your training and preparation?
I started working with a skills guy, Lee McCormack in Boulder. I was with him yesterday in the Valmont Bike Park, just working on accelerating out of corners, tons of technique things. And I’m also going to work with another coach for upper body, strength work, explosive power. Just doing more sprint work. The other part I think is hard is dealing with the sudden transitions of sitting around to going full blast. Switching from that focus of being totally relaxed to going as fast as you can, that’s something downhillers do well. But it took me all year to try to get used to that.
What about fatigue and exhaustion, how does it compare to traditional endurance efforts like cross-country?
My arms! My arms are the first thing to get so tired that I can’t hold on. That’s why I’m doing more upper body strength and weight training this winter. In cross-country, it’s pretty rare that arm strength is ever an issue. But in enduro, being able to hold your position is so important. A lot of times when you get sloppy it’s because you round your back out more or compromise your body position.
What about the mental aspect?
Yeah, being able to focus for that long is hard. It’s exhausting. You’re so focused on trying not to make mistakes, and it’s intense. You’re trying to go as fast as you can, not over-brake, and a lot of times you don’t know the trails at all. So you’re just constantly trying to read and process things at speed.
You made the transition to riding Liv/giant’s 27.5 bikes this year, what affect did that have on your riding and racing?
It’s been awesome. A lot of the courses in Europe, you’re constantly cornering—and my Intrigue with 27.5-inch wheels handles that stuff beautifully. It has 5.5 inches of travel, and I think 27.5 is the perfect wheel size for that type of bike. In the past I rode a 29er in the U.S., and it worked OK because terrain is much different, but going 27.5 for everything has been a great move for me. I love it.
So this time of year, when you’re out riding local trails in Colorado just for fun, which bike do you usually like to ride?
Well, I’ve been riding the Lust Advanced a lot because I’m a little out of shape (laughs). The lighter weight, more XC/trail bike is fun for just riding, and I don’t have a race coming up for a while. The Lust feels great on those long climbs! But throughout the season I’m mainly on the Intrigue.
Going back to the EWS, what was the highlight of the season for you?
I’d say Whistler. We were out there all day long, the courses were hard and demanding. And the last stage from Top of the World down to the finish in Whistler Village was pretty amazing.
What was the hardest race of the year?
Trans-Provence was certainly memorable. The hardest stage race I think I’ve ever done. Just so exhausting mentally. Riding everything blind, trying to pick lines, being out on your bike all day. And you’re hiking your bike up these hills. It’s so steep you don’t ride up the climbs. The days are long, 6 to 8 hours day after day after day. It was amazing, the scenery was beautiful, but it was hard.
Any advice for women riders who are considering doing their first enduro event?
Yeah! I would say get a bike that fits, something like the 5.5-inch-travel Intrigue is the perfect bike for doing any enduro. Take some skills classes. I’ve learned so much in the last couple weeks from taking skill clinics, and I’m telling you, these are things that I wish I would have known years ago. It would have made my riding experience so much easier and more enjoyable. Enduro is a blast. It’s such a great environment. It’s different than any other type of racing. With cross-country I didn’t really know a lot of the other girls I was racing against because you never really talk. You show up at the start line, do your race, and leave. But in enduro you’re out their together, riding up the climbs, sitting around together before you start your run. And even though we’re racing each other, it’s more like you’re racing against the clock. I feel like everybody is just there to have a good time. For women, I think it’s the most inviting race environment.
Craig Scores Podium at Iowa City CX!
18th November 2013 - filed under TeamsridersGiant Factory Off-Road Team rider Adam Craig scored a podium finish at the Jingle Cross Rock cyclocross event in Iowa City, Iowa, over the weekend. Craig rode his TCX Advanced to third place in Saturday's race, the second of three rounds held over the weekend in Iowa City.
Saturday’s course was a technical challenge, favoring riders with strong bike handling skills. A tricky descent called Mt. Krumpit challenged riders with its steep switchbacks. Craig, who focuses mainly on off-road enduro racing, made use of his descending skills, along with his bike’s disc-brake technology, to nail that descent and claim the final podium position.
“The descent was pretty off-camber and slippery,” Craig said. “Having a bike with brakes that work well when you’re riding a course with a big hill is a good thing. These disc brakes are ace.”
Craig jumped into the lead early on the climb up Mt. Krumpit, then settled in with a lead group that included Tim Johnson, Logan Owen, Jeremy Powers and Ben Berden.
“It was pretty windy out there, so you just had to make that selection and get yourself up in the front early,” Craig said.
Powers attacked right before the climb on the final lap, leaving the others to battle it out in the wind for second.
“I was one wheel back when Powers made that move, none of us were able to go with him,” Craig said.
Craig held off the others to take third, behind Powers and Berden, for his best ’cross result so far this year.
INTERVIEW: Enduro Racer Adam Craig
14th November 2013 - filed under TeamsridersGiant Factory Off-Road Team racer Adam Craig underwent a radical transformation this year when he switched his focus from XC racing to the upstart MTB discipline of enduro racing. The accomplished XC racer with multiple U.S. national championships and Olympic appearances traded in his skinsuit for a full-face helmet and went all-out by competing in the Enduro World Series, the first international series of pro enduro races held in Europe and North America.
The longtime Giant rider, who played a key role in the development of Giant's new 27.5 off-road bikes, ended up finishing in the top-10 overall in the EWS. His ninth-place finish for the year made him the top American in that series.
We caught up with Adam to take a look back at his first year on the enduro circuit.
OK, you just wrapped up your first full season of enduro racing with a top-10 overall in the inaugural Enduro World Series. First question, what was the high point of the year for you?
No question, the high point was my final run in Whistler, channeling the stoke of riding perfect trails all day around the valley into one final 24-minute downhill blast from Top of the World to the base, securing fourth overall in the process. Western Canada riding feels a lot like New England trails, so it was like a homecoming, immensely refreshing after getting smoked in Europe for the first few rounds. My warm fuzzy place is anywhere with awkward roots!
Turns out you were the top American in the overall standings. Is that a surprise to you, and did you have any concrete goals as far as results going in?
I’ve never had a bigger surprise in all of my years as a bike rider. My goal for this inaugural season of full-time enduro racing was to not kill or completely embarrass myself. Success!
Do you expect to see more Americans going over and competing at the top level in the coming years?
Absolutely, just like with racing international XC or DH, it’s a funding thing, and some riders this year have proven that they have what it takes to compete—so hopefully we’ll see them over there, putting a little more American spin on things. And it’ll make being top gringo a little more difficult, but I’ve got wisdom…
You’ve always been into riding fast downhill—a few Super D National Championships are proof of that—but this is the first year you didn’t have any XC racing on the schedule. How different was your training?
Being into riding fast downhill and actually doing it are two very different things. We all like to think we shred with our buddies. Unless you’re a World Cup DH racer, that pace is about 50 percent of what you need to be in the mix. My training involved more shredding with faster buddies.
What are some specific things you changed up with your training?
I finally ceased to think about “training” as something to be done. I just rode my bike, typically my enduro bike, but also my singlespeed MTB and dirt bike to work on physical strength and mental capacity to process unfamiliar terrain at speed. The road bike stayed mostly in the garage. Not because I don’t like riding it, but just because it never seemed necessary. I almost wanted to ride it more, just to be able to have a mentally relaxing bike riding experience amongst all the action. Really, being good at enduro is all about being comfortable on your bike in any situation. So…. Get in some situations while you’re training!
What was the biggest challenge you faced racing the EWS this year?
Fatigue. Both mental and physical. Your average XC racing experience is 90 percent sitting in the hotel with your feet up, wondering if you have light enough tires. Upon arrival at an [enduro] event, one typically has two days to practice as much as humanly possible followed by two full days of racing your face off. It’s exhausting. Being able to practice a maximal amount without being completely fried is important—but you then need to race with 120 percent commitment while being quite tired, and still feel confident that you’re balancing competitiveness and safety. Is Enduro harder than XC racing? Absolutely. Is it harder than DH racing? I’m not sure, DH guys know every inch of the track, but they have to go even faster. Exhausting. I cracked on operating in an exhausted state midway through Trans Provence [France] in October, and never really recovered—which meant the EWS Finals in Italy were completed in survival mode. It was surreal. And unpleasant. Glad I made it…
Everything was new so I’m sure there was a steep learning curve throughout the season—but is there one thing that surprised you most about racing the EWS?
How blindingly fast people are on bikes. And the consistency with which such pace is applied. As evidenced by enduro world champ Jerome Clementz. Attacking every second, yet seemingly effortless on the bike. And never, ever making a mistake. Wow. There couldn’t have been a better champion of this series in its inaugural year. It would be so cool to be able to ride like that guy.
Let’s talk gear. Did you settle into a pretty standard set-up, or did you find yourself changing things up depending on courses, terrain, weather…
I rode one bike all year, Trance 27.5. I started the season on a prototype of the aluminum model and then got on the composite version, the Trance Advanced 27.5, when it was ready. It was really great to be able to turn up week in and week out with that bike and know it would do a solid job, regardless of the terrain. This was my first year on SRAM in a decade and it was a good year to be there. The Pike [fork] and XX1 drivetrain were the flawless answer. Basically the only decision to be made was which Schwalbe Super Gravity tires I’d run given the conditions. We got to use SPIKES! Once in France, otherwise it was Magic Mary up front and a Dampf or Rock Razor in the rear. These tires are also 99 percent responsible for my 9th overall. I never flatted at an EWS event. Not once. Think about that. Twenty-five or so days of racing and practicing on the roughest stuff a promoter could find, often not even on a trail, and no punctures? And they’re not even that heavy. Impressive. Thanks, German engineering.
Compared to World Cup XC racing, did you find yourself thinking about your gear more or less?
I’m a bike geek at heart, so I like to analyze stuff—so I was surprised that I thought about my bike less. Quite a bit less. An enduro bike has one basic parameter, it needs to hold up and keep you safe. So, a quite practical setup is reached early on and you pretty much run that all the time. That said, I’ve learned more about the nuances of suspension setup this year than in the rest of my career. It’s absolutely crucial, and mine happens to work awesome. Thanks for that, Giant Maestro and RockShox!
OK, last question. You have about five months until the 2014 EWS opener in Chile. I know you’re doing some ’cross racing now, what does the rest of your off-season look like?
What off-season? I’m going to learn to ride better this winter. And that’s going to make me braver. They’re both really important in this business. We’re planning a Factory Off-Road team skills session somewhere sweet with DH guru Oscar Saiz. He’s going to help me perfect my cornering technique and speed, which is my main weakness right now. To complement that, I now know the immense value of spending time at speed, so I’ll prioritize riding motocross and enduro moto at home in Bend. Which is about the only thing I can do there that’s beneficial to enduro racing. Bummer that the mellow trails in my backyard that were so good for XC training are kind of stunting my enduro growth now… Good excuse to travel a bit to ride some proper steep rough stuff, whether on the Trance or Glory. Riding proper DH is a blast, and very important for my mental capacity! I’ll spend some time up north in Bellingham [Washington] and Vancouver [British Columbia] riding with Lars and my teammate Josh Carlson, and will likely go down to NorCal to chase Weir and Ben Cruz around "The Ranch," plus riding the Northwest secret stashes with Matthew Slaven and company on the weekends. Basically, all of these things are a step in the direction of addressing my biggest weakness: fear. This stuff is dangerous. I hope my level of risk acceptance will go up as my skills get more polished and my comfort increases. But it might not. I might be too much of a thinker to ever be an enduro champ. And that’s OK with me, riding bikes is still the best thing ever, and I want to be able to do it forever, since it just keeps getting better and better. Oh, and while I haven’t gotten a season pass to the local ski area, I’m going to go on at least one ski hut trip, this time in the Sawtooths. Gotta have some off-season activities somewhere. Snowmobiling in deep powder has to be good cross-training too.
Teunissen Wins Zonhoven Superprestige!
4th November 2013 - filed under TeamsridersMike Teunissen of the Rabobank Development Team tackled the steep sands of Zonhoven to win the men’s Under-23 category at round 2 the Superprestige series Sunday in Belgium. Teunissen’s teammate Lars van der Haar, the current World Cup leader in the pro men’s category, finished fourth in the elite men’s race at Zonhoven.
Racing in front of a large crowd on a dramatic course that challenges riders with ups and downs through a sand quarry, Teunissen edged out Belgian Toon Aerts by 4 seconds to take the win. The Dutch rider—wearing the rainbow jersey as the current Under-23 world champion—finished fourth at the opening round in Ruddervoorde last week and is an early front-runner for the overall title in the Superprestige series.
Van der Haar, riding the new TCX Advanced with disc brake technology, battled at the front of the pro men’s race with Klaas Vantornout for much of the day before finishing fourth behind eventual winner Sven Nys of Belgium. At age 22, Van der Haar has emerged as the rider to beat this year. The Dutchman won the first two rounds of the World Cup and has a handful of podium finishes in international events.
Bottrill Takes 2nd Place in his first Duathlon
29th October 2013 - filed under TeamsridersWith the Cycling season finished, Matthew Bottrill took part in the 1485 No Frills Duathlon at the weekend. 100 riders were down for the 5km Run-21km bike- 5km run.
The event took place at Market Bosworth, with the run section taking place at Bosworth Water Park, around two laps of the lakes. The riders then made the transition onto the cycle, taking in the undulating roads of Market Bosworth - Fenny Drayton - before heading back through the Market square of Bosworth and then back to the final transition at the water park for the final 5km run. With high winds and the recent downpour of rain, the condition for the athletes would be hard!
79 riders signed on out of the 100 competitors, and the flag went down at 10:30am. The pace was hot from the gun and Anthony Harper, was soon making a break out of the pack, and was flying down the circuit. Within the first lap he soon opened a gap on the chasing pack, lifting the pace. He crossed the line in 17:54, to put him well clear of the rest.
Bottrill meanwhile, knowing he would be the strongest cyclist, crossed the line in 12th place and after changing from trainers to cycling shoes, was 2 minutes in arrears. But doing what he does best Bottrill charged through the pack on his Giant Trinity SL Advanced. Bottrill smashed the bike course record by 1:14.
1st back to the transition Bottrill led by 1:40. But his running legs seem to disappear, and he struggled to get back into his stride. Meanwhile Harper was running like a man on a mission and after just 1 mile he had over taken Bottrill for the lead. Flying to the finish he stopped the clock in a time of 1:10:20, With Bottrill just 2 minutes off the pace in 1:12:26
It was not Just Bottrill who was competing in his first duathlon, Jason Lavine of Hermitage Harries, a good runner and one of Bottrill’s best friends did an incredible time of 1:16:55 for 4th place. It was Lavine that placed a bet with Bottrill to see if the runner could beat the cyclist. This time Bottrill took the lead, but Lavine said he will be back to try again next year.
Also competing was Giant's UK's Simon Jenkinson, who did a very respectable 1:33:26 for 37th place.
Asked About the event Bottrill replied “I really enjoyed today's event, the atmosphere out on the course was great. I could not get over the amount of support I was given on the course. This event started off has a bet between me and Jason Lavine, but once I stared doing a bit of running I started to get really keen and wanted to see how hard I could push myself. I've had to take some time of the bike to get ready for winter training, but running seems to have kept me fit. Breaking the course record for the bike was sort of expected, but I was more pleased with doing 19:37 for the 5km, I've never done a running race before, and in training my best 5km was 20:58. It’s a great way to have started my winter training, and I’m now ready for a hard winter!"
Follow Matt as he prepares for next season through his twitter, or keep up to date with all the latest Giant news on the facebook or twitter pages.
Belkin Dominates Tour of Hainan!
28th October 2013 - filed under TeamsridersThe Belkin team wrapped up a dominating performance at the Tour of Hainan stage race Sunday by defending Moreno Hofland’s overall lead and setting up its lead sprinter Theo Bos for the stage win in Chengmai. The team won all nine stages of the race, including six by Bos on his Propel Advanced SL aero road bike.
For Hofland, a 22-year-old rookie pro, the nine-day stage race in China marked his first professional victory. The Dutchman won the opening stage on a breakaway, and held his lead throughout the week.
“It’s great,” Hofland told Cyclingnews.com “In the first couple of days at the Tour of Hainan, I started thinking that it would be nice to win this race. I chased time bonuses and my gap to the second rider on GC kept growing. I’m very happy, the Tour of Hainan will always be special for me because it’ll remain my first pro win forever.”
Hofland won three stages throughout the week, while his teammate Bos dominated the sprint stages with six wins. It was the first time any single team has won all stages and the overall classification at a UCI hors category race.
“This is a unique moment for Belkin,” Bos told Cyclingnews.com. “No cycling team has ever done that before, but we’re not the first big team coming to the Tour of Hainan. Argos-Shimano, Astana and other Pro teams have taken part in this race in the past.”
For Bos, the win streak offered a confidence boost after he missed part of the season with health issues.