On the heels of its most successful year ever, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team rolls into the 2012 season with new goals, the rainbow stripes of a world champion, and plenty of momentum.
Danny Hart, the reigning downhill world champion, returns to lead the downhill division of the squad. In just his second season on the pro circuit last year, Hart rocketed through the ranks on his Giant Glory. The 20-year-old Briton scored three World Cup podiums and won the world championship with an electrifying ride in Champéry, Switzerland.
"It was a wild ride in 2011," Hart said. "I've been training hard in the off-season, and I'm looking forward to another great year with Giant."
As in years past, the 2012 team represents the diversity of mountain biking in all its forms. In downhill and cross country, from the Olympics and World Cup competition to sell-out festivals, marathons and enduro events, the team covers the broad spectrum of off-road racing.
Hart is joined on the World Cup circuit by Andrew Neethling, who had his best season ever last year after joining forces with Giant. Neethling won the South African National Championship and the Jeep Air DH event at Crankworx Whistler, and he found his stride on the World Cup circuit, scoring a career-best third-place finish in Windham, New York. Neethling finished 15th in the World Cup and is aiming for a top-10 standing this year.
The cross country team is led by four-time British Champion Liam Killeen. The 29-year-old joined Giant last year to boost his bid for the 2012 London Olympics. He raced his XtC Advanced SL to the British National Championship and has big goals for 2012. With the Olympics being held in his home nation, Killeen is hoping his third appearance at the Games will be one to remember.
The other two male cross country riders are American veteran Carl Decker and Australian Josh Carlson. Decker, a long-time Giant rider, had a successful 2011 season that included wins at major US events including a repeat victory on his Anthem X 29er at the All-Mountain World Championships in Downieville, California. Carlson is new to the team this year. The 25-year-old was third overall in the 2011 Australian National Cross Country Series, and, like Decker, is an all-arounder who excels in both cross country and enduro/all-mountain events.
The team's lone female racer is all-around talent Kelli Emmett. The American was second overall at all-mountain Worlds in Downieville last year and raced a variety of events including the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado. Throughout her career, Emmett has won races ranging from short track and super D national titles to singlespeed World Championships, and this year will continue to focus on a wide range of off-road events.
"Last season was a breakthrough year for Giant Factory riders and staff, highlighted by Danny's now legendary run at Champéry," said Giant Global Marketing Director An Le. "We're coming into 2012 with one of the most versatile squads in off-road racing and will be gunning for victory in everything from short track and marathon and cross country to enduro and downhill races. We also have several new secret weapons in the works to give the riders the best tools to win."
The team has a variety of Giant bikes in its arsenal, covering every type of course and all types of terrain - from lightweight composite hardtails to full-suspension cross country, enduro and downhill bikes. Cross country riders will start the season on Anthem X Advanced SL, Anthem X 29er and Trance X Advanced SL bikes with Maestro Suspension, as well as XtC Advanced SL and XtC Composite 29er hardtails. For downhill, the team will rely on the world championship-winning Glory and Reign X.
2012 Giant Factory Off-Road Team
Josh Carlson (Aus), Cross country, Enduro
Carl Decker (USA), Cross country, Marathon, Enduro
Kelli Emmett (USA), Cross country, Marathon, Enduro
Danny Hart (GBr), Downhill, Enduro
Liam Killeen (GBr), Cross country, Marathon
Andrew Neethling (RSA), Downhill, Enduro