Multi-time Japanese national champion Kohei Yamamoto has joined Specialized Racing for 2012. Yamamoto becomes part of a roster full of mountain bike stars including cross country world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, marathon world champion Christoph Sauser, Burry Stander, Todd Wells, Lea Davison, Rebecca Rusch and Ned Overend.
"2011 was our most successful season ever, which is super motivating now that we are in an Olympic year," said Bobby Behan, Specialized's Sports Marketing Director. "There are four championship titles that matter in our sport: Olympic XC, world XC, World Cup overall and world Marathon. Jaroslav was sensational last year, blasting his S-Works Epic 29er to five World Cup Wins, the World Cup overall and the cross country world championship while Christoph delivered the goods again in the marathon Worlds. We are incredibly excited to watch them race this season."
New arrival Yamamoto has won the Japanese cross country national title and the Asian cross country championship multiple times.
"I started mountain bike racing when I was 10 years old," Yamamoto said. "In 2003, I was picked to join junior national team in Japan for the world championship. I graduated from the International Nature and Outdoor Activity college, where I studied mountain biking for three years. After my graduation, I started racing with Bridgestone Cycle as my first pro contract for the past five years. In 2012, I joined Specialized, and restarted with a refreshed mind. I am all excited about this season, and proud of being a member of Specialized."
Kulhavy, of the Czech Republic, stormed the 2011 season, winning the World Cup overall and the cross country world championship. But perhaps few know his gentlemanly demeanor off the race course - the true mark of a great champion. Expect to see him on top of more podiums this season. [Read a recent interview with Kulhavy.]
South African Stander, a former under 23 world cross country champion, has his aim set on success in London.
Sauser adds his deep experience to the Specialized Racing team. As the current marathon cross country world champion and former cross country world champion, he will be vying to represent Switzerland in his fourth Olympic Games.
"This is the team I want to belong to! It is the combination of friendship, equipment, passion and ambition that makes this team so special and incredibly successful," Sauser said. "Winning every single international title in 2011 is now only an etiquette of the past... It won't help us for this season! "S" stands for innovation, and this passes on to the whole team. With this team I believe we can have such a great year again!"
American Wells is perhaps his country's most diversely talented mountain bike racer, having won national titles in short track, cross country and cyclo-cross. He was the best-placed American at the world championships last year, and is eager for another Olympic berth in 2012.
Davison is one of the best female mountain bikers in the US, while and Rusch is a multi-time 24-hour world champion and winner of the Leadville 100.
Last but certainly not least, Overend still shows no signs of slowing, having just won a masters world cyclo-cross title this winter.