By Sue George
Trek Bicycle confirmed reports of the demise of its Trek / VW Factory Mountain Bike Team with an announcement that the company had ended its 13-year partnership with Volkswagen of America effective with the close of the 2008 calendar year. The collaboration was one of the longest running and most successful in mountain biking and cycling in general. For mountain bike racers, the team's cessation marks the end of an era in which the predominantly red, black and white colors of Trek / VW were seen nearly every weekend at local, regional and national off-road races in the US.
"This has been a great alliance since its inception in 1995," Trek's Director of Marketing Dean Gore said. "Volkswagen has been a great partner not only to Trek, but also to the sport of mountain biking and cycling in general. Staying with one program for over 13 years is relatively unheard of in the fast-paced world of auto marketing. And even though they have decided not to continue with Trek in 2009, we still feel indebted to VW for their loyalty and support over the years. Volkswagen vehicles took us to a lot of races over the years and allowed Trek athletes to chase a lot of dreams."
Former US national short track champion Sue Haywood, current US marathon and short track national champion Jeremiah Bishop, current US National 24 hour solo champion Chris Eatough, National Ultra-Endurance (NUE) series champions Jeff Schalk and Cheryl Sornson, Ross Schnell and Lea Davison are just some of the many names of riders who grew their careers with the Trek / VW regional and national level mountain bike squads.
What started with the 1996 Volkswagen Jetta Trek, a limited-edition Jetta outfitted with a roof rack and special-edition Trek mountain bike, and a four-man professional mountain bike team, grew into a full strength men's and women's professional and amateur team that racked up a total of 10 World Championships in cross country, dual slalom, all mountain, and 24-hour solo events.
In addition to the teams, the partnership also backed the Ride the Best Demo Tour and the Fit For Women Tour, two programs which offered bicycle test rides at cycling and automotive events throughout the US. Trek will continue to operate both programs without Volkswagen. It will also continue sponsorship of a racing team, one with an emphasis on World Cup and other international mountain bike events. The names on the new World Cup team's roster differ from the now-defunct factory team.
Tracy Moseley and Liam Killeen of Great Britain, Justin Leov of New Zealand, Andrew Neethling of South Africa and Swiss brothers Lukas Flueckiger and Matthias Flueckiger will comprise the new World Cup team. Eatough previously told Cyclingnews that he has one year left on his contract and will be racing for Trek in 2009.
"While the end of Trek/VW stirs up many emotions," said Michael Browne, Trek's Global MTB Brand Manager, "Trek is committed to racing. As sad as we are to see the VW team end, we're really excited to usher in a new era with the new Trek World Cup Racing program, operated by 23 Degrees Sports Management. The World Cup program is global in scope and is the first World Cup team in years to combine highly competitive cross country and downhill racing into the same program."