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Giant expands pro mountain bike team program

Giant is stepping up its support of off-road racing in 2010 with the addition of the new Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team, which will focus on World Cup cross country and cyclo-cross racing, plus an expanded Giant Factory Off-Road Team. With the two teams, Giant has assembled a diverse group of athletes including Olympians, World Champions and freeride stars.

The newest component of Giant's program is the Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team. With four full-time cross country racers, including US Olympian Adam Craig, this will be a year-round global operation supporting cross country riders during the mountain biking season and cyclo-cross riders in the fall and winter.

"From an athlete's standpoint, it's the ideal setup," Craig said. "There are certain similarities between cross country mountain biking and cyclo-cross, and there's always some athlete cross-over between the two disciplines. So structuring it under one team makes sense."

The Rabobank-Giant Off-Road team was presented on Thursday afternoon at Giant Benelux in Lelystad, the Netherlands. It's the newest squad Rabobank-sponsored squad. Rabobank has backed a professional road team since 1996 and what has evolved into the Continental Team since 1997.

Rabobank has a cyclo-cross history with riders like Adrie van der Poel, Richard Groenendaal, Sven Nys and Lars Boom. The company already sponsors several mountain bike events, but this team marks the first time it is backing a team of mountain bikers.

For the 2010 mountain bike season, Craig will be joined by a trio of talented young cross country racers: Emil Lindgren (Sweden), Fabian Giger (Switzerland) and Henk Jaap Moorlag (The Netherlands). All are all under 25 and rising through the ranks of World Cup cross country competition. Giger is the European Under 23 champion and Jaap Moorlag is Dutch national champion is his first year as an Under 23.

"I'm thrilled Giant is stepping up its commitment through the new partnership with Rabobank on the off-road side of things," Craig said. "Both brands have been committed to racing for a long time - it's an honor for me to be a part of this new partnership."

The 45-year-old Jan ten Tusscher will manage the team and former Dutch National team coach Leo van Zeeland will coach the mountain bikers with assistance from Maarten Nijland. Former World Champion Richard Groenendaal will coach the cyclo-crossers.

Bart Aernouts and Gerben de Knegt are the only 'cross riders currently on the team, which is expected to grow before next winter.

Factory team grows

With the addition of two new gravity racing talents who will compete globally on the World Cup circuit, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team is expanding for 2010. New recruits include two-time US Downhill Champion Duncan Riffle and 18-year-old British downhiller Danny Hart, winner of the 2009 World Cup downhill junior series and bronze medalist at the 2009 World Junior Downhill Championships.

Riffle, 23, is currently ranked 21st in the UCI world downhill rankings and looking forward to focusing on the most prestigious international downhill events.

"I can't wait to hit the 2010 World Cup series on the new Giant Glory," Riffle said. "To be successful on the World Cup circuit, you need the right equipment and the right support, and I know I'll have that."

The other factory racer with a global agenda is 2008 Red Bull Rampage silver medalist Kurt Sorge. The 21-year-old Canadian has developed into a household name in slopestyle and freeride competition and will headline the biggest freeride competitions and films in 2010.

Four other team members will maintain a continental focus in 2010. One is Australian Jared Rando, a veteran Australian downhill and dual slalom racer who medaled at both the Sea Otter Classic and Crankworx events last year. Rando will focus on Australian and North American events.

Three familiar names make up the cross country contingent of the Giant Factory Off-Road Team. Former US National Champions Carl Decker and Kelli Emmett will each concentrate on the North American cross country and super D racing, and British Olympian Oli Beckingsale will compete primarily in the United Kingdom and European cross country events.

The team is expecting to attend every major event in mountain biking. All riders will play a critical roles in Giant's continued commitment to develop and test Maestro-equipped suspension bikes, XtC hardtails and TCX cyclo-cross bikes.

2010 Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team
Adam Craig (USA) (cross country, short track)
Fabian Giger (Switzerland) (cross country)
Henk Jaap Moorlag (The Netherlands) (cross country)
Emil Lindren (Sweden) (cross country)
Bart Aernouts (Belgium) (cyclo-cross)
Gerben de Knegt (Netherlands) (cyclo-cross)
Jelmer Jubbega (Netherlands) (cross country)
Erik Groen (Netherlands) (cross country)
Tim Lemmers (Netherlands) (cross country)

2010 Giant Factory Off-Road Team
Oli Beckingsale (Great Britain) (cross country, short track)
Carl Decker (USA) (cross country, short track, super D)
Kelli Emmett (USA) (cross country, short track, super D)
Danny Hart (Great Britain) (four cross, downhill, dual slalom)
Jared Rando (Australia) (four cross, downhill, dual slalom)
Duncan Riffle (USA) (four cross, downhill, dual slalom)
Kurt Sorge (Canada) (freeride)

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.