With the addition of several World Cup riders in downhill and cross country racing, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team will field its strongest lineup ever in 2011. South African downhiller Andrew Neethling and five-time British cross country champion Liam Killeen join a diverse squad that includes 19-year-old World Cup downhill sensation Danny Hart of Great Britain.
"Our commitment to off-road racing at the highest level is a reflection of our broader commitment to the off-road cyclist," said Giant Global Marketing Director An Le.
"Working closely with this diverse group of athletes - from Olympic cross country racers to super D champions to top World Cup downhillers - keeps us ahead of the pack in developing new technologies that benefit off-road riders at all levels."
The downhill squad will be led by Hart, who last year emerged as the world's top young downhill racer. After winning the 2009 Junior World Cup title, Hart made a successful transition to the elites in 2010, racing his Giant Glory to eighth overall in the World Cup series and eighth at the World Championships. The only top-10 rider under age 20, he was widely recognized as the future of downhill racing.
"I am super happy to be a part of the Giant program for the foreseeable future," Hart said. "I had a great 2010 season, and this year is going to be better. I just want to go racing!"
Neethling, a consistent top-10 World Cup finisher and winner of the 2010 U.S. Open, joins Hart and two-time US downhill champion Duncan Riffle to give Giant a powerful punch in the downhill discipline.
"Giant has always had a great racing heritage, and I look forward to being part of it," Neethling said. "I've always looked up to the team and felt they had superb bikes. I know I will have the bikes, support and environment to reach all my racing goals."
Veteran Carl Decker, whose successful 2010 season on the Anthem X 29er included wins at several major American events including the All-Mountain World Championships in Downieville, California, and the Super D at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California, returns to the cross country squad.
All-rounder Kelli Emmett, defending champion of the Downieville All-Mountain Worlds, is also back for 2011. Emmett has won races ranging from short track and super D national titles to Singlespeed World Championships and will continue to focus on a wide range of endurance events.
Killeen, a two-time Olympian who is aiming for his third Summer Games at London 2012, is the only new rider for the cross country team.
"It's easy to see that Giant is committed to cross country competition, and being on the right bike really can make the difference between victory and defeat when racing at the top of the sport," Killeen said.
New for 2011, the Giant Factory team will race on SRAM components instead of Shimano. Other new sponsors include DT Swiss wheelsets and Schwalbe tires, and Fox Head extends its commitment to the program by supplying kits and apparel.
The team has a quiver of Giant bikes - from lightweight composite hardtails to full suspension bikes. Cross country riders will race on Giant Anthem X Advanced SL and Anthem X 29er framesets with Maestro Suspension, as well as XtC Advanced SL hardtails. For downhill, the team will rely on the Maestro-equipped Giant Glory frameset.
Craig returns with Rabobank-Giant after injury-shortened 2010
Long associated with Giant, US Olympian Adam Craig will again race for the Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team in 2011. Craig, one of America's top cross country racers, has ridden for Giant the past eight years. His top priorities in 2011 will be the UCI World Cup Series and the World Championships in Switzerland.
Craig missed the first half of the 2010 season after knee surgery. He is aiming for a healthy season in 2011 and building up to his goal of competing at the 2012 London Olympics.
"I'm looking forward to a full this season after missing the first part of 2010 with an injury," said Craig, who tore his ACL early in 2010. "I'm really happy to have the support of the Rabobank-Giant team again for the World Cups and especially looking forward to July, when we have North American rounds at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, and Windham, New York."
"I'm also pretty stoked about Worlds in Champéry, [Switzerland], which has been a pretty good course for me in the past."
Craig, 29, is a New England native currently living in Bend, Oregon. He plays a key role in the development of Giant's off-road bikes and technology. The Maestro-equipped Anthem X Advanced SL bike he uses for most races was created with input and expertise gained from competing at the top levels of cross country racing. All of Craig's race bikes are outfitted with Shimano components and Fox Racing Shox suspension products.
Known for his well-rounded talents in off-road racing, Craig enjoys going beyond Olympic and World Cup competition and tackling varied off-road adventures. He has won 15 US national championships in cross country, Super D and cyclo-cross racing. In December, he won the singlespeed cyclo-cross title at the US Cyclo-cross Championships, held in his hometown of Bend.
2011 Giant Factory Off-Road Team
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
Liam Killeen (Great Britain) cross country, short track & marathon
Andrew Neethling (South Africa) four cross, downhill & dual slalom
Duncan Riffle (USA) four cross, downhill & dual slalom
2011 Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team
Adam Craig (USA) cross country
Other riders to be announced
Check out the following unique team launch video from Giant.