Yeti Cycles and FOX Racing Shox announced this week that they have have joined forces to field a world-class MTB team. Team members Jared Graves, Justin Leov, Rich Houseman, Ross Milan and T.J. Sharp will compete in downhill and gated races at NORBA nationals, UCI World Cups and the Sea Otter Classic.
For both companies, the benefits of sponsoring these athletes goes beyond the possible results their athletes can gain. In top-level racing, the world’s best riders push frames and suspension parts to inhuman extremes — and that’s where Yeti and FOX learn most about performance and durability.
"Take the FOX 40 downhill fork for example," Says Mark Fitzsimmons, FOX’s Mountain Bike Race Program Manager. "It started as an open bath design, but race testing pushed the team to design a closed damper cartridge that works better and is lighter. Without a dedicated race-driven development team, this kind of innovation just isn’t possible.”
Yeti's 303DH was developed from a tight collaboration between Graves, Yeti and FOX. Graves described where the bike felt great and where it could feel better, then Yeti and FOX worked together to create the optimum wheel path, spring rate and damping characteristics. The team made a prototype one week, raced it the next week, and kept repeating the cycle until the bike was dialed. Graves finished the season ranked first in the downhill in the NMBS National Series.
“It’s a great relationship,” says Chris Conroy, Yeti president and general manager. “We’re not choosing what suspension brand to use after we design the frame. FOX is fully integrated into the product development process. This integrated thinking allows us to tweak the product that last five percent, and that’s what it takes to perform well at the World Cup level.”
“By the time we release a bike to the market,” says Conroy, “it’s been through a few race seasons, and it’s the best you can get.”
The 2006 Yeti-FOX Racing Team:
- Jared Graves - 2005 NMBS Downhill and 4X 1st overall, UCI World Cup 4X 5th overall.
- Justin Leov - 2005 UCI World Cup Downhill 10th overall.
- Rich Houseman - 2005 NMBS Downhill 16th overall. 4X 6th overall.
- Ross Milan - 2005 NMBS 4X 11th overall.
Graves and Leov will contest all UCI World Cups, as well as non-conflicting NORBA Nationals. Houseman, Milan and Sharp will race the NORBA Nationals and North American World Cup races. The team will be managed by Damion Smith, who also has a fast pedigree (2001 Semi-Pro DH Champion). Houseman will help run the team and take care of logistics in the U.S.
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