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New year, new teams: 2019 starts with a flurry movement

From downhill and cross country to freeride, there's big moves afoot for 2019

The new year is just getting started, but there’s already been a flurry of big team moves on the World Cup scene.

Two high profile changes have already been made public. World Champion Kate Courtney announced she’s leaving Specialized, and multiple-time World Cup series winner Aaron Gwin ended his time with YT Industries in the closing hours of 2018. Courtney’s already found a new home at Scott-SRAM, but Gwin has yet to announce where he’ll land in the new year.

Penrel returned from injury to race 2018 Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup, and is charging full steam ahead into 2019 with Clif Pro Team. Photo: Matt Stetson

Canadian scene

The Canadian scene is looking more stable, but there’s been some changes there, too. Miranda Miller ended her two year stay with Specialized Gravity Racing, during which she won the 2017 downhill world championships in Cairns, Australia. Emily Batty has a high profile new teammate, with 2018 World Cup overall winner Jolanda Neff moving to Trek Factory Racing XC.

While her team is shifting around her, Catharine Pendrel has confirmed she will be staying put on Clif Pro Team for 2019. Established as a women’s team focused on international racing, Clif made a major change in the teams direction this fall. The long-standing outfit will become co-ed, adding male riders, and shifting towards domestic racing. Penrel, though, remains focused on the international stage and has said she has the support of Clif Pro Team to do so. While the Canadian 2x world champion remains, Maghalie Rochette chose to go her own way. Rochette will continue to focus on international results through her CX Fever p/b Specialized cyclocross project.

Rachel Pageau has joined up with Pivot Cycles-OTE Canada, who will support her enduro and downhill racing ambitions in 2019. The young Canadian former Xc racer added promising results at EWS and World Cup downhill to her impressive North American results in 2018.

Canadian Commonwealth Games rider Leandré Bouchard is moving on from KMC-Ekoi-SR Suntour, now KMC-Ekoi-Orbea, but has not yet announced where he will land for 2019.

Emilly Johnston ,who at just 16 years old, earned silver in the Junior Women’s race in Canmore, Alta. at Canadian XCO championships, joins Pendrel Racing for 2019. The Comox, B.C. rider joins Holden Jones, Elyse Nieuwold and Emily Unterberger. The team was founded in 2018 by Catharine Pendrel and Kieth Wilson.

Kate Courtney celebrates her world championship win. Image: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool

World Cup cross country

American Kate Courtney moving to Scott-SRAM is undoubtedly the biggest move on the XC scene. The young world champion brings Swiss rider Lars Forster with her to the highly successful program, which is run by the retired legendary XC-racer, Thomas Frishknicht.

Clif Pro Team’s shift to focus on domestic American racing has pushed several members of its 2018 roster to seek new homes. Italian multi-discipline racer Eva Lechner departed mid-fall. Lechner has been racing for the Creafin TÜvSüd cyclocross team. American Olympian Lea Davison has also hinted she will be going in a new direction in 2019, but no details have been announced yet. Katerina Nash will stay with Clif Pro Team, racing cyclocross, gravel and mountain bike events.

KMC-Ekoi adds a host of new riders as well as new bike and suspension sponsors for 2019. The long-standing racing outfit adds Orbea Bikes as a title sponsor, becoming KMC-Ekoi-Orbea, and switches to Fox Suspension. The team had added vetran racers Florian Vogel and Thomas Litscher to its roster, as well rising talents Malene Degn and Milan Vader. Degn moves to KMC-Ekoi-Orbea from Ghost Factory Racing, where the young Danish rider finished on the under-23 podium at six of the seven World Cup rounds.

Marika Tovo, the European champs silver medallist and bronze medallist at under-23 world championships, replaces Degn on Ghost Factory Racing. Tovo joins 2017 under-23 world champion and 2018 under-23 silver medallist Sina Frei on Ghost, as well as Anne Terpstra, Barbara Benko and Lisa Pasteiner.

Dean Lucas at 2018 Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup. Image: Matt Stetson

World Cup downhill

Aaron Gwin and YT Industries parting ways  is the biggest news so far going into 2019. Neither Gwin nor Neko Mulally, who left YT at the same time, have announced new homes yet. Intense Factory Racing, though, has made room on its roster. The resurgent American brand, which helped push 29″ wheels into the dh scene in 2017, let Dean Lucas and Charlie Harrison loose but has not yet named any new riders to take their place.

Sister and brother racing duo Rachel and Gee Atherton are also hinting at a new direction for 2019, potentially ending their time at Trek Factory Racing. Mum’s the word so far from the reigning women’s World Cup winner and world champion, but the Atherton’s departure would leave a big hole in Trek’s racing roster.

Reece Wilson has ended his short stay with Commencal 100% after just 12 months with the squad. The Scottish rider had a breakout result with his fourth at Fort William World Cup, the best placing ever for a Scot at World Cup staple.

Kona 2018 Team
Graham Agassiz in the Kona 2018 Team Launch video


Canadian freeride and Dark Fest athlete Graham Agassiz will not be riding a Kona for the first time in 12 years. The Kamloops rider has been with the brand since first signing to the Kona Grassroots team.

Darren Berrecloth announced earlier this fall he will no longer be competing in events, but look for the Canadian freeride pioneer to continue with his video projects. Most recently, North of Nightfall saw Berrecloth pushing far outside the standard riding zones to visit remote northern Canadian cliffs, and Reverence explored how riders deal with fear in their careers.

Former World Cup downhill racer Josh Bryceland has parted ways with Santa Cruz, his home for the majority of his riding career during and after his racing days. The popular rider will take on 2019 aboard Cannondale bikes, including the new-look Habit.

Red Bull Rampage competitor DJ Brandt is also on the move. After four years with Mongoose, the Colorado-based freerider and Urban DH racer will be on a new bike in 2019.