Norco Factory Team athletes had an incredible 2022 season across disciplines, which makes the team’s Friday announcement all the more surprising. Norco sent out a late-day press release saying it will close both its XC and downhill squads at the end of the season.
Any team news should start with the athletes, and Norco’s athletes are wrapping up an impressive season.
In downhill, Gracey Hemstreet won numerous World Cups, a world championship medal, a national championship title and the World Cup overall title in the junior women’s category. Lucas Cruz made a big move up the standings to finish 13th in the elite men’s race at the final World Cup in Val di Sole. New hire and secret bike tester Kirk McDowall landed some fast finishes as well.
In cross country, Peter Disera recaptured the Canadian XCO national championship title. Carter Woods won another XCO World Cup in under-23 men. Most notably, U.S. team member Gwendalyn Gibson won an XCC World Cup, finished second at the Mont-Sainte-Anne XCO World Cup and third in the elite women’s race at world championships in Les Gets, France.
Then, at the Enduro World Series, Emmy Lan won every under-21 women’s race she entered on her way to winning the overall title.
Unexpected and “temporary”
Norco is describing the move to close XC and DH Factory teams as temporary, though it has not given a timeline for re-opening them. The fate of the enduro squad is not mentioned in the press release. The brand does say that it is actively supporting both athletes and staff as they look for new homes in 2023.
To explain the unexpected move, the brand says closing the teams “will allow Norco to confidently navigate the industry’s pandemic recovery.” The bike industry experienced a substantial boom in ridership and sales during the early stages of the pandemic, which led to supply issues and shortages. Some brands are now back to having substantial end-of-year sales on bikes still in stock.
While unexpected, there may have been earlier signs the Canadian brand was changing direction. For a team that has made a point of offering a stable development path for its riders and has had a quite consistent roster over the years, 2021 saw several notable departures. Last year, Olympian Haley Smith, her partner Andrew L’Esperance, then-XCO national champion Jenn Jackson and then-XCC national champion Quinton Disera all decamped for other squads.
Norco’s full statement
Since we started building mountain bikes, Norco has been driven by the energy and spirit that competition has brought to our work.
2022, in fact, has been the Norco Factory Team’s most successful year in its over 30 years of racing – results that we continue to celebrate as the season winds down; which makes this announcement even more heartbreaking:
At the end of the race season, we will temporarily pause the Norco Factory DH and XC team programs.
We understand this decision drastically affects the lives and careers of so many talented people who have contributed to the program’s success. To ensure that all our 2022 team athletes and staff can stay on track for 2023, we’re advocating on their behalf with our industry partners and colleagues to help secure support for all of them.
This pause will allow Norco to confidently navigate the industry’s pandemic recovery. It’s a pragmatic, but excruciating sacrifice we’ve had to make to ensure that Norco will continue to meet the needs of riders and our dealers long into the future.
We’ll continue to ride, engage with our communities, and forge forward as we develop and build innovative mountain bikes, including our next generation of DH and XC platforms.
Thanks to all our riders, support staff, sponsors, and fans for your decades of inspiration. It means the world to us.