This winter seems to be a season of change in the world of mountain bike racing, with many athletes moving shop from one team to another and a few more retiring from competition. Racing Rumors 1.0 took a look at some of those changes - Sam Hill, Rachel and Gee Atherton, Richie Rude, and Jesse Melamed were the subjects - and now it's time to come back around to consider some other names. Sure, most of the really big racers aren't heading anywhere new, but there is plenty to talk about in the top-twenty crowd, including what I would have said was an unlikely scenario of small frame builder Alchemy jumping up onto the world stage. The Enduro World Series stage, that is. More on that below.
Cody Kelley and Anneke Beerten going to Alchemy - LIKELY
Kelley may not be winning international enduro events, yet the North American has a massive following thanks to his endless style and a big presence on social media. Those two points have made Kelley a crowd favorite during his last few years on the Yeti-Fox Factory Team program, but his last two Instagram posts have consisted of a thank you/farewell to Yeti and a cryptic post referencing the EWS and inviting guesses as to what kind of bike he'll be on in 2018. Predictions? We've heard that we'll see Cody, along with Anneke Beerten, racing aboard Alchemy's 150mm-travel Arktos at both national and international enduro events next year. Alchemy is a Colorado-based boutique brand who makes most (but not all) of their frames in their Denver facility, and while I wouldn't have pictured the relatively small-sized company supporting an EWS team, it sounds like that could be the case.
Danny Hart going to Saracen - STILL LIKELY
This one, which is the biggest team transfer news of the silly season, is all but confirmed now that Mondraker made a Facebook post on the 29th of last month thanking Danny for the last three years that he's spent on the MS Mondraker team. ''With the end of 2017, the MS Mondraker team bid farewell to Danny Hart,'' the post said before going on to also say goodbye to World Cup veteran Markus Pekoll who's hung up his number plate at the end of the 2017 season.
Mike Anderson, Madison Saracen Press Officer, declined to comment when I questioned him about Hart joining their UK team late last year, but multiple sources say that Hart actually signed up to ride the all-carbon Myst awhile ago, and an official announcement is probably only a few days away.
As I said earlier, I'd be surprised if we didn't also see a press release from Mondraker in the near future to announce the signing of Brook Macdonald to the team that helped him to his sole World Cup victory in Val d'Isère back in 2012.
Ruaridh Cunningham going to Trek Factory Enduro, Florian Nicolai to Canyon - LIKELY
The Scottish racer hasn't had an easy time over the past few seasons, with injuries and surgeries keeping Ruaridh from showing the skills that he obviously has in spades. The now healthy Ruaridh recently made one of those "thanks for everything" Instagram posts about leaving Canyon and all signs point towards him being on a Trek and doing some Enduro World Series races in 2018. So, is this another fast racer turning his back on World Cup downhill to focus on stage racing as Sam Hill did? I wouldn't be surprised.
That means that there's an open spot at Canyon, and it seems likely that it's going to be filled by one of the most under-rated guys on the circuit: Florian Nicolai. Flying Flo has spent the last few years on a Rocky Mountain but, despite being one of the best bike handlers in the biz, top results never really came his way. Now that he's left Rocky Mountain, it'd make sense if Flo ended up on a Canyon in 2018.
An Unno World Cup Team - HOPEFULLY
Despite us having only a cursory
first ride on their Everest downhill sled
, Unno might just be the most interesting bike brand in the world right now due to their approach that, at least from the outside, looks to have more in common with a small-volume hypercar manufacturer than a company hoping to sell a load of bikes. Cesar Rojo, the main man behind Unno, as well as a handful of other designs on the market, is taking a no-expenses-spared approach to design and production, and one of the results is their Everest downhill frame that's made in Barcelona, Spain, and retails for around €5500. If you forget about applicable duties and the like, that makes for a frame that costs roughly $6,600 USD.
Word is that there are two racers who won't be paying anything for their Unno bikes, though, with Greg Williamson leaving Cube for 2018 and possibly racing on an Everest next season. The other name associated with the Spanish company is Atherton protegé Taylor Vernon who has been on a Unior-supported Trek downhill bike.