Cannondale Gets Back into EWS, Brands Prep for Olympics [MTB Team Change Roundup]

We round up all of the 2021 mountain bike team and athlete changes that have been announced so far.
Photo: Michal Cerveny / Specialized

Mountain bikers don’t have a multi-day team draft to look forward to every year, to gather around beers and watch at a pub on TV. Instead, we get flurries of team changes, that start in late December and go on intermittently for several weeks. Brands and athletes evolve, budgets change, and so do interests.

Rather than update by the hour, we’re throwing notable announcements on a single page, recapping the changes, some more recent than others. With any luck, we’ll see a return to racing in the spring, and hopefully be able to catch some of the new relationships in action on YouTube or Red Bull TV.

Gearing up for the Olympics

It’s anyone’s guess if the Olympics will still happen this year, but brands like Specialized, Cannondale, and Santa Cruz aren’t waiting to find out.

Jordan Sarrou, Sina Frei, and Gerhard Kerschbaumer join Specialized

Jordan Sarrou has departed Julien Absalon’s Absolute Absalon team and is now with Specialized, a team that knows XCO podium wins very well. Sarrou won the 2020 UCI MTB World Champs and will join a few other great XC athletes on the Specialized team. Gerhard Kerschbaumer and Sina Frei are also moving over to Specialized with Sarrou, joining Laura Stigger, who moves into a factory sponsorship with Specialized after being supported by the brand in a less formal role.

Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen join Cannondale

Cannondale is another brand that’s working on their Olympic XC chops, adding Alan Hatherly and Simon Andreassen, who will join Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini. Andreassen won his first Elite XCO World Cup in 2020 and Hatherly also stood on the podium. Cannondale’s new team had a two-week camp to prep for 2021. They’ll focus on the UCI XCO, World Champs, the Olympic games in Tokyo, and the ABSA Cape Epic, now in October.

Santa Cruz recruits Maxime Marrote and Keegan Swenson for an XCO team of their own

Santa Cruz isn’t usually a brand that’s putting their XC bike on the front lines, but it looks like they’re eager to get to Tokyo. Maxime Marrotte has left Cannondale to join the California brand, along with Luca Braidot and Martina Berta. Keegan Swenson has also announced that he is riding Santa Cruz, departing the Pivot-Stans team which has been disbanded, and he is looking to the Olympics. Swenson told VeloNews that he’s optimistic the games will take place.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot is on to Absalon

French rider and World Champ, and current XCO World Champ, Pauline Ferrand Prevot has switched from Canyon to Absolute Absalon, where she’ll be riding a BMC under Mr. Absalon’s guidance and coaching, along with Titouan Carrod, Fillipo Colombo, and Mathis Azzaro.

Yoann Barelli on Guerrilla Gravity – An Un/Surprising Announcement

Yoann Barelli announced he’d be ending his four-year relationship with Commencal after 2020, where he regularly raced the Enduro World Series on the brand’s aluminum frames. News that he’d be riding for Guerrilla Gravity, the direct-to-consumer brand based out of Denver, came as a shock to many as GG has yet to have a rider as well known as Barelli, but with more context, the announcement makes a lot of sense. Guerrilla Gravity has been growing and growing, and their frames have evolved into world-class bikes. They also put sustainability up front, with short supply chain methods and recyclable carbon fiber frames that are made in Denver, rather than half a world away. Barelli has been outspoken about his opinion on environmental issues and the pitfalls of most carbon fiber bike production, so all in all, it seems like the two will mesh pretty well.

Graham Aggasiz, Dakotah Norton on YT Industries

Aggy at Rampage 2019.

Graham Aggasiz has moved on from the Black Collars team at Evil and onto YT Industries. Cam Zink has moved on from YT, but hasn’t announced which frame sponsor he’ll have for 2021. Vali Holl, and Adolf Silva have moved on from YT as well, with no signs of what they’ll be riding this coming year.

American racer Dakotah Norton based in Knoxville, Tennessee has also signed with YT Industries after departing a relationship with Devinci.

Angel Suarez now on Commencal

Danny Hart joins Cube

Danny Hart signaled he’d be departing Madison Saracen in October, and as he says in his caption, Red Bull TV announcer Rob Warner alluded to the move during one of the 2020 DH. Hart is now riding for the Bavarian bike business, branded after the shape of boxes.

Eliot Jackson, Veronique Sandler start a new year with Santa Cruz

After racing for Giant and maintaining a sponsorship with them for years, Eliot Jackson has moved on and will join Santa Cruz for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t sound like Jackson will be back between the tape anytime soon, but he should be out trackside with fun and energetic interviews on Red Bull TV again, and his Grow Cycling Foundation looks like it’s taking off too.

Jackson said on Instagram, “We have a ton of cool stuff planned for the year and you’ll see me out on the bike in videos, photos, at Crankworx and other random stuff.”

Loris Vergier leaves Santa Cruz to start a new Trek

Photo: Trek Factory Racing

This one was a bit of a surprise too, as Loris Vergier had become synonymous with the Santa Cruz Syndicate, but he is on to new ventures, with the likes of the rest of Trek Factory Racing’s squad, including Kade Edwards, Reece Wilson, and Charlie Harrison.

Emily Batty and Katy Winton leave Trek

Winton racing in Italy. Photo: Gerow

Enduro racer Katy Winton has announced she’s moving on from Trek Factory Racing after four years. Winton is a regular to the podium and top 10 list at EWS races.

On the XC side of Trek Factory Racing, Emily Batty announced she’s leaving Trek also. Batty hasn’t announced where she’ll land yet, either.

Lewis Buchanan leaves Forbidden, on to Norco

Photo: Norco

Scottish rider Lewis Buchanan is on to Norco Bikes. Buchanan is a gravity racer and is focusing on more and more content production. Buchanan is planning to race in the EWS this year too. “Racing-wise, I just want to put my best foot forward and do the best I can. I am training hard and have a good balance in my life right now,” he said in a release. “I fully have my eyes really set on winning the final EWS round in my hometown and finish the year on a bang.” 

Mitch Ropelato, Kera Linn on Cannondale

Cannondale hasn’t had a formal EWS team in a few years, but they are getting back in the swing for 2021 with two Utahns, Mitch Ropelato and Kera Linn. Ropelato has a notable competitive career with top 20 EWS results under his belt and wins at the Big Mountain Enduro. Linn is a national DH racer and has top 10 results at the Big Mountain Enduro and is aiming for the EWS.

It looks like Cannondale might have a new bike in the works too. From the looks of the frames pictured in both shots, the head tubes are markedly different from the current enduro bike in Cannondale’s arsenal, the Jekyll, which Gerow checked out in 2019.

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