Cannondale Introduces 2013 Factory MTB Team

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With equal emphasis on winning and approachability, Cannondale unveiled its eight-rider international mountain bike team in Finale Ligure, Italy, on Wednesday. The squad is split down the middle, with four riders (Italian Marco Fontana, German Manuel Fumic, American Keegan Swenson, and Kiwi Anton Cooper) focused on World Cup level cross-country racing, while the other quartet (France’s Jereone Clementz, and American’s Ben Cruz, Mark Weir and Jason Moeschler) are setting sights on the burgeoning discipline of enduro racing.

Podium chasing is of course the team’s No. 1 priority. “But we also want to make the sport more approachable, especially on the cross-country side,” implored Cannondale’s Global Director of Product Marketing, Murray Washburn. “Winning is important, but how you do it is more important. It can’t just be all Lycra, and training and racing all the time.”

This baggy short shift, if you will, is taking off like wildfire. And like so many company’s in the cycling industry, Cannondale is getting on board, pushing away from MTB racing’s fractious past, when cross-country and downhill (and the people who participated in each discipline) were separated by a vast ideological divide. Instead, there is a great centering going on in the sport that’s being driven by the huge buzz surrounding enduro racing.

“The bond between the riders on this team is that they are all pure mountain bikers,” said Washburn, who also announced that in addition to chasing World Cup glory, Fontana and Fumic would contest late September’s Trans Provence, a multi-day enduro event in the French Alps.

In the meantime, that dynamic duo, plus youngsters Cooper, 18, and Keegan, 19, will take on the six-race World Cup slate. Fontana, who won bronze at the London Olympics and is the reigning Italian national champion, should be in the mix for the overall elite title. German national champ Fumic wont be far behind. The pair will tune up for the heart of the season with a trip to South Africa for mid-March’s Cape Epic MTB stage race.

“Success is about being consistent and taking care of all the details,” said Fontana. “Our mindset will be to know that we can win any race, and not be worried about anyone else.”

Cooper, the reigning world junior XC champ and current New Zealand national title holder, exudes similar confidence, and has aims on the overall World Cup under-23 crown. But he’ll have to beat out Keegan, the reigning U.S. junior national champ. “Being able to work with riders like Marco and Manny is amazing,” said the Park City native.

Meanwhile, the enduro crew will focus their attention on the newly minted Enduro World Series, a seven-race affair that kicks off in Punta Ala, Italy, May 18-19, then hits stops in France, the U.S. and Canada, before concluding back here in Finale in mid-October. Look for Clementz to be at or near the top of every race and the final standings.

“I started as a downhill racer, but after a while just doing two runs on a Sunday became boring for me,” said the ever ebullient Frenchman, who’s considered among enduro’s best in the world. “The main thing I love is riding my bike on nice trails and having fun.”

That objective was certainly met Wednesday. After the fairly standard team introduction song-and-dance, pro riders and about 30 cycling journalists were split into teams of four. Then the entire group (plus a host of Cannondale employees) rolled out of town, climbing away from the Mediterranean Sea and up to the start line of the 24 Hours of Finale race course. From there, a hotly contested relay race commenced, with each pro riding the opening lap solo, and then being shadowed one at a time by their journalist teammates, before riding one final solo lap on the mellow 3km circuit that included stunning vies of the Med.

Top honors went to Team Fumic, who managed to overcome both a rear puncture — and the two-minute advantage the enduro pros were given over their quicker-climbing cross-country counterparts. At the finish, the German barely out-sprinted Clementz, with Fontana (Mtbr’s team leader) slotting a distant third.

Thursday, it’s back on bikes, but this time the format shifts to enduro, where pros and press will take on a modified version of the Finale course that will serve as setting for the first-ever Enduro World Series championship finals this fall.

Here’s a look at some of the sights and scenes from day 1 of the Cannondale mountain bike team launch, and here’s a link to the route.

Read Cannondale 2013 Factory MTB Team Part 2.

Cannondale Introduces 2013 Factory MTB Team Gallery
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Riders and Bikes

Cannondale Factory Racing, one more time.
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Cannondale MTB Team

Meet the 2013 Cannondale Factory Racing team.
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Meet the Press

Media from all over Europe and the U.S. showed up to meet the team.
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Waiting for Their Intro

The eight-rider Cannondale team waits to be introduced to a gathering of international cycling press.
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Bikes Ready to Race

Cannondales for all.
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Packed and Ready

Packed and ready to ride.
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Mtbr Rig for the Day

Mtbr spent the day on a wispy F29 hardtail. It made for slightly rough going on the rough stuff, but the bike climbs like a
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Enduro Riders Head Start

The Enduro pros were given a two-minute head start on their XC counterparts.
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Finale 24hr Course

Setting for the day’s semi-serious competition.
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Finale Ligure Sunrise

Sunrise in Finale is appealing all by itself. But add a great network of trails, and it’s obvious why Cannondale chose this Italian paradise for its two-day soiree.
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Young Guns

Keegan and Cooper, potential stars of the future.
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Fumic Poses for Cameras

German Manuel Fumic will look to build on a solid 2012 campaign.
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Fumic Flatted

Fumic suffered a first lap puncture, but came back to win the Pro-Am event.
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Team Fontana

Mtbr got a spot on Team Fontana.
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Fontana at the Beach

A day at the beach, literally.
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Fontana Strikes a Pose

Olympic bronze medalist Marco Fontana is a star in his native Italy.
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Fontana's New F29er

Fontana’s F29 complete with Italian national champ paint, ENVE carbon wheels, and SRAM 1x11 drivetrain.
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Fontana Corners

Fontana flatted during his third of five laps, but looked smooth and fast here.
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Clementz Takes Holeshot

Jerome Clementz took the holeshot.
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Cooper

Anton Cooper may be the youngest rider on the team, but he’s also the only reigning world champion, having won the junior crown in 2012.
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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