If you've been paying attention to the team rumors that have been swirling this off-season, the names of the two newest members of the Santa Cruz Syndicate aren't exactly a surprise, but now it's official: Luca Shaw and Loris Vergier will be joining Greg Minnaar on the World Cup DH circuit next season.
With 19 World Cup DH race wins under his belt, Minnaar will serve as the team's mentor, imparting his wealth of racing wisdom to the duo of 20-year-olds. What about Steve Peat? He may no longer be lining up to race World Cups, but according to Santa Cruz, Peaty will "remain on hand to share two decades of knowledge on areas such as race preparation, line-spotting and bike set-up."
As for wrenching duties, "Doug Hatfield is now assigned to Luca’s pit corner, while Morzine local PA Roche joins the crew to handle all Loris’ race tech needs. Jason Marsh stays on as Greg’s chief bearing polisher, and team manager Kathy Sessler retains the hardest job at Santa Cruz; keeping this circus on the road, with her unique home-from-home vibe."
Josh Bryceland, aka Ratboy, mentioned his 2017 plans in a recent interview, but for those unable to decipher his thick accent, the gist of it is that he won't be on the Syndicate, but he'll still be riding for Santa Cruz, racing and riding at select events and locations around the world.
Luca and Loris are two of the most talented young athletes on the World Cup circuit right now. Having them join the Syndicate marks a whole new era for the team.
I respect the work done by previous teams to bring Luca and Loris to this point in their careers. It's only been a few weeks, but they've already slotted straight into the Syndicate in a way that feels completely natural and positive. It's going to be great seeing how they evolve from here, both as racers and individuals. - Rob Roskopp, Team Director
Interview: Loris Vergier
The big question everybody will want to know is, how do you feel about moving away from Loic? You two have known each other for a long time, but surely it has been hard at times for you because he's been so successful and is such a big personality?
Hard times? He's my best friend, my other brother and long time teammate; when he succeed at such a level, I was the first to be happy (worlds in Andorra or his first World Cup win)! He's an example for everyone, and he's respected for that. I'm where I am cause he shows us the way, and help me to grow as a professional rider. Leaving him as teammate is just spending less time together, in planes, travels etc, but we'll stay friends and that's essential for me! So I don't feel sad, I'm moving into another flat with other roommates, but I'll still laugh with those guys.
Do you feel there is pressure on you coming into the Syndicate? If you look at past riders, we're talking about Rennie, Peaty, Minnaar, Bryceland - they all have at least one world-level title each. Is that a lot to live up to?
The Syndicate is a legendary team, it's a dream to be part of that! (It was mine) At first you're excited and stoked, when you're realising, you're more stressed haha and when you meet, finally, your new team, you're happy and even more stoked. I try to avoid overthinking about titles and stuff, but I'm sure of one thing, we all want to go fast and be happy and they will help you to achieve that!
How have you found the change from the Demo to the V10? They're obviously both well-proven designs, but are very different bikes.
They both won, they're both fast, but I felt directly home on the V10, they've done maybe more than 10 years on it and it's just a beast! A lot different in the spirit, the Demo is made to go fast without doing mistakes, on the V10 you can afford doing dumb stuff and still manage to be fast, it's quite nice!
Is it a big change to switch from RockShox to Fox suspension? Have you had to change your approach to bike setup much because of it?
My approach still stays the same, the switch is finally not that hard, cause it's in a good direction. I love those little things on my bike, it's awesome, and the Fox crew is killing it; they love what they're doing and it shows up on how the suspension works for us.
Looking back at the 2016, how would you sum it up? Do you feel you achieved as much as you would have liked to, or are there some things you look back on and want to improve for next year?
My goal was to be more consistent, when I just look at the overall, I'm stoked, when I look in details I'm a little disappointed, I missed some good races with flats, or crashes. I need to improve that, and at the same time try to level up my speed, step by step.
In your head, what would a good 2017 season look like for you? Is there any particular element or goal you are looking to focus on?
A good season would look like: some podiums, still in the top 10 overall and a cool result at Worlds for once.
The Syndicate’s first UCI World Cup downhill race of the season takes place in Lourdes, France, on April 30.
The complete 2017 UCI DH calendar is:
World Cup 1. April 29-30: Lourdes, France 2. June 3-4: Fort William, Scotland 3. June 10-11: Leogang, Austria 3. July 1-2: Vallnord, Andorra 4. July 8-9: Lenzerheide, Switzerland 5. August 5-6: Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada 6. August 26-27: Val di Sole, Italy
World Championships September 5-10: Cairns, Australia