Those of you gorging on mince pies and mulled wine instead of being glued to a phone will have missed a wild week in the racing rumours world.
Alex Marin kicked off the show and then the dominos started to fall as rider after rider said their thanks and goodbyes. There were plenty of interesting moves, cryptic messages and even some bare-faced trolling going on in a frantic few days.
As midnight struck on the 31st, riders enter a new contract period, so all fond farewells will now have been said. To recap the past week of madness, here's all the moving and shaking you need to know about.
DownhillA new frame sponsor for FMD Racing
The loudest rumour this off-season has been surrounding the Transition/Muc Off Team that includes Tahnee Seagrave and her brother Kaos. The team officially announced its split from Transition as a frame sponsor on Dec 20th
. While the team structure and riders will likely be the same in 2020, we can expect to see them riding on new frames.
Leading the rumours to replace Transition is Canyon, a suggestion that became even stronger when the British Cycling website was seen to have listed "Canyon Collective FMD
" as the Seagrave's new team on its ranking section. Today, Tahnee Seagrave all but corroborated the rumor, as she posted an image of her holding a Canyon coffee cup on Instagram.
Intense and Jack Moir Split
After the team completely changed around him at the start of the season, Jack Moir has announced a split with Intense Factory Racing. Jack joined the team five years ago at its inception and, despite his well-documented collarbone injury struggles, earned the team's first-ever podium finish at Fort William in 2017.
Jack will be racing for a new team in 2020 but it's still unclear who that will be. As always we'll update you with news as we get it.
Camille Balanche Joins Dorval AM
Camille Balanche was one of the breakout stars in women's downhill last year and had definitely earned a team ride after picking up two podium finishes as a privateer last year.
She has ended up at Dorval AM where she becomes the third elite woman alongside Monika Hrastnik and Mariana Salazar. She said: "I’m super stoked to begin this new chapter of my life with the Dorval AM team and Commencal bikes. I have the coolest teammates and being three elite women in the same structure is going to push me a lot. It was my dream to become a pro rider so I’m just over the moon."
Marcelo Gutierrez Takes a Sabbatical from Racing
Colombia's Marcelo Gutierrez has announced that he is taking a year off from racing to focus on projects in his home country. He said: "This year, the results really spoke for themselves... I had a change of mentality and approach to the races this year, I enjoyed it more than ever I had an amazing time. Because it has been so focussed on perform, perform, perform, winning, winning, winning, you really lose your path and like for cycling... Although I had everything I wanted, a contract, a team, everything else, I was not happy. Believe me, it was very hard to accept that I no longer felt the same."
Marcelo also discussed how downhill racing has affected his relationships with his family and friends, how he felt disconnected from the Colombian cycling community, and his struggles with ulcerative colitis. We wish Marcelo all the best and hope to see him back racing in 2021.
Alex Marin and Madison Saracen Split
Alex Marin was the first rider this year to announce his departure from a team and he kicked off an avalanche of comings and goings. Marin joined the British team in 2016 after spending his junior years and his first elite year riding for Giant. Marin was a regular face in the top 20 at World Cup races and has a best result of 8th with the team, which he picked up at Vallnord in 2017.
He has since posted on Instagram that he will be racing motocross this year with the French Honda SR Motoblouz team, however, he has also posted a picture of an obscured new downhill bike so we'll wait to see what his program next year will look like.
George Brannigan and GT Split
After an injury-filled 2 years with GT, George Brannigan will be racing for a new team in 2020. Brannigan never really got going with GT, but will be looking forward to starting next year healthy and with a shot at re-establishing himself as one of the fastest downhill riders in the world.
Way back in our original race rumours article
, we mentioned that Propain could be his next team but we haven't had any official confirmation yet, we'll update you when we do.
Unno Withdraws from World Cup Racing
Despite stringing together a strong set of results over the past 2 years, Unno seem satisfied they have learned everything they can about their Ever frame on the race track and have withdrawn their World Cup program. They said, "Having our bikes at the most demanding downhill tracks in the world racing alongside the fastest downhill riders in the circuit has generated an incredible input that has allowed us to refine and strengthen even more the uniqueness of our bikes. So yes, we can say that our bikes are now better because of what we learnt from racing during the last seasons. But now it is time to say bye to the racing scene and move forward."
Instead of taking the team on with a new sponsor, Williamson will instead be re-joining a UCI team and focussing fully on racing next year.
Magnus Manson Leaves Canyon, Likely to be Joining Norco
Magnus Manson officially announced he was leaving Canyon but it didn't come as any great surprise as he was spotted in a recent Finn Iles vlog
riding a Norco. The young Canadian pinner enjoyed two years with the German brand but their partnership has come to an end. Expect the news to be officially confirmed early in the New Year.
Bruce Klein and Commencal 100% Split
Klein spent two years racing for the second Commencal team and, despite missing most of 2018 with an injury, picked up a best World Cup result of 16th at Snowshoe. There's no official word yet on his future but we've seen him riding a GT Fury. However, it wasn't specced using current Factory Team sponsors, so it could just be a red herring. We'll update you when we have official news.
Intense UK/Saddleback UK Team Withdraws From World Cup Racing
UK distributor Saddleback is pulling its World Cup team for next season after supporting up and coming UK racers for the past few years.
This leaves Val di Sole first place qualifier Joe Breeden without a team for 2020. He posted on Instagram, "I am still unsure where my next venture will take me but one thing I know for sure is that I will still be racing my bike as fast as possible one way or another!" We'll let you know where he ends up when we hear more.
Joe Smith Leaves Propain, Looking for 2020 Sponsors
Joe Smith has announced he will no longer be racing with the Propain Factory Racing team in 2020 and beyond. Reading between the lines, it also seems that he has struggled to find a ride for 2020 despite his third-place finish with a puncture at Hardline but is still looking to put a privateer program together.
Kirk McDowall Parts Ways with Devinci
Kirk McDowall has announced that he will no longer be racing for the Unior Devinci race team for the 2020 season.
McDowall joined the World Cup DH team in 2019 and saw some success with a 15th place at the World Championships in Mont Sainte Anne. Alongside his departure announcement on social media McDowall also stated that will he will not be attending as many World Cups next year. Although he has not yet said what the reason is for this move.
Rudy Cabirou leaves Propain Factory Racing
Rudy Cabirou is another rider leaving the Propain team in 2020, after just one season with the factory team Cabirou is looking for a new start this season.
There is no announcement as to where Cabirou is heading just yet but we will update you once we know more.
EnduroDamien Oton Leaves Devinci, Likely to be Racing for Orbea
Enduro's Mr. Consistent has parted ways with Devinci and it seems very likely he's headed to Orbea next year. Oton has been part of the Devinci set up since 2014 when he set aside his life as a plumber to race enduro full time. Since then he has enjoyed success in the EWS, most notably as runner-up in the series overall in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Orbea have already begun teasing a new rider for their team and judging by the blurred video they have posted, it seems very likely that it's going to be Oton. The team release is scheduled for January 3 so check back then for confirmation.
Florian Nicolai Leaves Canyon, Likely to be Joining Trek
After a stunning season that saw him just miss out on the overall EWS title, Florian Nicolai has announced he is leaving Canyon for a new team in 2020. We've no official news on where Nicolai is heading next but he recently posted a picture of his passport and some plane tickets with the destination Madison, Wisconsin, which points pretty strongly to him joining Trek next year.
Thomas Lapeyrie and Orbea Split
If we think Damien Oton is joining Orbea, that unfortunately means one top rider is probably going to have to leave to make room for him. In this case, Thomas Lapeyrie seems to be that man as he announced his split from the brand by saying that the end to their partnership, "came earlier than it was planned".
We hope that Lapeyrie lands on his feet with a new program in 2020.
Jared Graves and Specialized Split
After a turbulent four years, Jared Graves and Specialized have parted ways for 2020. Jared said, "while things didn’t really go to plan like we had all hoped over the years, it’s an experience I’ll never forget. Especially a huge thanks for the fully paid obligation free 2019 to let me 100% focus on getting my health back to 100%."
Many speculate Jared to return to Yeti, but he’s told us to expect more news soon.
Greg Callaghan and Cube Split
Greg Callaghan has parted ways with Cube after riding for them since 2015. He quickly established himself as one of the fastest enduro racers in the world and has three EWS wins to his name, including the Irish double he picked up on home turf in 2015 and 2016.
We have reasons to suspect that Greg is headed to Devinci next to replace Oton but when we put it to Devinci they asked us to wait until early January for more news.
Cody Kelly and Alchemy Split
Cody Kelly is the final enduro rider to be switching colours this off-season as he waves farewell to Alchemy just a few months after picking up the Rainbow Stripes at the Trophy of Nations.
Ed Masters and Pivot Split... Maybe
Is this one of the biggest moves of the season or is Ed having some off-season fun? Ed has definitely posted something that looks like a farewell to Pivot and after his strongest season to date, he’s without a doubt a hot property for any brand. However, he never actually confirmed he was leaving in it.
If he is off to a new team it will have to have been a late move as when we chatted to Bernard Kerr, Ed's team manager, about his Anaheim plans, Bernard was looking forward to another season with Ed in 2020. We'll be watching this one with interest and update you when we hear more.
FreerideAndreu Lacondeguy and YT Industries Split, Likely to be Joining Commencal
After nearly a decade together, YT and Andreu Lacondeguy have announced they have parted ways heading into 2020. Andreu has enjoyed Rampage successes and founded the FEST series while representing the German direct sale brand but will be on a new brand for the new decade.
The strongest rumours seem to be that Andreu will be joining his brother Lluis on Commencal and some obscured Instagram stories seem to corroborate this but we haven't had any official confirmation yet.
Canyon and Darren Berrecloth Split
Darren Berrecloth may have retired from competition in 2018 but he's such a prolific rider and still gets top billing in lots of high production films so will no doubt still attract a lot of sponsorship interest. After 4 years with Canyon, he has a new partner lined up to join him on his adventures in 2020.
Nico Vink and Scott Split
Nico Vink and a Scott Gambler go together like well... Nico Vink and thrash metal. Despite that, the Belgian freerider is changing up his program for next year. Scott released a great little edit of Vink's highlights and it seems to have been an amicable split.
So who will Vink be riding on his back wheel for next year? We don't know at this point but your best bet is to follow Nico, the Lacondgeuys, Loic Bruni, Alex Marin and Gaetan Vige on Instagram. They're all riding together in La Poma and southern France at the moment so an Instagram Stories slip up is a possibility.
Fabio Wibmer and Specialized Split
5 years ago, when he was first signed by Specialized, Fabio Wibmer was the youngest member of the Drop and Roll Tour and was only just starting to cultivate a YouTube following. Fast forward to today and it's an investment that must have paid off handsomely for the Big S as he's accrued nearly 4 million followers and the biggest YouTube audience in the sport.
Fabio Wibmer is one of the most valuable riders in the world so expect only a big brand to be able to pick him up, or maybe something totally out of left field similar to Sam Pilgrim's Haibike deal.
Reed Boggs and Trek Split
Reed has been with Trek for three years and has transitioned from a being slopestyle rider into a big mountain freerider. He made his first Rampage appearance in 2018 with a wild card slot and then qualified in 2019 by winning the Proving Grounds event. He has now left Trek but he has bags of potential and we are sure he was snapped up fast.
Chris Akrigg and Mongoose Split
Chris Akrigg had been with Mongoose longer than any other rider has been with their sponsor on this list. In fact, he's been with them longer than most of these guys have been pros. Akrigg will leave behind some big shoes to fill after 40 edits of unique, trials-influenced riding. He'll also be a huge asset for any brand going forward as he's proved he can make anything from a gravel bike to a full-blown enduro rig look good.