Following a season that was nearly scrapped entirely then squeezed into two months, this isn't going to be a normal off-season for the racers. There's now just a short blast of recovery, testing and training time plus the chance of yet another disrupted season next year, which could make the annual game of musical saddles even more secretive and surprising this year.
We've tapped up sources and spoken to riders to try and get a clearer picture of what might be happening next year. Below are rumours, and only rumours, of some rider movements for 2020. These include Danny Hart to Cube, Loris Vergier off to a new team and, most shocking of all, a Santa Cruz XC team.
Danny Hart to Cube - Very LikelyDanny Hart and Madison Saracen parting ways
was a kickstart to silly season before the race season had even begun and, of course, it wasn't long until speculation about his next move began. With four World Cup wins and 2 World Championship titles, he's no doubt one of the most sought after riders in the pits and probably had a flurry of offers from prospective teams.
Rob Warner was quick to give some hints on this one and said Danny was going to a "square brand". We've also been told that Danny is off to "one of the biggest European brands". A big, square, European brand can only mean one thing to us and that's Cube. We reached out to Cube and they told us: "We are sorry, but at the moment we cannot give any information about this topic."
Vali Holl and YT Industries Part Ways - Likely
Vali Holl was rumored to be leaving YT last year, something we quashed early on in the rumour season
, but this year we think it's a bit more credible. So, what's changed? Well, we've heard this one come from World Cup insiders this year plus we were warned it might be coming last year.
Although she rides a YT frame, Vali races as part of the SRAM TLD development team. John Dawson, team manager, explained last year that Vali stuck with that set up to keep things as stress-free as possible while she completed her final year at school alongside racing in elites for the first time. There were apparently offers on the table for Vali last year but SRAM TLD were best placed to make the tricky transition up to elites as easy as possible for Vali without the pressures being on a trade team may have placed on her, just as it did for riders such as Luca Shaw and Lucas Cruz in recent years. He also hinted last year that 2020 would be Vali's last year on the team and it seems that might still be the case now she is no longer a first-year elite.
We reached out to YT and they said, "Is it that time of year again already? Time flies… We do not want to take the wind out of your sails by revealing which athletes we may or may not be working with in the future and thereby impede the radically reckless speculation at this early stage of ‘Rumor Season’, to which the community so looks forward to." Whatever happens to Vali, we wish her the best in her continued recovery
and hope she is able to compete against the rest of the elite women at full fitness next year.
Loris Vergier and the Syndicate Part Ways - Likely
We've heard from multiple sources that Loris is calling time on his tenure with the Santa Cruz Syndicate. This was also spilled by Warner on the live feed but we've since heard it from pretty much every other person connected to the World Cup circuit that we've spoken to as well. Despite his two wins in Maribor, it seems that Vergier and the Syndicate are set to part ways this offseason and, much like Hart, we're sure wouldn't be short of interest.
As to where Vergier will be headed to next, we wouldn't be surprised to see him land with one of the large American brands, but haven't seen anything to confirm it. We reached out to the Syndicate to try and get some more information but they did not respond to our request for comment.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot to Absolute Absalon - Very Likely
Despite her immense success, Pauline Ferrand Prevot has acted as a bit of a lone ranger on the World Cup circuit in recent years. She's the only XC racer currently registered on the Canyon Team and she's listed on the UCI website as part of the same gravity team as Troy Brosnan and Jack Moir. This set up clearly doesn't hold her back though as she picked up yet another set of Rainbow Stripes this year and a World Cup win to bring her career total up to six.
Our sources have told us that PFP will be heading to her partner's team, Absolute Absalon, next year. Logistically it makes a lot of sense given the pair live together already and it would give her a team pit set up to operate in for World Cups next year. We spoke to both Canyon and Absolute Absalon about the move, but neither wished to comment on the situation.
Reece Wilson off Trek - Not True
Another bombshell that Rob Warner dropped in the live feed in Maribor was that Reece Wilson would be leaving Trek after winning the World Championships. This came as a huge shock as the young Scot only joined the brand last year so it would be unusual for him to be on his travels once again so soon. Add on top of this, he now has proven success on the brand and there doesn't seem to be much sense in switching up bikes after the biggest result of your career.
We spoke to team manager Andrew Shandro and he shot the idea right down, saying "Reece will be staying with Trek for the next few years." We've no doubt plenty of teams would love to sign 2020's breakout rider but it sounds like he's sticking with Trek for now.
Graham Agassiz to YT Industries - Possible
Despite only joining Evil at the start of 2019, we've heard that Aggy could be on a new frame next year. YT continues to expand its roster of rad freeriders and we think the Kamploos legend Aggy could be next in their crosshairs.
Evil declined to comment but Oliver Junggeburth, PR Manager at YT, said, "YT is continuously on the lookout for exciting (free)riders to work together with. We do not want to take the wind out of your sails by revealing whether we may or may not be working with Aggy in the future and thereby impede the radically reckless speculation at this early stage of ‘Rumor Season’, to which the community so looks forward to."
Jack Moir Doubling Up Next Year While Staying on Canyon - Confirmed
What a difference 12 months makes. This time last year Jack Moir was a man down on his luck. On the back of a season he describes as his worst ever
, Jack signed a letter of intent with a team that later decided to pull its entire program leaving Jack without a ride and facing the prospect of a season without racing.
With the help of the Masters brothers, Jack was able to secure a last-minute ride with Canyon and then used the same strength of character that helped him to recover from a shark attack and multiple broken collarbones to become a podium contender this year in both the EWS and downhill World Cups.
Jack has now flown home after his successful stint in Europe and has confirmed to us he will be staying with Canyon and is aiming to race in the EWS and downhill World Cups again next year.
Alex Fayolle Retires - Confirmed
Just three and a half years after winning a World Cup, Alex Fayolle has announced he will be retiring from racing. Fayolle has admitted to struggling with the pressure that winning a race so early in his career put on him
and has now called time on his World Cup journey.
Fayolle said: "It’s with a lot of emotions that I announce my retirement from racing... 10 years of amazing racing, starting from regionals win to World Cup podium. I didn’t manage to reach all my goals but I realized my kid’s dream, be a professional rider and travel around the world with such amazing persons I would like to thank all the people who contributed (team, sponsors, coach, friends ...) and more particularly my father because without him none of this would have been possible. This a new chapter of my life starting now always on 2 wheels."
Emily Batty and Trek Part Ways - Possible
Another top racer in women's XC that could be on the move is Emily Batty. Batty has been on Trek's Factory team since 2010 but she could be on the move after a decade of racing for the Wisconsin brand next year.
Jon Rourke, the team manager for Trek's XC program, told us, "At the moment we are in talks with riders to finalize our 2021 roster, including existing members. So unfortunately no official news to release at this time."Maxime Marotte to Santa Cruz - Possible
This is perhaps the wildest rumour we've heard so far but could Santa Cruz be starting an XC team? While most of us would have expected a bigger EWS set up to be their next move, we've heard they could instead be focussing on mountain biking's Olympic discipline. Santa Cruz still produces the Blur and Highball XC bikes and we think Maxime Marotte, who recently left Cannondale
, could be a great pick for a rider with genuine medal hopes at next year's big show in Tokyo.
Santa Cruz's parent company, Pon Holdings, has just signed a multi-year deal with the current top road team, Jumbo Visma, through Cervelo
and it would make sense that it would be interested in a strong Olympic presence on dirt as well. We reached out to Santa Cruz for more information and Seb Kemp, brand manager for Santa Cruz, told us, "If there was something to say we'd certainly let you know"
Phil Atwill and Dakotah Norton on New Teams - Possible
At the very last race of the year, both Phil Atwill (4:17) and Dakotah Norton (25:27) hinted on Wyn TV that they could be on the move next year. In his interview, Phil said, "Hopefully it will make getting a job a bit easier for next year... Potentially looking for a job or maybe waiting for some offers" and Dakotah said, "I'm not sure what the future holds at this point in time for me."
Of course, we've no doubt that many contracts are still under negotiation as riders work out their plans for a possibly disrupted 2021. Could this be what Dakotah and Phil were referencing or is there something more going on? We'll keep you updated with this one as we learn more.
Jesse Melamed to Leave Rocky Mountain Race Face - Unlikely
Jesse Melamed's contract is up for renewal and he won some big races this year (official unofficial EWS champ in our hearts!), so we weren't surprised to hear several brands are interested in the young Canadian. We don't think a team change is likely though—the Rocky Mountain team is a tight knit group, and the program they've built over the past few years seems to be working. We'd be surprised to see either party mess with a winning formula.
We reached out to Jesse and he confirmed to us that "Nothing is official yet but I hope to stay with the team. We had a lot of success this year, and I want to keep working with the people who helped me get there."
Stephen Matthews, Brand Manager, Rocky Mountain, said, "Jesse’s been a part of the Rocky Mountain enduro program since the inception of the Altitude Team and has proven himself as both an incredible athlete and leader of this team. We’re proud of him for his race wins this year and we’re looking forward to sharing more of those moments together. We’re currently working on dialing in a program with Jesse to continue the partnership into 2021 and beyond.”
What are your thoughts? Predictions? Wild speculation? Let's hear it!