Enduro ace takes to the tarmac in his first competitive outing for his new team
FORMER Enduro World Championship title-holder Jared Graves has debuted his new Specialized colours for 2016, after his shock switch away from long-time sponsor Yeti.
Graves, from Toowoomba in Queensland, lined up at the 2016 Daniel Bennett memorial criterium on New Year’s Day at Norwell, west of Brisbane, finishing a creditable fifth place outright after missing a breakaway.
Widely considered to be one of the most broadly talented riders in mountain biking, Graves has long used less orthodox training methods to prepare for his race season, including winning several rounds of the Australian cross country championship in the 2013/14 season.
However, Graves – a former BMX Olympian and 4X world champion – said that the XC preparation had left him feeling “like a diesel” going into his EWS championship winning year.
“Even though I won the overall and 2014 was a successful year, the whole XC racing to get as fit as possible thing kind of felt like a massive backfire,” he told the Ol’ Crank. “I felt like a diesel for the first half of the season and couldn’t go hard on short stages, I lost a lot of punch. It took me until mid season to get that back.”
A pre-season training crash in 2015 took him out of contention to back up his 2014 EWS crown, which was eventually claimed by former Yeti teammate and protégé Richie Rude.
The Queenslander will line up beside good mate American Curtis Keene in the Specialized squad. “I am pumped to join forces with Specialized, no other brand has the full compliment of top-shelf bikes and gear and the level of commitment to success. The whole team is setup really well with the best support, the best mechanics and the best teammates,” he said in a statement.
The American company recently lost its 2015 World #1 downhiller, Aaron Gwin, after what Gwin called a “difference of opinion” on the champion’s salary expectations.
”I proposed what I believe to be my reasonable market value, and they differed,” Gwin told US site Pinkbike.
There is speculation that the company has allocated a greater marketing spend towards enduro racing – a discipline that more directly links to sales of many of its bike lines – at the expense of the waning downhill category.
Another casualty of the move to Yeti for Graves is the ending of a long association with mechanic Shaun Hughes, who has been with Graves for all of his major titles. Hughes will not make the move to the Specialized team, remaining at Yeti for the 2015 season.