Giant MTB Racers Collect Multiple World Cup Podiums

2024. június 26., szerda

Team versenyzők

Belgian Jens Schuermans, Swiss rider Dario Lillo, and Australian Sascha Kim have all posted podium finishes through the first half of the 2024 UCI MTB World Cup series.

Belgian Jens Schuermans had a breakthrough result at Round 4 of the XCO/XCC World Cup series in Val di Sole, Italy, racing to the podium in the Elite Men’s short track (XCC) to join other Giant Factory Off-Road Team riders who have earned World Cup podiums this year. The strong performance from Schuermans follows a U23 podium appearance by Dario Lillo at the XCC World Cup in Nove Mesto, as well as back-to-back podiums from U21 Enduro athlete Sascha Kim.

Schuermans, who is in his second year with the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, enjoyed his best result of the 2024 World Cup season in Val di Sole after a tough start resulted in him coming unclipped from his pedals in the frenetic moments after the race began. Remaining calm through the fast and hectic opening laps, Schuermans methodically rode his way back into the top-10 and held a good position near the front until the final three laps.

Looking to improve on his 10th place XCC finish at the Nove Mesto World Cup three weeks earlier, the 31-year-old from Maasmechelen refused to cede position, ultimately finding himself at the front of the race with just 1.5 laps remaining. “It wasn’t ideal, but I either went for it or would gamble losing a good position,” he said. “I chose to be courageous and went as hard as I could.”

Riding his Anthem Advanced Pro 29 race bike and sporting a Giant Rev Elite helmet, Schuermans sprinted to the line just behind XCC world champion Samuel Gaze and world No. 1 Victor Koretzky—and just ahead of Nino Schurter, the most decorated World Cup rider in the history of the sport.

“Into the final straight I felt I was really on the limit,” Schuermans said. “I ended third in the final sprint, and this is truly an amazing result for me. I raced with a full heart and gave everything I had.”

With the podium finish, Schuermans moved into 10th overall in the XCC World Cup standings. He finished fourth overall in last year's XCC series and is aiming to equal or improve on that result. Following the upcoming World Cup event in Les Gets, France, Schuermans will be representing Belgium at the Olympic cross-country race, his third consecutive appearance.

"For the last months, I pretty much knew and believed I would participate again in the biggest sport event in the world, but to actually do it again makes me secretly very proud of this achievement," Schuermans wrote on his Instragam page after the team selection was announced. "It’s something I have worked relentlessly for with the help of a lot of people whom I’m eternally grateful for. The best thing about doing it for the third time is understanding how incredible this event is, and if all the pieces of the puzzle fall into the right spot, magic can happen."

Missing from competition in Val di Sole and Crans Montana was Canadian teammate Carter Woods, who has been battling a Giardia infection since Nove Mesto. In his first season of Elite Men's World Cup racing, Woods’ top result thus far has been 15th at Round 2 in the XCO event at Araxá, Brazil.

U23 CROSS-COUNTRY

New to the Giant Factory Off-Road Team this year, Swiss rider Dario Lillo is no stranger to World Cup podiums. He's twice finished second in U23 XCC events this season, first at Mairipora, Brazil, and more recently at Nove Mesto. Though he struggled in Val di Sole, finishing ninth in the XCC race and eighth in the XCO, his performance on home soil at Crans Montana World Cup—fourth in the XCC and fifth in the XCO—has landed him in third overall for the XCC standings, and fifth overall for the XCO standings.

“The highlights of the season were for sure the two podiums in the XCC,” Lillo said. “Those races suited me really well, and I could ride a tactically good race and finish second twice. I‘m looking forward to Les Gets. I like the track there, and with a good day and some race luck, everything is possible.”

ENDURO

A winner of two EDR World Cup events last year in the Under-21 category, Australian Sascha Kim currently sits fourth overall in this year's standings with a pair of third-place finishes aboard his Reign Advanced Pro. He's especially motivated by his podium finish in Leogang, Austria, where he came back after crashing heavily during practice runs, and again on the final stage. His primary 2024 goal remains the same—to win the overall title.

"Good memories from last year had me excited to get racing in Leogang," he said. "This time there was a really diverse set of stages with super difficult conditions. I was really happy to make it through this one and to get another podium.  After some heavy crashes in practice I felt quite beaten up and had lost quite a bit of confidence going into race day. I was really happy to stay on the bike for the first few stages which were super technical. I stuck to my gameplan for the final two stages but unfortunately I went down hard on the final stage. Overall I’m happy with how I adapted to the changing conditions and with my consistency, which is building each race."

French elite rider Youn Deniaud currently sits 22nd in the Enduro World Cup standings. His top result during the first half of the 2024 World Cup season has been a ninth-place finish at Finale Outdoor Region on the Italian Riveria.

DOWNHILL

Now in his fourth year with the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, French downhiller Remi Thirion has been racing his Glory Advanced mixed-wheel setup consistently in World Cup finals at all four events so far this season and is currently ranked 14th overall. At Val di Sole, Thirion struggled with illness leading into the race, and rainy conditions during his finals run, but he still managed to finish seventh in the semifinals before placing 20th in the final.

"Val di Sole is the hardest track of the year, technically and physically, and it didn’t disappoint with the wet conditions this year," he said. "I like racing this kind of track and the feeling was great on the bike during the practice runs, but unfortunately I picked up the illness from my teammates in Leogang and my energy wasn’t great at all. I was still able to get 23rd in qualification and seventh in the semifinals, and that got me fired up for the final. The weather was a bit unpredictable for the finals, and some riders like me got a bit of rain during the run. I pushed hard in my lines with too many mistakes. The fatigue was there as well and I couldn’t ride and be focused properly."

Thirion has quickly changed his focus to the upcoming World Cup in Les Gets, France. "Overall I’m happy about the beginning of my season and how I'm riding my bike at the moment—consistently in the top 20 and standing 14th overall in the World Cup. The goal now is to get a podium quickly to be in the top 10 overall. Next up is a bit of rest to cure my illness, to refresh my mind and body, and to be ready for the Les Gets World Cup in two weeks."

Australian downhilling brothers Luke Meier-Smith, 22, and Remy Meier-Smith, 20, have consistently qualified for World Cup finals throughout the first half of the 2024 season. Luke's top World Cup result was 24th at Val di Sole, though he also placed fifth in the Fort William semi-finals; he sits 26th on the overall rankings. Remy's top result was 17th at Fort William; he sits 24th on the overall rankings.

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