WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2023
Led by Frenchman Youn Deniaud, the enduro squad of the Giant Factory Off-Road Team wrapped up a winning season of World Cup racing at the seventh and final round in Châtel, France.
Enduro racing was added to the MTB World Cup Series for the first time this year, and the Giant Factory Off-Road Team rose up to have a breakout season on the international circuit. The team won two of seven World Cups and posted consistently high finishes—all on their new Reign Advanced Pro team bikes.
Season highlights started right from the start. In March, Luke Meier-Smith won the opening round of the EDR World Cup in Australia. In a stunning debut, the young Australian won the first-ever EDR World Cup race at the Maydena Bike Park in Tasmania. A first-year member of the team, and the winner of the 2022 Under-21 Enduro World Series, it was Meier-Smith’s first time racing at the elite level.
“What a day, I’m speechless to say the least,” said the 20-year-old after that win. “Dropping last for the final stage while knowing I was in the lead definitely added some pressure, but I managed to pull it together and come out on top and my first-ever elite Enduro World Cup.”
As the series moved to Europe in May, the team’s momentum continued, culminating with Youn Deniaud’s first career World Cup win at Round 6 in Loudenvielle, France. In his fifth year riding with the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, Deniaud was at the front of the action throughout the season, finishing top-10 in six out of seven World Cups.
“So many good memories to look back on with the team this season,” said Deniaud. “We had a great start in Tasmania, where I finished ninth and sixth at the first two rounds, but the highlight for me was my first EDR World Cup victory in France in front of my family and friends.”
Deniaud had his best season yet racing on his new team bike, the Reign Advanced Pro. “The new Reign gave me the confidence I needed to ride closer to the limit,” he said. “Especially with the mullet setup, I have never been as fast on steep and technical stuff.”
Looking at how the results compared with his expectations going into the year, Deniaud said: “My goals for this year were to win at the Sea Otter Classic, which I did, and to be top-five overall with a podium in the World Cup. I couldn’t have been closer to that goal with a sixth-place overall finish and the victory at Round 6. For next year, I want to fight for the top three overall, and I’m sure that I have everything I need to do it.”
Deniaud’s Canadian teammate Mckay Vezina also had some highlights to remember, competing with the top riders in the world early in the season before an injury sidelined him for the last two rounds.
“This was one of my favorite years to date, with many highs and a few lows,” said Vezina. “My season highlight was Round 4 in Italy, when I achieved my second top-20 of the season, which put me 16th overall in the rankings. That was a huge goal for me and something I worked really hard to achieve. Unfortunately, I broke my collarbone not long after, which had me sit out the last two rounds.”
Vezina also played a big role in helping the team test and fine-tune their new Reign Advanced Pro race bike and a next-generation Giant WheelSystem. “We worked really hard with Giant to develop the most capable bike that not only fits the needs of World Cup racing, but also the everyday rider,” he said. “Another big project was the new wheels. We spent months developing and testing, and at the end we are left with a finished product that is absolutely bombproof for enduro racing.”
Carlson Top-10 in E-EDR World Cup
Along with enduro racing, an E-bike category was also added to the World Cup series this year and veteran racer Josh Carlson represented the Giant Factory Off-Road Team throughout the season. Racing primarily on his Trance X Advanced E+ race bike, the Australian finished in the top-10 at three of five events.
Carlson’s best result came at the second round in Trentino, Italy, where he finished fourth. He also posted strong finishes at Finale, Italy (seventh) and Loudenvielle, France (eighth). Carlson finished the season ninth overall in the Elite Men’s E-EDR rankings.