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Mountain Biking

Aims & Ambitions | We Asked Ruaridh Cunningham to Reveal All About the New Canyon Downhill Team

The Inside scoop on the most exciting announcement of the mountain biking off-season

The return of the UCI Downhill World Cup is drawing closer by the day, and undoubtedly one of the most exciting stories of the mountain biking off-season has been the unveiling of the all-new Canyon Factory Downhill team.

World Cup winner Troy Brosnan, Canadian shredder Mark Wallace and former Junior World Champ Ruaridh Cunningham will all take to the circuit on the Canyon Sender CF as part of the new crew. With downhill legend Fabien Barel leading up the project and the Sender already boasting praise from critics and riders in the past few years, there’s a whole lot of excitement about just what’s in store for the new formation.

“There is pressure but I feel like the tools are all there to get the job done…”

We caught up with Scotsman Ruaridh Cunningham to quiz him about swapping his Trek Session for a Canyon Sender and find out exactly what’s been going on in the early days of the Canyon Factory Downhill Team.

Here’s Ruaridh on all of the above and more, in his own words…

Canyon Downhill Factory Team rider Ruaridh Cunningham… All photos: Canyon Bikes

Singing with Canyon and the new Factory downhill team is a massive step forward for me.

This is the best opportunity I’ve had to date. I’m teammates with one of the top three guys in the world, we’ve got Fabien Barel on our side and a bike which Canyon are determined to make the best it can possibly be.

We went out to Germany in November to Canyon HQ and got to learn about the brand and the people behind it. It’s the most German, efficient business you can imagine. The stuff they do in-house in Germany is quite inspiring.

After that we all went out to France for the first team camp for 10 days. There were two days of testing at the beginning and two at the end. Canyon had a few things that they’d developed for the bike with our input over the winter. We were trying different set ups and shock tunes and fork tunes and different lengths and so on, and in between tests we were shooting for the first team video launch. Fabien was there overseeing everything and it was full on, but it was pretty relaxed.

It was 10 days full on but everything was taken care of; everybody had a plan for the day and knew what we need to do. They were long days but efficient. I think we’ll be back there before the season starts in Lourdes; do another week primarily just testing and getting the week fine-tuned for the start of the World Cups.

I first tried the Canyon Sender at the end of October, but it’s constantly evolving. They sent me one to try before I signed and straight away I was impressed with it – and that was out of the box. Since then we’ve got a pretty specific build and a few little parts here and there that Canyon are developing in house. By the time we get to the World Cup I’ll have had a good few months on the bike as it’s going to be for racing and be all ready to go.

It has been quite easy to transition from the Trek Session to the Sender. There are a few differences. The Canyon is a little bit bigger. The medium Canyon is actually bigger than the large Trek, which is taking a bit of getting used to, but to be honest I’ve been really happy with it so far.

The bike is a little bit more progressive. It’s a little bit lower, a little bit longer. I think it’s more designed straight out of the box for World Cup racing; long, low, slack and progressive and I’ve really not had to change a huge amount to be confident on it, which is good.

I’ve known Troy Brosnan for a number of years and we’ve always been pretty close. We hang out at races even when we’re not on the same team; we’ll quite often practise together or track walk. It’s cool that me and him are going to be teammates rather than having to walk the length of the pit to hang out. I’m really excited for that.

I got to know Mark Wallace from Hardline in the last couple of years. He’s quite shy but once you get to know him he’s quite funny and a real hard worker. The three of us are all unique but we all get on really well. The two trips we’ve spent together have been fun. We’re bouncing off each other and it’s been really relaxed. I get surprised at how well everyone is getting on and how well everything is working.

Fabien Barel has experienced which you can’t buy – a double world champion known for being very articulate with his equipment and what he wants out of a bike. He a believer in riding bigger bikes; almost a size bigger than you might imagine and he has some ideas that we’re trying to see if they work against the clock.

There’s certainly more pressure; pressure that I’ll put on myself more than anything. It’s a big step up for me. Unior were a great team and did a lot for me, but being on the Canyon Factory Team and having the company 100% behind you and seeing the work that they can do in-house… If we want something on the bike changed or something different then they have the guys to go away and do it. Having that resource behind you opens a lot of doors to what you can do. It’s been quite eye opening.

I want to improve result-wise and climb towards that top 10 more often. There is pressure but I feel like the tools are there to get the job done. Last year I cracked the top 10 at Lenzerheide. The times are so tight but I’d like to be more consistently around the top 10, and maybe even land a podium at one round. We’re working towards that.

I can’t speak for Troy Brosnan, but from the time I’ve spent with him over the past few months he seems very, very determined and he’s working hard and cleaning up in Australia on their National Series at the moment. For a rider of his level there are really only two steps to go. I’m sure his sights will be on the number one time in Lourdes for sure.

We’re easing back into things but the plan is for me to go out to Australia for the beginning of March and spend some time with Troy training down there. It’s looking like the first official race for the team is going to be Crankworx Rotorua, so I’m looking forward to that.

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