Written by: Fred Dreier
Specialized Bicycles already owns a prolific World Cup-level professional mountain bike racing team, which is home to 2008 world champion Christoph Sauser and downhill great Sam Hill. But for 2009 the California bicycle manufacturer is adding a North American component to its global umbrella of mountain bike racing. Specialized has teamed with Sho Air International, a Huntington Beach, California-based shipping company to sponsor the California-based Sho Air-Specialized mountain bike team.
“Unfortunately with travel schedules, the World Cup team really never gets to hit the domestic U.S. scene,” said Ben Capron, Specialized’s director of global marketing. “We’ve always wanted to be involved in the U.S. scene in a more powerful way. This is a way for us to have a domestic factory racing team.”
The Sho Air-Specialized factory racing team will support three full-time professional riders: five-time Australian champion Sid Taberlay, former U23 American champ Sam Jurekovic and Costa Rican Manuel Prado. Sho Air’s partnership with Specialized will also provide gear and cash support to the nearly 500 amateur riders on the Sho Air-Sonance club team, which is operated by Team Velosport management and includes an elite mountain bike squad, a masters road racing team and a youth racing program.
“We are mostly Southern California-based; however we are expanding,” said Scott Tedro, owner of Sho Air and founder of the team. “We will be competing in all of the U.S. Cup events as well as the USA Cycling Pro Cross Country Tour events. We will field a team at the BC Bike Race and the American Mountain Classic, and we will compete at a few other marquee events.”
Tedro started the Sho Air club racing team in 2005 with four members and doubled his roster a year later. In 2006 he partnered with SoCal-based Rock and Road Cyclery — a major Specialized dealer — and launched an amateur-elite squad. In 2007 Sho Air-Rock and Road won the California State team title and upped its membership to 20. In 2008 the squad extended sponsorship to 195 elite and amateur riders.
“We’ve watched (team Sho Air) grow and we’ve really appreciated what it’s done for domestic racing. The grassroots team is now one of the biggest in the nation,” Capron said. “With this team you’re going to see a bunch of men and women who are visible at races and really love racing their bikes.”
Sho Air also is title sponsor of the new professional mountain bike series, the 2009 USA Cycling Pro Cross Country Mountain Bike Tour presented by Sho-Air International.
The sponsorship of the Sho Air squad marks another infusion of cash into the U.S. mountain biking scene for 2009 by the California bicycle manufacturer. In December Specialized announced it would be the presenting sponsor of the new U.S. Cup, a 13-race cross-country series, which is also organized by Tedro. And in the fall Specialized assumed the presenting sponsorship role of the NorCal High School mountain bike league.
Capron declined to name a dollar amount that Specialized was pumping into domestic off-road racing next year, but said the sum was sizable.
“It’s a big step for us, but the increased commitment says how important we feel domestic racing is,” Capron said.