How Trek’s mountain biking teams grew up

Andrew Shandro and Tracy Moseley explain the secret sauce behind C3 and TFR's success

The Trek ecosystem of racing teams is vast and complex. The bike company sponsors dozens of athletes all over the world, either as individuals or as members of sponsored or subsidiary teams, through the Trek Race Shop. Relationships with athletes can range from a bit of equipment to more robust financial, training and logistical support, and often involves cooperating with other brand partners to contribute to their overall success.

Within that ecosystem, the C3 Project and Trek Factory Racing teams are unique. The Race Shop enjoys full control over how it recruits, supports and manages the logistics for those riders. Those programs are all relatively young — the C3 Project is the oldest, launching in 2010, while TFR’s cross country, enduro and downhill teams became fully-owned in 2013, 2014 and 2019, respectively — but in recent weeks their success has displayed the fruits of a focused, multi-discipline structure. 

The weekend of June 9th was a prime example. At Crankworx Innsbruck, C3 and TFR athletes took home five medals, two of them wins: Emil Johansson in slopestyle, and Loris Vergier in downhill. Then in Gränichen, Switzerland, Evie Richards and Anton Cooper won the women’s and men’s elite XC races; both riders, as well as teammate Jolanda Neff, were coming off strong World Cup performances, too.

When I was racing, there was always talk about, 'Shouldn't we be doing it ourselves as Trek?'

- Tracy Moseley

Those results didn’t occur in a vacuum; they reflect years of hard work and planning by a large number of people. Foremost are the riders, but just beyond them two people deserve special mention: Andrew Shandro and Tracy Moseley. They are legendary figures in mountain biking — Shandro won two downhill World Cups and helped pioneer slopestyle competitions, while Moseley is one of the most decorated mountain bikers ever, with four world championships across downhill and enduro. And they oversee the culture of unity and development that has helped turn a cadre of young riders into some of the best in the world: Shandro with C3 and TFR Downhill, and Moseley with TFR XC and Enduro.

Shandro and Moseley have seen Trek’s mountain biking squads evolve from mere ideas into tight-knit, well-oiled operations. They are aware of every equipment nightmare, and every rider’s day-to-day challenges. And there is no one better to tell the story of how Trek’s mountain biking teams grew up.

The following transcription has been edited for clarity and length.

Andrew Shandro working the van for TFR Downhill.

How it started

The C3 Project — “C3” standing for “Competition,” “Creativity” and “Cinematics” — began in 2010, and was an immediate success behind riders like Cam McCaul, Brandon Semenuk, Casey Brown, R-Dog and Brett Rheeder. Shandro was a major influence on those young freeride and slopestyle stars, and helped recruit them into a collective. In the process, he helped create a model that other in-house Trek teams could follow. 

Andrew Shandro: I started off as an athlete at Trek back in the early 2000s. So competing a little bit in Red Bull Rampage, coming off a downhill background. I saw the beginning of Crankworx and slopestyle. We could see where the sport was going as I got older. So I pitched Trek [before 2010] with the idea of, ‘Hey, we need to pick up some riders who can do well for us in that world.’ So the first athlete to come on Trek was Cam McCaul. And then from there it just sort of grew into C3.

We've got the backing of a brand that's giving us total support. And then in the downhill world, the racing is so exciting. The competition is incredible. The equipment is incredible. All of that combined I think leads to amazing stuff.

- Andrew Shandro

Tracy Moseley: I started with what was Trek World Racing back in 2009. It was part of a program that was not really dealt with in-house by Trek, it was very much run by an external company. So I think having seen that program for many years, there was talk at Trek that, ‘We’d like to manage our teams ourselves.’ And for me, I retired in 2015 from the Enduro World Series. It was then something that I got asked to get involved with. 

We kind of talked about it for many years, actually. When I was racing, there was always talk about, ‘Shouldn’t we be doing it ourselves as Trek and having more say in how it’s run and how it looks?’ 

Shandro: I mean, C3 is a massive part of the MTB culture at Trek, and I think without it, it’d be a little bit different. We have an incredible group of athletes. So Cam was the first hire, and then, Brandon [Semenuk] was the second hire when he was like 14. I got him some frames and it really started out very casually. And then it has just grown from there.

Tracy Moseley started racing for Trek in 2009, and has worn many hats in the Trek Race Shop ever since.

What do you do?

Bringing riders together from all over the world requires some sort of glue —- a.k.a, people like Shandro and Moseley. They may wear many hats within the Trek Race Shop, but arguably the most important is as rider mentors and confidants. 

Moseley: I started off mainly with the enduro team, organizing their logistics: all of their travel accommodations and calendars. And it has evolved into more of an athlete management role in many ways. We’re a liaison between Trek and the athletes. 

Shandro: I’m invested in the relationships with the staff and the riders. We create a culture that people want to be a part of. And we have fun doing it. We’re serious but we have fun doing it and we want to win races. But I think creating that culture has been really important. 

Moseley: Having been an athlete for many years for Trek, and now kind of working on the other side of the fence. I can see the needs of both. I try to find a middle ground between those two things. Often the needs of the athlete aren’t what the company at Trek wants, and sometimes Trek are requesting things that aren’t feasible or fair to the athlete. So it’s trying to find that common ground and somewhere where we can meet in the middle.

Shandro with downhill rider Charlie Harrison in 2019.

On putting together a 'Trek' race team

Shandro and Moseley have been involved in many discussions about the riders recruited over the years. They’ve always looked beyond results.

Moseley: I think my one big area of focus has been on making the team a happy place, and a fun place, and somewhere that people can perform their best. And I think from my experience as a rider, you don’t always get a chance to choose the staff that you work with, or your teammates. Sometimes there’s lots of really amazing athletes, but if the whole unit doesn’t work as one, then it’s always going to be hard to actually get the best out of each of those people.

Shandro: I do my due diligence and really get a feeling of what the person is all about. Not just ‘I’m an amazing athlete,’ because obviously we have a lot of amazing athletes, but sometimes that doesn’t translate into being a great ambassador or partner for Trek, right?

We create a culture that people want to be a part of. And we have fun doing it. We're serious but we have fun doing it.

- Andrew Shandro

Moseley: You don’t often choose those people that you spend four or five months a year on the road with living out of a bag in close confines. It’s tough. Even if it’s your best friend, you’re gonna fall out at some point. So it’s trying to work on those relationships and make it work. And I think that’s probably for me one of the things that I really feel has really started to gel this year.

Shandro: And then we just try to do what we can. We give our athletes everything to succeed, whether it’s the best product, or for the C3 crew, the coolest paint, which they’re stoked on. Or just having support from [technical director] Ryan Gaul. He communicates with them a lot. It’s not just a business transaction

Trek’s a pretty incredible company. We’ve got the backing of a brand that’s giving us total support. And then in the downhill world, the racing is so exciting. The competition is incredible. The equipment is incredible. All of that combined I think leads to amazing stuff. Having a World Cup downhill team, developing product with them and pushing that product in ways that other people just wouldn’t try: I consider downhill the pinnacle of the sport.

Emil Johansson signed with Trek in 2017 at 17 years old. He recently won his fourth straight Crankworx slopestyle event.

Youth movement

The foundations of the C3 and TFR squads are youth. Nearly every rider was brought in as they were still developing into pro-caliber talents, giving Shandro and Moseley a chance to mold them.

Moseley: I just loved riding my bike and I was always useless at having to negotiate and sell yourself. Thankfully, I’m not really massively involved in that. But certainly in terms of who we are looking at and maybe approaching, we all talk as a group. And one of my interests has always been youth development. So the likes of both Hattie [Harnden] and Evie [Richards] have come from my hometown. They’ve come through our local club, and certainly my little team of grassroots programs. 

Shandro: Anytime you start a fresh program …  I gotta be careful how I put this a little bit, because I don’t want our guys to think they’re not amazing, because they are … but we weren’t going to necessarily attract somebody who was already winning races right away when we’re starting a new program. You’re sort of unproven. So I think what we’ve done, and what I think we’re really proud of, and personally I’m really proud of, is the culture within the team that we have.

If I have any kind of input, often it's around a young rider. What can we give them to help them get better? And also, what can they bring to us? It's about achieving my goal for a whole team family unit.

- Tracy Moseley

Moseley: As someone who loves the sport and will always want to be involved, I’m looking to help young kids make a pathway. And so I think I’ve always had eyes on the younger riders rather than trying to cherry pick the best to come on the roster. And if I have any kind of input, often it’s around a young rider. What can we give them to help them get better? And also, what can they bring to us? It’s about achieving my goal for a whole team family unit. You need to have personalities that you know will work. They need to be happy to work as a team. 

Shandro: I think it’s more rewarding when you get to develop riders, as opposed to just writing a check. To be honest that’s the easy thing to do. I get both sides of it, but I also like the fact that we have riders that you can develop. Now, that’s only going to last so long, and then if the results aren’t there you kind of go, ‘Hey, well, we need some results.’ But, I think we’ve created an environment, going back to C3, that athletes want to be a part of. And they associate C3 and TFR with success and a well run pro program.

Moseley: Younger athletes are still learning, they’re still evolving. And they tend to be more flexible in terms of what they’re able to deal with. They’re not necessarily going to have to bring their own mechanic. Or they’re not going to say, ‘This is the product I need.’ You can help steer that, and they can learn from what you give them in terms of experience. So it helps if you’ve got young athletes, because they’re able to adapt and you’re able to mold them slightly more into the way that our team works.

Anton Cooper won his first elite World Cup medal since 2017 in Leogang.

What's working this year?

One of the standout aspects of the C3 and TFR programs is the depth of results. They’re much more than a few top riders — almost everyone has sniffed a podium or given a career performance at some point, from Charlie Harrison’s early season win streak, to Anton Cooper’s return to the World Cup medal stand, to Hattie Harnden’s podium in her first week as an elite level enduro racer

Shandro: With the addition of Loris [Vergier], now I feel like we’re one of the top three or four teams in the pro circuit. We’ve got great staff, with [Gaul] and the mechanics and the head mechanic, Joe [Krejbich]. I think we’ve got a really exciting program. 

It’s been another level of professionalism that Loris has brought to the program in terms of how he approaches the sport, from just training and testing. And all our guys train really hard. So that’s been a good addition. Everyone’s level has to be on point.

To build a fresh program, the whole deal, to where we are now, I think we've got to be really proud of the success we have.

- Andrew Shandro

Moseley: I think everyone reported back from the World Cup in Leogang that it was the most fun feeling team unit that we’ve probably had in the three-year history of TFR XC. And that’s just down to lots of time with people, figuring out what works. One of the big things we brought in was a team chef so we’d all eat together. That’s one of the things that I really pushed, that sitting down and eating is a really important time for social interactions, to chat about stuff other than bikes and get to know your teammates more than as bike riders.

Shandro: And then Trek has been really supportive, obviously with the development of a new Session. The high pivot was developed for racing. It came together fairly quickly from when we tested it. The whole program has come a long way in a fairly short period of time. But I know we’re all really committed and we want to win races. I don’t think we’ll be satisfied until we’re winning World Cups. I think we’ll be there with our crew.

And then equally you look at our XC program, it’s super exciting. Anton [Cooper] is racing great again. I watched the women’s race, it’s phenomenal. We have some really exciting racing going on. Like Jolanda [Neff], look what she did last time; she crashed and she was going to be second. But she charged and she’s entertaining.

Hattie Harnden is one of TFR's most versatile riders, with strong results across cyclocross, XC and enduro in the past year.

What unifies Trek riders across disciplines

There’s good reason why three disparate disciplines — downhill, enduro and XC — all race under the same banner. Sharing resources and similar kits helps create a sense of unity even in largely individual sports, and it can also unearth some unexpected speed.

Moseley: I think enduro and downhill lend themselves to much more social interaction because of the way the sports run. Downhill is based in the pits. They go off and they do a practice run, then they come back to the pits, they hang out, they have lunch, they go back up. They spend all day in that pit area, so they’re much more of a unit. Cross country, historically, is much more like an individual sport. The riders tend to come, get their bikes, go do their training laps, give the bike back to the mechanic, go back to the apartment, put the feet up, chill, eat, sleep.

But the whole reason that everyone’s out there is because they love riding bikes. And I think one of the nice things that Trek does is we’ve got a lot of the staff working across more than one discipline. So there is a link between the three teams, and even with the riders.

Having those common links and some mechanics that work across programs creates the opportunity to slide across multiple disciplines. So it's actually quite an amazing program for an athlete.

- Tracy Moseley

For example, Evie has ridden with Reece [Wilson], a downhill guy. Hattie’s racing an enduro program, and she’s racing a cross country program. Jolanda has done a camp with the road team. Hattie and Maddie [Munro] have done a camp with the women’s road team. So having those common links and some mechanics that work across programs creates the opportunity to slide across multiple disciplines. So it’s actually quite an amazing program for an athlete, because you’ve got this chance to try a different discipline, or ride with a rider that’s focused on something else and learn some skills from that. 

If you want to get better at your downhill skills, you’ve got an opportunity to stay with the enduro team for training camp if you want. You’ve got that ability to connect lots of different people and opportunities, and not be this a separate, disjointed team. Personally, I’d love to see more of this happening. It’s just starting to.

Reece Wilson representing the squad after his 2020 World Championship.

On the journey

There’s always more work to be done, but Shandro and Moseley are proud of how far their programs have come in the last few years.

Moseley: I didn’t ever study any of this, and I didn’t think I would be doing anything quite like this, so it’s been a learning curve for me. But it’s been cool. It’s definitely hard at times, because sometimes it’s managing different people and different personalities. But it’s also really rewarding when you can see progress, you can see people getting better, and you can see the results and a happier unit. 

Shandro: There’s nuances to dealing with athletes, or dealing with staff, or sponsors. You’re trying to navigate that a little bit. But the DH program is still pretty young. To build a fresh program, the whole deal, to where we are now, I think we’ve got to be really proud of the success we have, from winning a World Championship with Reece, to Charlie Harrison having podiums this season. We’ve had podiums in all categories. I think everybody deserves a pat on the back because there’s a lot to it.

I want to see us all appreciate and really respect each other for what they do in this sport, and I think we’re getting a long way down that pathway.

- Tracy Moseley

Moseley: I still think we’ve got a long way to go to make it perfect, but it’s really exciting to see that progress, and I’d love to continue to see more crossing disciplines, and doing more as a mountain bike group to break down the barriers of, ‘I’m a downhill rider, I’m too cool to hang out with the XC riders,’ or vice versa. For me, I want to see that gone forever. I want to see us all appreciate and really respect each other for what they do in this sport, and I think we’re getting a long way down that pathway. I want to keep forging on, to make sure we become one of the best teams out there for doing that.