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Introducing the RAAW Privateer Program Riders for 2023

Introducing the RAAW Privateer Program Riders for 2023

Walking into a World Cup venue, you’re often parked about eighteen miles away, as the best seats in the house are reserved for the big-budget teams and their grand setups. The pro pits are certainly wonderful to wander around and catch a glimpse of your favourite rider or bike that you’ve seen a million times on screen but never in real life.

But reversing a bit on that walk into all the excitement, you’ll have likely glossed past the more modest setups, with smaller tents and budgets. These guys have some degree of sponsorship, be it in funds or products, that helps them take some of the stress out of racing and allows the riders to focus more on the job at hand - the riding.

But even further back, you might have completely missed the guys with no tent, doing it out the back of their vans, in the very same car park that you parked in. These guys are doing it all themselves. They’re the rider, mechanic, coach, physiotherapist, cook, driver and psychologist all rolled into one. And they’re doing this all on a shoestring budget that they saved up during the off-season, while they were also balancing training and maybe even studying.

That evolution from back-of-a-van privateer to big team professional as you walk into the venue echoes the natural flow of riders feeding up through the ranks to, hopefully, one day turn riding bikes into their profession.

But it’s a constant upstream battle to get there, with many things fighting against you. It’s expensive for one. Just getting to a World Cup costs these riders an enormous amount of money and time. Accruing the points to be eligible to race is also tricky. And with the limelight being reserved for an ever-narrowing selection of racers, it makes being a successful privateer harder and harder.

This was our motivation to launch the Privateer Program. We’d walked into the World Cups and seen the guys hustling out of rental cars. We’d seen the immense costs and pressure that needs to be handled to even just turn up for a shot at a World Cup. And we’d felt the stoke when one of these guys, the underdog, had shrugged off all that adversity and put down a scorcher of a run to show their talent and potential to the world. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to pique the interest of a bigger team and have a racer break through to the next step in their career.

For us, this wasn’t a crafted marketing strategy. Sure, that is one small result, having a nice story to tell. But it certainly wasn’t the driver. We enjoy racing ourselves from time to time, and do it out the back of our vans too, so we know a tiny bit of that feeling. But we’re not World Cup fast, and will never be. So instead, it’s just heartwarming to help out the riders at the mouth of the raging stream as they dive in head first. Without these guys stepping up to fight, there might not be any of the pro pits, excitement or even racing.

The sheer amount of responses we had to the program was a confirmation that this was beneficial to riders attempting World Cups. And the astoundingly high level of the applications was simply humbling. So much so that in most cases we offered more than we originally set out to, so impressed by the riders themselves, their skills and their professionalism.

Throughout the 2023 season, we’ll be documenting some of the World Cups through our and the racer’s eyes and sharing the experience of racing at the highest level in downhill, with all its addictive ups and downs.

But without further ado, we’re just simply proud to present the privateers we’ll be working with.

Andrew Driscoll

Self confessed ice cream fan and flying the RAAW flag for us in the land of the free. Andrew impressed us from day one with not only his application and proven bike speed, but his involvement in coaching and helping fundraising for bike related non-profit organisations. Not bad for your average 18 year old. He’ll be racing most of the World Cups as well as the US Open and several local DH races back home.

Location: Bow, NH, USA
Instagram: @andrewpdriscoll

Coen Skrypnek

Squamish local and all around top bloke, Coen already has a bunch of experience at World Cups as a junior. He’ll now step up to the lofty ranks of elite and be racing a bunch of the European World Cup rounds as well as Mont Saint Anne, along with the Canada Cup series, Crankworx Whistler and a whole host of local events. He’ll also be riding all damn day long in his Dawn to Dusk fundraiser for organisations in the local area.

Location: Squamish, Canada
Instagram: @coen.skrypnek

Gabriel Neron

Canadian National Champion should be all you need to know. In a country where riding might be as much a part of life as poutine, that title is in many a competent racer's sights. The big man will be piloting his XL Yalla, once he’s done snorkelling through the powder, through many of the World Cups as well as the Canada Cup series and Crankworx Whistler.

Location: Squamish, Canada
Instagram: @gabe_neron

Gautier Jung

Located right on the border of France and Switzerland, Gautier uses both countries to his benefit in training. And he’s probably done more training and testing than most by this point in the pre-season. He’s a grafter with a well screwed on head and he’ll be racing select World Cups, IXS rounds and also Crankworx stops.

Location: Kiffis, France
Instagram: @gautierjung

Hannes Alber

Hailing from a beautiful slice of South Tyrol in Italy, Hannes has raced almost every discipline in bikes, including representing Italy at the Trophy of Nations and coming away with a silver medal. For 2023 he'll be teaming up with Max, another of the privateers, and focussing on a chunk of the downhill World Cups as well as attending the busy IXS European and Downhill rounds.

Location: Unterinn, Italy
Instagram: @alberhannes

Max Umscheid

When he’s not hucking his meat down huge stair gaps around Innsbruck, he’s studying engineering. Theoretical and real life FEA at work. Max will be heading to a bunch of World Cups as well as the IXS European and Downhill rounds.

Location: Innsbruck, Austria
Instagram: @maxumscheid

Nuno Reis

The Portuguese shredder took some time to focus on his studies in 2022, but still put a cat amongst the pigeons with a top 30 in elite at the wild Val di Sole World Cup final. For 2023 his focus on racing returns and he’s looking to build on his great success as a junior at the World Cups, Portuguese National series and also mixing it up with some enduro racing on his Madonna.

Location: Setúbal, Portugal
Instagram: @nzreis

Keep your eyes peeled for more stories throughout the year about the riders themselves, their bikes and what goes on at the races. Long live downhill!

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