In terms of athletic achievement, the team can look back on an impressive season: Highlights are certainly the hard fought Champion jerseys in Denmark (CX), Austria (XCO) and the Netherlands (XCE), but also the Bronze Medal at the Eliminator European Championships by Anne Terpstra and the Silver Medal at the European Championships for the team from Denmark around Malene Degn. After four years of health issues, Alexandra Engen’s 13th place finish at the World Cup in Nove Mesto last season certainly was a very special highlight. Nevertheless, the team is looking for even better results medium-term and continues to implement the restructuring, which started last year, and focuses on the long-term goals. “”We have been represented in racing since the company got started, and are even expanding our commitment with our current set-up. For us, the Cross Country World Cup is and will remain the crème de la crème and highest league in the mountain bike sport. We are happy to welcome the two new athletes who complement our team perfectly and offer them the opportunity to develop even further within and with GHOST”, says Joost van Schaik, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager at GHOST.
Barbara Benko has been present on the international scene since her Junior years. As a Junior, she won medals at World and European Championships. When she competed in the U23 bracket, podium finishes at the World Cup were just ordinary occurrences. Barbara from Hungary competed at the Olympic Games in London and also finished in the TOP10 in the Elite World Cup regularly. After 27 Hungarian Championship titles, Barbara basically owns the red-white-green striped jersey. In her private life, the 27-year-old is very disciplined as well and studied optics at university while also dedicating herself to her sport. Her priority is clear: Barbara still wants to achieve quite a few goals: “I am highly motivated and hopeful that, given the professional background of my team, I can demonstrate my potential! I am really looking forward to next year. Our first get-together was awesome. I have a great feeling in regard to everyone else on the team and can hardly wait to kick off the season in my new colors.” The team felt the same way instantly and Tom Wickles was very enthusiastic during the first team meeting in Waldsassen: “Barbi was our dream candidate and we are happy to give her this chance. We believe she is a perfect fit for the team and complements us very well. She is extremely focused and driven and we are positive that, together, we can achieve another step up. We want to start a long-term and successful cooperation with Barbi.”
The team’s second addition is the current U23 World and European Champion Sina Frei. The Swiss drew attention to herself in nearly all her races during the last two years. After winning the European Championship title in 2016 and winning all her U23 World Cup races, she made her mark in 2017 by winning the European Championships again and scoring the first place at the World Championships in Australia. “We have observed Sina for quite some time, but now, the time has come for both parties to get serious in regards to a cooperation. Last year, Sina focused on finishing her education, but this year she was ready to take the leap and start her career as a professional. We agreed that the switch would naturally cause a lot of changes. We would like Sina to get used to the team first and compete in the U23 World Cup for one more season before making the move over to Elite. We will use 2018 as a get-to-know-each-other year. She still has a lot of time and can always use her last U23 year to prematurely move up to the Elite World Cup”, says team manager Tom Wickles. The young Swiss is very impressed by her new team: “The cooperation with the new team is very professional. Everyone knows exactly what the athletes need and are passionate about their work. I had the opportunity to get used to the equipment for the past few months and the package is 100% perfect.” In addition to the switch into the GHOST Factory Racing Team, Sina also took advantage of the opportunity to become a member of the top-athlete recruiting school in Switzerland. “We created the ideal foundation for fully engaging and executing this sport and this gives me the chance to work on myself more intensively and more professionally. Naturally, I am very proud to be a member of the GHOST Factory Racing Team and to get my life as a professional started. I am convinced I can achieve my goals together with the team, and make my dream of the Olympic Games come true. I am very happy to share our common passion of mountain biking with the team, to travel the world together and to learn from each other.”
The season will start with prep work on the sunny island of Cyprus, just as it has in the previous years. Immediately afterwards, the team will travel to South Africa together, where the first World Cup of the season will take place. The athletes will then compete at numerous races in their respective home countries and the rest of Europe.