As pro gravel racing gains momentum, the team structure that dominates road and mountain biking is starting to take hold. Haley Smith, who has found impressive success on gravel and in longer-format XC Marathon races, is joining the newest such program: Trek Driftless racing.
While the program has existed for a few years, Smith tells us that the 2024 program looks a little different. It now includes four riders: Paige Onweller returns to the program and will be joined by Russell Finsterwald, Smith and Torbjørn “Toby” Røed.
The move to Trek Driftless comes after two very successful years with the revived Maxxis Factory Racing program. That was a small, four rider team. The two-rider endurance side of the program was built around just Smith and her partner, now husband Andrew L’Espearance. While there, Smith won the first Life Time Grand Prix series, finished third in the second year and won 2023 Canadian XCM championships.
Now, Smith will be part of a larger program. That comes with more support and more teammates. And, for the first time in a long time, sees Smith race on a different team than L’Esperance.
Canadian MTB: Ok, can you tell us a bit more about the Trek Driftless program?
Haley Smith: They have had a gravel program for the last couple years called Driftless. They’re further centralizing that this year to make it the endurance off-road equivalent of what they have with Lidl-Trek and Trek Factory Racing. It’s their in-house team that is focused on both gravel and marathon mountain bike.
It’s a team now, it’s kind of been a collection of privateers in the last couple years. But they’re embracing that centralized team more going forward. So I’m pretty excited about that. It still doesn’t feel real.
Is your focus on the Life Time series, or expanding past that more?
I’ll be really honest, my focus hasn’t been Life Time. There are a couple events in the series that I focus on, but it’s by and large just a nice bonus that there’s an overall. A couple of my peak events will Unbound and Leadville. But I am probably doing five Life Time events in a season that will have 18-20 events, so that’s just part of the picture.
Last year you raced marathon world championships and the Snowshoe World Cup XCM. Will we see you doing more of those events?
Yes. My plan is to do marathon world champs and gravel world champs. Hopefully I can fit in a marathon World Cup but we still don’t have the schedule for that.