The hallowed halls of world cup DH echo the likes of Tomac, Vouilloz, and Peaty. But a new name is thundering, and it’s wrapped in red, white, and blue. On the DH front, 2011 will be known as the year of Aaron Gwin, a Southern California-based kid (23 years old, racing age is 24) that astonished the pro field with his World Cup overall win and sheer domination this season. He is the first American to do it, and the only other one to come close was the immortal John Tomac (his coach) way back in 1991. And he (Gwin) did it on the first carbon downhill bike ever made by Trek, a prototype carbon Session 88. Made in the USA. In the heartland, no less. Somewhere in Alaska there is a bald eagle crying; the Overall DH title is that monumental.
Not since Lance won Leadville has an event rocked the mountain bike scene like this. That’s a little punch in the face for all you XC guys but, in all seriousness, this is much, much bigger than that. He crushed a field of very strong, technically sound, experienced DH icons all season long … and the first time he threw a leg over a DH bike was in 2007! How? Who? What? Where did he come from?
Before that, let’s get to the brass tax of race reporting. The final event of the MTB World Cup racing season (#7 of the year) was last weekend in Val Di Sole, Italy. Gwin had already wrapped up the title, but still showed up to the event on said prototype bike and crushed it to win with a time of 3:10.35, a good margin ahead of the Brits Danny Hart and former World Champion Gee Atherton. World Cup overall #2 and constant nemesis Greg Minnaar finished in sixth.
There, that’s your race report. Watch it on Freecaster if you need more info. Let’s get to who Gwinny is and how he was able to rocket to dominance. To start, let’s look at his resume: he began racing BMX at the age of three, and was a BMX champion by the age of ten. Then he started racing moto and had a very bright future on that front until a laundry list of injuries halted his progress. At that point he met Rich Houseman, a World Cup race winner himself, sort of, who ran Yeti’s SoCal regional program, scouting for talent to mentor and whatnot. The rest is history, you could say, but it’s really not. You have to sprinkle in a couple of other things about Gwinny’s background.
Aaron was home schooled, which gave him the opportunity to train like a mad man and he did. No matter what it was, it was on two wheels. And the guy is religious, so by all accounts there’s no drinking, no partying, no ladies of the night that he associates with. Never. Straight-up focus.
That’s what it takes. He’s a perfect storm of talent, drive, discipline, and associating with the people that will make him excel, and USA cycling fans should be God damn proud of him for this achievement.
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