25 Years of World Cup Racing: Specialized

Specialized's top five moments

To celebrate 25 years of World Cup Racing, we’re asking brands to count down their top five moments from the first quarter century of this amazing sport. This time, SPecialized.

McRoy, Palmer, Vasquez, Hill, Gwin, Bruni. Take any era of downhill and Specialized have been supporting legendary, race-winning riders.

We chatted to Jason Chamberlain, Specialized’s Principal Engineer-Creative, to try and whittle own 25 years of success to the five greatest moments in Specialized’s quarter-century of downhill racing.

Shaun Palmer – Big Bear, 1999

This was Palmer’s only World Cup win, besting then 7-time World Champion Nicolas Vouilloz among others. He was known for living like a rock star, partying, a tour bus and never, ever training. Shaun debuted his famous gold sequin suit for this podium which he later gave to Sam Hill (who wore it exactly 10 years later in Schladming.)

For his bike, Shaun wanted just two things – increasingly slack head tubes and ball bearings. His first meeting with Specialized engineers resulted in a shouting match with Shaun demanding ball bearings pivots “just like his Intense” instead of bushings.

Sam Hill – Mont St Anne, 2010

Hill was injured during practice at the second race of the season. He did not compete in any other events until Windham the week before where he took a casual 13th place. Winning his 5th World Title coming straight off of injury constitutes perhaps the greatest comeback of all time.

Before the race Hill asked me when he was getting a carbon race bike and I replied in jest “How about you win a race first.” Needless to say, he got that carbon bike the next season. This was a double rainbow day as Troy Brosnan also won his first Jr. World Championship by 0.06 seconds.

Troy Brosnan – Champery, 2011

Champery is infamously the steepest and toughest track on the circuit. The track was dry all week for practice, but race day was a sloppy mess from the continued rain that started the night before.

Troy won his second Junior World Championship by over 12 seconds, which would have placed him 2nd against the Elite Men. This was the first downhill win on a production carbon bike.

Aaron Gwinn – Leogang, 2015

Gwin’s chain snapped immediately after leaving the start gate which he confessed was caused by his poor shifting timing. This meant he had to be perfect in every corner and generate speed by pumping wherever possible. He had the fastest time through the speed trap. At the second split he was shockingly only 0.8 seconds off the pace. He crossed the finish line just 0.045 in the green. Fans in attendance had no idea his chain was gone until he crossed the finish line.

Loic Bruni – Cairns, 2017

Super Bruni was having a rough season punctuated by a massive leg injury that had him hospitalized and briefly sidelined. This was also the year when a flurry of 29″ wheeled bikes had riders second guessing their set-ups.

After a steady climb back up the ranks Loic peaked with a commanding victory taking his second World Championship, thus breaking the one-time winner’s curse. He did it on 27.5 wheels and Ohlins suspension with a custom remote lockout. The day was made even better with additional wins by Miranda Miller and Melanie Chappaz.

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