After two seasons of being at the top of World Cup downhill, 2013 didn’t quite work out as planned for American star Aaron Gwin. We caught up with him in his home town of Temecula to see what’s up…
DIRT ISSUE 146 – APRIL 2014
Words by Ed Haythornthwaite. Photos by Seb Schieck, Sven Martin and Sebastian Schieck
The final talk at the end of the 2013 DH season may well have been concentrated around the Steve Smith and Gee Atherton battle, but prior to that the question on most people’s lips was what on earth had happened to Aaron Gwin? The guy had just come off the back of two of the most dominating seasons that we’ve ever witnessed, and then all of a sudden things seemed to go a bit awry. His success had got to the point where we were almost expecting him to win everything, but it just wasn’t happening, not even close on many occasions. Everyone seemed to have their own theories as to what was going on, especially after one of the most talked about team changes ever, but now that the dust has settled I wanted to find out the score directly from the horses mouth, and to see where he’s at for 2014.Dirt: Let’s start by going back to 2011/2012, with so many broken records they were pretty amazing seasons by any stretch of the imagination. Must have felt good?
Aaron Gwin: Yeah definitely pretty good. It was a really good couple of seasons and it seemed like the hard work for a lot of years was paying off. I’d only been racing mountain bikes for a couple of years, but I’d been racing some sort of two wheeled bike, whether it had a motor or not, since I was four years old. To reach the top level of any sport is pretty special, so it was a really fun couple of years.Did your dominance in those seasons take you by surprise?
Yes, I think it did. That said I always thought that I could get there, but I think a lot of people feel like they have what it takes to get there but there are a lot of things that can happen along the way. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. So actually getting there is something else. I definitely felt like I had the speed and if I could keep working hard then I’d at least have a good shot at winning races. I didn’t expect it to start rolling as fast as it did, or as many as it did. At the same time, I wouldn’t say I was really surprised by it, but it was definitely a little bit more than I expected so soon. I didn’t think about it a lot, I just kept racing and focused–in on trying to just do the best I can, as I always do. Sometimes it goes your way and things fall into place, there were definitely a couple of those years.So talking of things falling into place and going the right way, we then go on to 2013. A lot of big changes in everything around you; your team, your trainer, your mechanic… all sorts. Was that difficult to deal with?
Yes, there were a lot of changes but they were all changes that I really believed were the best way for me to go, and I still do. I wasn’t ever hesitant about it or second guessing it. I speak about things just going my way, but it just really didn’t go my way in 2013. We put in a lot of hard work coming into the season. We had a bike that was easily capable of winning races. I was too. My speed, my fitness, everything was there, it just didn’t come together. I just had too many runs with mistakes and weird things happening. I couldn’t really even explain why the mistakes happened. I didn’t feel like I was riding over my head. I honestly couldn’t put my finger on why it was even happening. It’s hard to explain that to somebody unless you’ve been there. You need to know what it’s like to ride that line, what it takes to win races. Things can go your way, but it’s also really easy for them not to go your way, because you’re riding that fine line. Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don’t.
This year I was really focused and having good runs but little mistakes just kept coming. Everybody’s tightened up the last few years too so mistakes now cost more. I wouldn’t say that the pace has really quickened at the top, I think it’s still the same, or close, but there are no longer just two or three guys that can run at that pace, now it’s more like ten. That said, I think Stevie and Gee cranked the pace up another notch. Basically you just can’t make the mistakes that you used to be able to and still do good. You have to throw down smooth runs.Do you really think it’s those little mistakes, and the fact that the game has tightened, that made the difference then? It’s just in 2011/2012 you pulled out some big winning margins, and you had some great results even when you’d crashed or gone out of the tape.
Yes, definitely. The crash you’re talking about was at Fort William, I think, in 2011. I had a crash, it was a quick one, I slowed up, stood right back up and got going again. So it probably only cost me three or four seconds. I ended up getting fifth there, still on the podium, but try that now on certain tracks and you could be towards the end of the top ten. The mistakes get magnified because of how many guys are going fast. It just makes it harder to be consistent at the top.>>