Aaron Gwin Vs. the World Championships
Words by Tim Wild / @desirelinesMTB
Photos by Seb Schieck
Aaron Gwin is currently the best downhill bike rider on the planet. The 27-year-old American has the ability to simply decimate the opposition on the most demanding tracks.
Gwin has won 14 World Cup races since he took his first at Pietermaritzburg in 2011. Since that first victory he has won 41% of all World Cup races and has taken three World Cup series wins. When you consider he didn’t win a round in 2013 and he took just one in 2014 that win percentage is simply staggering.
However, despite this dominance he has never been World Champion; that one perfect run under immense pressure just hasn’t happened for him despite five realistic chances.
Let’s take a look at what happened at those races and explore his chances ahead of this weekend’s World Championships in Vallnord, Andorra.
2015 World Cup
Ft William 2nd
Val Di Sole 1st
Previous World Championships
2010 Mont-Sainte-Anne 4th
2011 Champery 12th
2012 Leogang 83rd
2013 Pietermaritzburg 67th
2014 Hafjell 14th
2010 was Gwin’s breakthrough season. He finished 3rd in the World Cup overall and was in with a chance of the World Championship having finished 3rd at Leogang that year. 4th at Mont-Sainte-Anne was a fine result and remains his strongest Champs finish to date.
In 2011 Gwin had won 5 of 7 World Cup races ahead of the World Championships and the expectation of him gaining the title was high. However, Gwin has never won a wet or muddy World Cup race and it’s no real surprise that at Champéry he was out of contention on the day. It’s a far cry from the dust and heat of his home trails in California.
A brake failure in 2012 denied him the opportunity to win the title for which he was the clear favorite, having won at Leogang in 2011 and then taking 4 of the 5 World Cup races ahead of the World Championships.
2013 was a disappointing season overall for Gwin. The World Championships was in the middle of the World Cup season and he was sitting 6th overall ahead of the race. He had been getting podiums and was still in contention for the win having won at Pietermaritzburg in 2011. He hit a tree early in his race run and finished a minute down on the winner. He didn’t race either of the two remaining World Cup races.
2014 was better and he went into the World Championships as the runner up in the World Cup overall and was just a second off the win in the last race in Meribel, held just two weeks before the Hafjell Worlds. Again, he was among the favourites to win and 14th place was a disappointment to his expectant fans.
Many things affect results on the day and when you look at his 2013 and 2014 World Championships results you see some similarities with his mid-season dip at Lenzerheide and Monte-Sainte-Anne where he finished 8th and 7th respectively.
These results just show he is as human as the next guy; for reasons unknown he can fail to meet the pace entirely, which, given his exceptional ability and history at Mont-Sainte-Anne raises eyebrows more than just missing out to one faster rider on the day.
Gwin is the form rider with 4 World Cup wins this season going into the biggest single race of the year. The track is one he should rule on. It is his to lose.
However, given his history I am still wary of proclaiming him to be a dead cert for the win. Given the fickleness of form and the chaos of the race run I’m yet to be convinced that he can overcome any mental barriers he may have before I can confidently ‘bet the farm’ on him winning this race.
The only certainty is that Gwin’s potential going into this race will make for exciting viewing. Will it be a dominant victory or a mid-pack mystery?