In just two short years, it's become hard to imagine the World Cup circuit without Aaron Gwin in the colours of the YT Mob.

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wc_msa_2017_f0a4116

But really they're both upstarts. Gwin a late immigrant from the world of BMX and moto showing up pros who had been racing mountain bikes their whole lives and YT, a brand undercutting all the founding fathers of the sport and now beating them in its holy church.

The dream team...
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Enjoy our full documentary charting their parallel rise to the very top of downhill.

The Rise of Gwin

In ten years downhill has been shaken to the core by one brand and one rider. Having started racing downhill in 2008 Gwin finished top ten at his first World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne on the 27th July that same year. Within a year he podiumed the same race following it up with a podium at Schladming. This was not just an American succeeding on home soil but one who knew how to race overseas.

The seven race 2011 was still a titanic battle between Minnaar and Gwin, the only two to win that year (5 to Gwin 2 to Greg) but the season marked a shift in racing – Minnaar on a seemingly downward curve and Gwin on the move. 2012 started off in a similar mood in South Africa with the local now winning by a few tenths. Gwin went onto another series winning four on the trot whilst doing so and producing one of the guttsiest runs of all time at Val Di Sole with and eight second winning margin.

American racer, American bike, on home soil. First place for Gwin on the Trek at Windham, 2011
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The end of 2012 saw the sudden and shock split between Gwin and Trek. The fall out was gigantic. Having been so successful Gwin parted ways with manager Martin Whiteley and the great support team. He reappeared in 2013 wearing Specialized colours with a totally new setup. He opened with a twentieth at Fort William and only at round two realised he needed to switch from a medium Demo to a large. The year was right off in which he only podiumed once. Was Gwin a spent force?

One that got away. After third in qualifying, Gwin was up at the split on the tortuous Val Di Sole track late in 2010. He'd only do a few more races on the brand from Colorado.
World Cup #5 2010 Val di Sole

No. He rocked back by winning south Africa again in 2014 but simply had no answer for Bryceland in what was a messy World Cup season. By 2015 Gwin was back in the groove dominating Lourdes and blowing people minds on Leogang by winning without a chain. The series was his, another four wins in one year.

And then he did something quite remarkable.

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aaron-gwin-10

The Arrival of YT

From pretty simple beginnings making cheap hardtails and sponsoring kids with affordable bikes the philosophy was taken to full suspension bikes. It was here that through great design, good prices and a different business model to what the majority of mountain bike industry was doing, YT quickly and effectively built a brand. A quality one.

2015-yt-tues-carbon-exclusive-dirt-4
2015-yt-tues-carbon-exclusive-dirt-4

Founder Markus Flossmann had managed to secure Stefan Willared as chief technology director to develop the Tues. This sounds all very grand when in fact the team was still very small working out of a disused factory but the vision was taking shape.

A year later we took the YT Tues to a press launch in Chatel of another brand simply to evaluate its performance against a quality bike and on the tough, steep technical tracks of the Alps we soon realised the YT Tues was destined to success. It won “Bike of The Year" at Dirt several times much to the bemusement of other media outlets.

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yt-tues-142

A few years later the Capra captured the imagination of rider’s world wide as enduro strutted into town, and typical of YT they decided to launch the bike on the southern slopes of Jerusalem. As we drifted through the dunes we came upon a shepherd who had just delivered a kid – I guess sometimes the planets just line up.

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yt7

Judgement Day

Looking back, it’s no real surprise that Gwin ended up where he did. Unhappy with Specialized offer, he needed up with a brand that prided themselves on doing things differently. He thought he was worth more than any racer for a decades, possibly ever. It turned out, he was right.

Aaron Gwin Tues-4
Aaron Gwin Tues-4

Similarly, YT were eager to put a cat among the pigeons. This was there chance to prove that the bike that was the recipient of so many media plaudits was a worthy contender on the World Cup circuit – the true test of any bike wanting to gain entry to downhill’s upper echelons.

And so, to Lourdes. A brutal, savage tack, but also one of the best tests of a machine on the World Cup circuit.With a new truck, team and set up, YT instantly marked their place in the pits. Some may see the blacked-out tent as foreboding but for YT, is was a signal of intent they were here for one result only.

Gwin on his way to the top step.
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Race day and Gwin claimed his place in the hotseat. All eyes turned to Bruni. Loose but fast. It wasn’t until the final section that Bruni cracked. A spill on an innocuous corner left his dreams of a first World Cup win floating away like the Pyrnennean dust. Down in the finish area Gwin rose from the hotseat. History was made.