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Making It: The Rise of Gwin

Chapter One of how Gwin and YT Industries came to dominate downhill

In ten years downhill has been shaken to the core by one brand and one rider. The past decade has seen both America and Germany regaining the kind of grip it had on the sport when the World Cup series began back in 1993. “Making It” is a mini documentary of how YT and Aaron Gwin came to dominate the sport of downhill.

Today’s dominance is very different to what it was back then in the early 90’s, physicality and technology have swapped places in may ways. Back then it was a German rider, Jurgen Beneke, on American machinery, Manitou, that marauded the podium. Today the athleticism comes from southern California and the machinery from Nuremburg. Ruthless German precision and the American dream are very much back in business.

Aaron Gwin and YT Industries have both delivered success for their countries for the first time and in doing so they have changed the sport. Gwin was the first person to win a men’s world cup series for his country, YT have been the first German brand to take the title.

Their arrival is synchronic, the pillaging of gold quite dissimilar. The approach of YT has been about the good times, while the Californian has ruthlessly disrupted the status quo with his single minded approach to racing. YT moved quick and through direct sales were some of the least expensive on the market. By 2011 YT were winning bike tests although they too were disturbing the mountain bike institutions, Gwin however was simply vandalising the World Cups. At this time even though the YT Tues was well respected it massively lacked the endorsement of a top downhill racer.

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.

Remember at this point the last American rider to win a world cup was Shaun Palmer in 1999. Gwin made his move at the beginning of of 2011 having moved to Trek. The series opener in South Africa was a race that many thought only Greg Minnaar could win in his back yard. It was a close two-tenth affair but Gwin had now arrived and from this point he became simply untouchable.

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.

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.
American racer, American bike, on home soil. First place for Gwin on the Trek at Windham, 2011
Half way through 2012 this had become a familiar podium sight. Gwin and Trek in two seasons had become untouchable.
But was there unease in the camp?
Gwin had overthrown Sam Hill to be the racer of the moment. In doing so Trek had seized power from Specialized in the rankings. But few people knew what was coming next....

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?

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.

#dirtminidoc #gwinyt #makingit

Tune in next time to see the parallel rise of YT Industries.

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