A Conversation With World Cup Downhill Champion Aaron Gwin

Aaron Gwin At Mammth Mountain, CaliforniaPhoto: Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain

Before Southern California downhiller Aaron Gwin won the World Cup Overall last year, no American mountain biker had ever earned that title. Then 23 and racing in only his third season as a pro, Gwin, who grew up on the BMX and moto tracks, was so consistent in his results (including five victories) that he sealed up that title before the season had finished. He's dominated 2012 in the same fashion, winning four of the six events so far this year and clinching the overall before the final race in Hafjell, Norway.

Gwin's successes stem from a preternatural sense of balance and movement on the bike that he's gleaned from 19 years of riding. (Yep, he began BMXing at age four.) To watch him race is deceptive because he's so smooth and fluid that he makes very difficult courses look easy. Those who know him also describe Gwin as a fastidious student of the sport and consummate professional who works out constantly and spends hours and hours practicing basic skills like cornering.

Having commanded the World Cup circuit for the last two years, Gwin has turned his eye to the World Championship race, slated for this Sunday, September 2, in Leogang, Austria. It's a course that Gwin has won on before, in the 2011 World Cup. We caught up with the Trek World Racing rider last week on California's Mammoth Mountain, where he was teaching a skills camp and putting the finishing touches on his preparations for Leogang.

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