What Really Happened During Aaron Gwin's 2012 World Champs Race Run 44

The bar hump heard 'round the world, near the bottom of Gwin's race run. - Photos by Duncan Philpott and Hoshi Yoshida

In a press release from Trek World Racing, Gwinny recounts his race run:

"Race favorite Aaron Gwin (USA) saw his hopes of taking a ‘bonus’ title this year come to an end around 1min 20secs into his final race run, when inexplicably both his front and rear brakes failed, resulting in a crash. Shortly after the crash Aaron pumped the brakes to try and get some pressure going but it was insufficient to complete the course safely at speed, and he cruised to the line disappointed he was unable to throw down a run on the three and half minute course.

At the World Championships there is no qualifying round or seeding run, but a timed practice session where riders can check their general race speed against official timing. Aaron was happy with his 4th in timed practice and as race day drew nearer, and the sun came out drying the track dramatically, all was set for a classic Aaron Gwin run. Unfortunately the brake failure, something he has never experienced before and in fact is his first mechanical in a race run since joining the team, really took him by surprise.

Aaron said at the finish line – “I really don’t understand what happened. I warmed up as usual, tested the brakes as usual at the top, walked down the course to have a look at how the track was running, went into my run, brakes working fine for the first minute or so, and then bang, nothing. I crashed and got up as soon as I could, pumped to see what was there, but it wasn’t enough, and knew my day was run”.

The brakes have been taken back to Japan for further analysis as there was nothing immediately evident from the post-race inspection, and nothing new was done to these brakes that Aaron and the team has run for most of the season."

So there you have it. The official story from Aaron Gwin.

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  • mondy john

    9/7/2012 5:37 AM

    0.5 secounds was it between minnar and gee!? yeah its a race for the quickest time but if they marked on style, gee would of whoooooped some ass!


    9/7/2012 5:53 AM

    What are you on about. It's a race. Not speed and style.

  • Scott_Slattery

    9/5/2012 2:14 PM

    Shame on trek world racing for calling the World Champions Race a 'bonus' title. WORLDS IS THE PINNACLE OF DOWN HILL RACING. Martin you know this. People remember who won Worlds far more then who won the world cup. Myles is working for you because he was a World Champ. Nico is remembered as the greatest because of his performances at the world champs. Sam Hill is revered because of his multiple world Championships. Palmer talks about almost winning. No on says Ann Carro was the greatest because of all the world cup over all titles, it's the world championships. I have no idea how many time Peaty won the over all, but I do know he has been World Champion! Danny Hart 2011 World Champion! Greg Minnaar 2012 World Champion.... The World Champs deserve more respect then TWR and Gwin have shown. The bar hump was purely poor sportsmanship. Raise the bar Martin

  • erwinmruiz

    9/9/2012 9:38 PM

    The Worlds is just one race, its not such a big deal as wining race after race for an overall which is much harder to do.

  • sino428

    9/5/2012 2:43 PM

    I agree it was bad form for TWR to downplay the worlds, but I do agree that winning the overall cup is probably a better determination of who the best rider is. I'm not doubting how important and how recognized winning the world champs is, I just don't get why exactly that single race carries so much weight. I just started riding and following this stuff a couple years ago so I don't know the whole history. Have the world champs been around prior to there being a full world cup circuit? That would explain alot.

  • Scott_Slattery

    9/5/2012 3:00 PM

    In cycling world champs is all ways a one day event. It's like the super bowl. The world cup is the regular season. In 2011 the packers went 15-1 making them the best team in football (Gwin). How ever the giants at 9-7 beat the packers in the playoffs and went on to win the super bowl making them world champions. (Greg Minnaar) See World Cup is the regular season and world champs are the world champs. I never herd Aaron Rodgers complain about that.

  • sino428

    9/5/2012 3:13 PM

    I've heard that comparison before but it's not quite the same. In the NFL the regular season is directly related to the superbowl since you have to win in the regular season and playoffs just to make the superbowl. I get what you are saying though and I think a more accurate comparison might be golf where wining one of the 4 majors each year trumps most other accomplishments outside of the majors. But golf I can understand because the majors are generally staged on the toughest courses and feature the very best field of players worldwide. Seems in downhill this is not the case considering Leogang and PMB will be hosting world champs, and those courses by all accounts are a joke in terms of testing these riders.

  • scriz

    9/5/2012 3:04 PM

    'bonus' is in quotes because Gwin said it. TWR is merely repeating that. Anyway, that's the way he feels and I think he is right... people remember those races primarily because of the massive amount of hype and marketing money thrown behind them, not because they are more impressive races than any other world cup. I personally remember who smashed tracks like Val Di Sole, Champery, and MSA more than anything. Heck, if you want worlds to be a truly unique test, then make it like the Garbanzo DH. Tracks like Canberra, Leogang, and PMB are most definitely NOT the 'pinnacle of DH racing'!! In a sport as risky and volatile as DH, the winner of one race on one ( sub-par ) track, on one day does not deserve the title of world's best rider.

  • Scott_Slattery

    9/5/2012 3:43 PM

    Scriz, Val Di Sole 2008 WC Sam Hill 10 sec. up crashes amazing run. Champery 2011 Danny Hart.... Msa 2010 Sam Hill races 1 wold cup after missing most of the season then wins World Championship all great races. But it is the event not the venue and the sport would not be the same with out it. I agree that Gwin is the best rider in the world right now

  • scriz

    9/5/2012 4:40 PM

    But that's my point... those are all great tracks and the World Cup rounds held on those same tracks with the same elite riders every year are just as good as a 'world champs' race. Gwin's run at Val Di Sole this year was bonkers!! The excitement for spectators and the skill-level required to win is way more dependent on the venue than the title of the event.

    IMO the sport would be better without two separate and confusing titles... Add another stop to the World Cup, make the overall more exciting, and drop the inferior tracks if possible.

  • kidwoo

    9/5/2012 3:25 PM

    Jeesh, the guy was just screwing around probably trying to cheer himself up after blowing a race that he was planning on winning. What do you want him to do, curtsey down the rest of the track with his head bowed, one hand over his heart and the other hand holding a picture of minnaar? The day a bike rider gets chastised over the holy 'sanctity' of an event is the day this sport needs to fuck off and go back to spandex and finish line temper tantrums.

  • kidwoo

    9/4/2012 5:02 PM

    You guys are ignoring the obvious. There was a bunny on the track further down. Jesus sacrificed gwinn to save one of his (other) creatures. There's a reason he did it in the section with a circus net.

  • Pininator

    9/4/2012 9:25 PM

    That's feasible.

  • SchredGreen

    9/4/2012 12:14 PM

    Haha ! Like Gwin would need to lie about anything.. the man is the most honest about his performances and he would not have to look for excuses, at this point.
    .... and he is not even pissed off, ya know.. ya know ? Lol.

  • iceman2058

    9/4/2012 11:53 AM

    I haven't seen this much conspiracy theory since the guys over at tinfoilhat.com ran that piece on how it was really the Roswell alien who shot Kennedy, while wearing his usual Elvis Presley disguise to "blend in".

  • Hittheshowers13

    9/4/2012 9:48 AM

    If you look at the highlight Redbull clip, certainly appears he is going brakeless into the netting at extremely high speed. Shocking as it may sound, but he just might be telling the truth...

  • russthedog

    9/8/2012 3:47 PM

    they go extremely fast because they are the fastest in the world. didnt look out of control fast to me, just out of control. The clip is too short anyway.
    I really dont think its possible to have both fail at once - if someone can explain that both failed i might be on the other side of the fence. One yes. Both at two different times, yes. Both at once?

  • Spencer_DelaLuna

    9/4/2012 9:32 AM

    I liked his eventual run more than his typical winning run. He got to show the fans he isn't a terminator. Everyone there is a deserving winner. On such a short course- it was really luck of the draw.

  • Pininator

    9/4/2012 7:48 AM

    I think some of his competitors snuck into the pits and replaced the mineral oil in his brake lines with water...since we're looking for a conspiracy theory.

  • BobtheBob

    9/4/2012 7:16 AM

    Varaxis, hydraulic brakes open up because of friction between the sides of the pistons and the caliper seals, not back pressure. The master cylinder piston ONLY separates the reservoir from the hose and caliper, once the piston has separated the reservoir from the hose and caliper then you are actuating the brakes.
    Brake failure like this has nothing to do with worn pads, and he gets new pads daily.
    The issue was probably master cylinder related, maybe a bad seals.

  • Varaxis

    9/4/2012 8:28 AM

    He said the brakes worked fine at the top and that both failed. Quite some coincidences for your theory to work out. I wonder how your theory about him getting new brake pads daily plays out too.

    Also note that his brakes also recovered enough for him to do the wooded section at almost race pace--he was about 25 secs back on his first split and was about 25-29 secs back on his 2nd and 3rd splits. His run was over already.

    Also, I never implied fully worn pads. It only needs to be worn a little to be more sensitive to air in the system. The more worn the pads, the more sensitive it is to air in the system.

  • BobtheBob

    9/5/2012 8:02 PM

    The dude gets new pads when he needs them. If one run wore the pads out, he wouldn't do a second run on the same pads. Unless the brake pad material was ripped of the back plate, then something like this could happen due to a brake pad issue. Otherwise it is a master cylinder piston issue because that's the only thing that gives power to the caliper pistons. If they are prototype brakes then it may take a while for us to even know what the difference between these and the regular after market brake.

  • mbrennan

    9/4/2012 6:25 AM

    both brakes failed simultaneously ... hmmm ... imsossibru
  • mondy john

    9/4/2012 5:37 AM

    its tough at the top, i guess he has had a great season so nice for somebody else to get the champs...i still think its should of been the gee man on the winners spot! ;-)


    9/4/2012 8:07 AM

    But minnar rode better than gee on the day. So it shouldn't have been geeman on the winners spot. That's racing. The winner wins.

  • felipe.vega.82

    9/4/2012 5:04 AM

    If the brakes were saint, that's very strange, saints are indestructible

  • DBomberMan

    9/5/2012 1:30 PM

    I remember reading somewhere that these were some type of special prototypes. I guess he was offered the new production saints but opted to stick with the protos because he liked the feel of them better.


    9/4/2012 4:57 AM

    "Race favorite Aaron Gwin (USA) saw his hopes of taking a ‘bonus’ title this year come to an end "
    good way to talk down the title.

  • scriz

    9/4/2012 1:13 PM

    I think they were just quoting him... see the interview from a few days ago about his feelings on the world champs race. I totally agree with him. There's way too much hype about the rainbows. Part of the beauty of the WC is the variety of tracks... to say that one track ( and especially Leogang or PMB ) on one day will determine the best DH'er in the world is pretty silly.

  • sino428

    9/4/2012 2:41 PM

    I agree with that as well. I only started mountain biking and following this stuff a couple years ago and always found it odd how much weight was placed on this one race. I mean to me winning the overall series, being consistent on a variety of tracks for a full season is what truly determines the best in the world.

  • Varaxis

    9/4/2012 4:38 AM

    Happens to my brakes (multiple brands, inc Avid and Shimano). They eventually get to the point where if I lay the bike on its side, put it upside down for a little trail maintenance, or wheel it vertically on its back tire, when I bring it upright again, I'd need to pump it a few times to get braking power back. I usually get enough braking power back to ride, but I run XCish dual piston brakes on XC tracks. Bleeding doesn't always fix it--trust me, I try to get the perfect bleed, even repeating the steps with the bike put in various positions. Bleeding + changing the pads has always made it problem free, in my experience.

    I believe it happens due to worn pads. The pistons are designed to float on seals, with the fluid behind them pushing them into the pads to provide braking power. When pads wear out, the pistons don't retract fully, re-centering themselves closer to rotors. Speculating, I believe the suction effect, that normally retracts them, pulls in air to fill in the void left behind the pistons when they are extended to be better centered. With a big caliper with 4 pistons, there's a lot of space behind the calipers that builds up after re-centering. I'm not certain that's how the brakes work, but it at least seems to be logical.The reservoir in the brake lever is designed to collect that air, but it mainly works under the principle that air rises to the highest point.

    When you're Aaron Gwin railing 2 bermed corners, maybe you lean the bike enough to make air in the system migrate from the brakes' reservoirs, causing loss of braking power, especially when you're using a lever with a smaller reservoir that's matched to dual piston caliper.

    Just speculation. Anyone got any better possible explanation? In my experience pads wear out in a matter of hours in the wet sloppy stuff, and months in dry dusty conditions. It was pretty wet before his race run. Doubt anyone knows for sure; I'd sure like to know officially what causes, since I hate that problem and wouldn't mind knowing why it happens to me. Bummer for Gwin though.

  • Dylan_Crane

    9/4/2012 7:02 AM

    His mechanic is one of the best in the world and probably would have both bled the brakes and put new pads in after the mad that was on the track. Even if he was cornering hard enough to have some of the air in the upper reservoir go down the lines a bit there wouldn't be enough to have them completely fail, they would only be squishy and should still brake well. If they were the same brakes that he has been using all year then my guess is that he ether kinked his line which allows no fluid to the calipers but you are still able to move the lever which pushed the fluid that is supposed to go down the lines into any open space in the reservoir. Then when he crashed it unkinked it slightly. Or something in the lever broke or came loose preventing the lever from doing anything and when he crashed it knocked something back into place but this is very unlikely. He could have, if he had been breaking a lot boiled his fluid which temporarily gives you no brakes but this is also unlikely since it was the beginning of his run and it hadn't happened at any other time in the year. My best guess it that both lines got kinked a little or that nothing was wrong with his brakes and he just made the story up after crashing.

  • Varaxis

    9/4/2012 8:27 AM

    I recall that his brakes were pretty loud coming into first those corners in the upper section, and I think they made him stand up a bit. I dunno, but it didn't look smooth and controlled. Didn't get to see much the crash due to the camera angle, but I hear he simply just went off course into the netting. Commentators were saying that Gwin looked like he was being cautious.

    Look at the pic of Monk that morning. If his appearances mean anything, he didn't look to be at the top of his game that morning.

    Gwin's run @ 3:36

  • BayScraper

    9/4/2012 9:16 AM

    Im sorry but that top explanation makes no sense. i understand how a average persons brakes can get worn and fail but this is gwin we are talking about, as far as i am concerned world cup riders basically ride a brand new bike everyday they ride, so having "worn" pads or a bad bleed makes no sense.

  • Varaxis

    9/4/2012 9:35 AM

    I suppose you didn't read up to the part the said: "In my experience pads, wear out in a matter of hours in the wet sloppy stuff, and months in dry dusty conditions." I'm not exaggerating about the pads wearing out within a few laps, maintaining a race pace in the mud, even in XC riding.

    Another person that thinks racers like Gwin get practically new everything every time they bring their bike into the pits...

    Pic I was referring to earlier:

    It's bad juju to do last minute maintenance on a bike that is running good during the week, right before a race. Washing the bike and lubing the chain and checking air pressure is one thing...

  • tabletop84

    9/4/2012 9:48 AM

    A new pair of pads for every racerun wouldn't make any sense. Brakes need to be broken in. Also I doubt bleeding the system every day makes it more reliable.

  • emersonfnogueira

    9/4/2012 4:29 AM

  • WAKi

    9/4/2012 4:27 AM

    They might have been testing XTR Di2 brakes and something electric went down, transmitter or something. You know, a great advantage to them is that there is no fluid so they don't cook as easily but daaaem electronics keep them away from MTB!

  • bjenson

    9/4/2012 2:45 AM

    i'm calling sabotage. or silent protest.

  • N'Duro

    9/4/2012 2:17 AM

    Mmmmmm... real and official sound quite opposite thing to me! Not that I am a fan of the "plot theory", but it sounds more like they wanna hide something. Both brakes failing simultaneously, not being powerful enough for the rest of the run and NOTHING noticeable at post-race inspection? Sure a mechanical can always happen and that's unfortunate. But this one is particularly wierd...
    Gwin will get the stripes once, and probably more than once even. I think he deserves that. But that story about the brakes, I have a hard time believing that. Just my personal opinion though.
    And official press release are just made to make the truth sound as you want it: minimizing the importance of world championships, saying Gwin was happy with 4th in timed practice (he apparently was a bit pissed with it from what we heard)...

  • TheMidgetFlinger

    9/4/2012 2:56 AM

    Good not agree more.

  • kochjg

    9/4/2012 7:52 AM

    Maybe...but if I were Gwin, or his sponsor Shimano, I sure wouldn't want to bash the product due to an "inexplicable", high publicity failure if that's not what actually happened. That doesn't look good for the sponsor at all, and Gwin hasn't been shy about saying he just 'blew it' in the past. Just sayin

  • N'Duro

    9/4/2012 10:26 AM

    You're right saying it's a risky game they WOULD play (cause we'll never know the truth!). But who signed a contract with who? And who brought the more money in? I guess Gwin signed with TWR, so Trek. And Shimano has a contract with TWR (here also it's a guess!). Just the way I see it.
    And blaming some "old prototype" won't have the same impact on sales. Actually they would have claimed that one brake would have failed I would have bought it, despite the lame press release trying to minimize the importance of a world champ title. But both brakes?? Just sayin
    The only thing that puzzles me is Gwin saying he did suffer a mechanic. But before or after crash?

  • sino428

    9/4/2012 2:47 PM

    It's just hard to buy that Gwinn would make an excuse like that. The guy simply just doesn't have anything to prove. Everyone knows he's the best in the world. Plus like someone pointed out it wouldn't be worth throwing a sponsor under the bus to do so.