Developing: Trek World Racing Wants Aaron Gwin Back, Whiteley May Pursue Legal Action 81


This story is developing. We don't have all the facts. We don't speak legal jargon. We're simply providing you with the latest on the situation as it comes to us. Hang tight. This looks like it might be a bumpy ride...

January 12 - "For me, this issue is over" states Whiteley in an interview.

"For me, this issue is over. Aaron is racing for Specialized, there will be no legal barriers to that, and I will focus on getting my team ready so hopefully we can all be trackside in less than five months in Fort William, enjoying what we all love, clearly with emotion, and that’s DH racing." - Martin Whiteley (via Pinkbike)

Could this be a sincere closure to the situation? We'll have to wait and see. Martin has certainly been busy signing on a few new riders prior to the UCI team filing deadline... You can read the full interview here.

January 9 - Gwin publishes a letter saying that he didn't break any contract.

"I'm writing this public note to hopefully shed a little light on what's actually going on with my move to Specialized.

Reports that I broke my contract with 23 Degrees/Trek World Racing are false.  My contract expired.  The one-page letter of intent I signed said there would be a “full length contract” with “precise terms” coming in the future.  The 16-page contract that showed up in late November was not signed by me because it was not the deal we had made. I have moved on to a team that gave me the contract I wanted, and these are the facts.

The press reports are inaccurate, unfair, and one-sided. Because 23 Degrees has hired lawyers and threatened to sue me, my lawyers have told me not to say anything for now.

While riding for Trek, I lived up to my contract and gave them my 100% effort and full commitment.  I intend on doing the same for Specialized.

As for now, I want to let my fans know that my offseason training has been going great. I love my new bikes and I'm more excited to race this year than I ever have been. Big thanks to the Specialized family for such an amazing opportunity and support.

I hope everyone understands that I cannot talk any further about this at this time, but I felt like I needed to clear the air a bit, without getting too much into the legal stuff.

Thanks to all the fans who have stood behind me." -- AG

January 8 - Aaron Gwin tweeted that there's more to the story.

"Proud to announce that I will be riding for Specialized moving forward. There's much more to the story than what's been shared and i'm looking forward to setting that straight very soon. Thanks to my team and fans who've had my back in this time."

Watch this space...

January 7 - Trek World Racing and Martin Whiteley issue a press release.

Within hours of receiving Specialized's press releasing stating that Aaron Gwin is joining the 2013 Specialized Downhill Program alongside Troy Brosnan and Mitch Ropelato, we received the following statement from Martin Whiteley, Aaron Gwin's former(?) team manager at Trek World Racing (TWR), indicating that Gwin left TWR after signing a "legally binding Letter Of Intent." For those that aren't familiar, a Letter Of Intent is typically an informal document that sets forth the preliminary understanding of the parties (in this case, something essentially stating "Yes, I intend to ride for TWR in 2013"), the terms of which are to be subsequently set forth in another agreement. In other words, a Letter Of Intent is not a rider contract in the traditional sense.

Martin Whiteley says Gwinny breached a 'legally binding Letter Of Intent.' Is there such a thing? - Photo: Sven Martin

via 23 Degrees Sport Management - January 7, 2013

The last several weeks have been a very difficult period for our company as owners of the Trek World Racing program. Despite the fact that on August 9 of last year, Aaron Gwin signed a legally binding Letter Of Intent with our team for the next three seasons, his agent wrote an email to the team in mid-December stating he had decided to race for another bike brand. Mr Gwin confirmed his agreement with our team in public statements, and he and his agent repeatedly confirmed the existence of, and commitment to, the agreement in written correspondence with us. Yet, only weeks before the team was required to submit the official team roster to UCI, Mr Gwin informed the team that he was abandoning TWR in total disregard of his contractual obligations.

The team reached out on several occasions in December in order to try and remedy whatever concerns Mr Gwin had, but these were ignored until the team received a letter from his Attorneys on December 27 stating he would not ride for our team. In the interests of the team and our sponsors, we are actively pursuing all options open to us at this point, including legal action.

Team Director Martin Whiteley says: "This has not been an easy time for us. In the bigger picture however I find positivity in the fact that the Trek World Racing program will continue regardless of the outcome of this dispute, as no single rider is bigger than the team as a whole. Every rider who has been on our Downhill program has had the best years of their career with us, and we will continue to bring on talented riders. The team has a history of helping riders win who had not previously won, including Aaron Gwin. It’s our intention to continue that type of record with new talent. I would personally like to acknowledge the complete support and loyalty we’ve received from our title sponsor Trek Bikes who have been unwavering in their commitment to the program since this news broke. In the interests of the fans, we hope this matter will be resolved sooner rather than later."

We've got to admit, it was a bit odd to see Gwin switching teams following an August 13 press release saying he would remain with TWR for three more years. From a contractual and legal point of view, the parties may still feel that there are issues of breach and/or compensation to work out, whether or not that leads to any kind of settlement or legal action remains to be seen. Also keep in mind that Trek and TWR are separate entities.

Where does the fastest man in the world belong according to the lawyers? Right now, only time will tell. Let's just hope that all this confusion won't distract Gwin from staying focused on his training during the off season. Aside from his incredible ginger powers, it seems to be a big key to his success.

Create New Tag
  • sino428

    1/13/2013 5:57 AM

    My conclusion (based on what's out there now) seems to be that Gwin handled the situation poorly as a whole. This could change if new info comes out.

    I'm not saying he did anything that he wasn't legally allowed to do, or that he didn't do what's best for him (which he should) but it seems like it was handled poorly.

    Even if that contract he received wasn't what they agreed on, don't you call up TWR to remedy the situation? How do you just ignore their calls?

    Like I said if he wanted to leave, fine, but to go out and work out a new deal with Specialized knowing full well Trek was still under the impression he'd be riding for them is not the proper way to handle it IMO.

    If he wanted to be a free agent and shop for a new deal he should have just manned up and told TWR that. Instead he hedged his bet, stringing TWR along until he secured his new deal. I mean smart move I guess, keeping the TWR deal in his back pocket, but not the most classy way to do business.

  • CaptyvateMedia

    1/13/2013 8:34 AM


  • scarface

    1/13/2013 4:35 AM

    Is the UCI introducing a backpedaling world cup for 2013? If so, TWR are a lock. Next time they need to let me and my lil friend do the interviewing, we'd get some straight answers.

  • JonnyC

    1/12/2013 4:18 PM

    Jesus told him to sign with specialized

  • bicycle.addict

    1/13/2013 3:24 PM



    1/10/2013 9:40 PM

    Whiteley is a bad willing person.he tried to abuse the rider that
    was bringing bread and milk in his plate.
    A business association has to be a win-win one.
    Tought the old f....r would know that.
    Good for him.

  • E bot

    1/10/2013 10:26 AM

    This is nuts because people don't understand that Martin 23* was telling/selling all the sponsors all fall long we got Gwinn and we gonna win, And get tons of press. Sposors say... if you got Gwinn then we are in... How much $ do you need? Martin took that money and budgeted it all out and must have come up short on what Gwinn was getting offered at S, and Gwinn checked out. No big deal right? Wrong, big time wrong! Now 23* has no Gwinn and that means all the people/sponsors that thought they paid the big bucks to be part of the gwinnsation are left with what? Nothing! If anyone gets sued its going to be 23* for selling his team on false pretenses. Sucks for Martin because the dude has put his life into this sport. And now he looks bad to the fans, and to the sponsors. I can't think of a rider that could fill them shoes to the toon of the dollars Gwinn bought to the team. Has to be a American and a winner. Sorry for all you non Americans but that's a fact! If Gwinn was from idk.. anywhere else in the world... he would get half his pay. If Martin/23 could pull in the cash with anyone else he would not give a crap about loosing Gwinn. Martin mest up and lost his cash cow, now he is trying to make it sound like he didn't lie to his supporters/team sponsors. I don't think I would buy into the team if I knew he was only under a letter of intent. I would want to know for sure he was sporting my logo... And you better believe the marketing directors that made the mistake of sending Martin the big check with no gwinn contract could loose there jobs. If you spent 50,000 on 23* you are also probably comitited to another 50+ in ads and other marketing items. That is one big f up for a marketing person. Hope I didn't mess up by weighing in on this. Money amounts need to be public!

  • scriz

    1/10/2013 11:44 AM

    From what Gwin said it sounds like the issue is more that TWR promised him one thing in August and then 3.5 months later sent him a contract with different terms. Different enough that signing it would cause Gwin undue personal sacrifice. Granted, it takes time to secure all the sponsorship money and what not, but that's the game of being a promoter. Sometimes you have to eat a loss, sometimes you profit hugely by underpaying a rising star. That is why teams hedge their bets with multiple riders. The fact that TWR has attempted to publicly defame Gwin's character is what is completely *unprofessional* in this whole scenario. Martin has been in the game long enough ( and been on the other side of the coin ) that he should know how to handle his business. Win some, lose some.... he should have just kept is trap shut and tried to poach Gwin back next season. It's not like Specialized is not taking a risk either. As we have seen time and time again, there are no safe bets in DH. For all we know Stevie Smith will dominate next year and TWR will be trying buy him from DeVinci.

  • E bot

    1/10/2013 12:29 PM

    Yes,yes,and yes. Haha "hedge there bets" Martin once hired Missy "the missile", and monkey was her wrench. Don't know what that means... except maybe... Martin likes to gamble!


    1/10/2013 9:09 AM

    Whiteley will probably just have the UCI change the rules so that anyone named Aaron will need 470,000 UCI points to race at a world cup.

    From what I'm told, Whiteley has been the one instrumental in pushing aspiring racers and privateers out of world cup racing with the rule changes on trade teams and UCI points payouts for national champs. As far as I'm concerned he can go eat a giant bag of em.

  • JonnyC

    1/12/2013 4:15 PM

    I couldn't agree with you more

  • scarface

    1/10/2013 11:43 AM

  • Adam_Schaeffer

    1/10/2013 12:17 PM

    ^This is EXACTLY what came to mind when I read that. Nice.

  • kev.1n

    1/10/2013 8:24 AM

    kind of a interesting video to stir up what everyone is thinking, definitely had me off
    Aaron gwin contract signing august 2012

  • g1701gst

    1/10/2013 9:08 AM

    check out 1:21 - it clearly states 'Letter of Intent - CONFIDENTIAL

    Cannot wait to see Aaron racing and dominating everyone again this year. June cannot come soon enough.

  • Daniel_Villa

    1/10/2013 8:23 AM

    Leave him alone Martin!!! Get it over, only think you are going to get is hate from the fans!

  • mmendes888

    1/9/2013 11:09 PM

    There's nothing to get ugly... and with the little facts we know... AG contract with TWR expired at the end of 2012; TWR in August signs a letter of commitment where it states that later that year they will give AG a new contract, which has no legal power. So, it looks like in Novembre AG received the new contract to sign from TWR... which he didn't... and he was free to sign whatever he wanted... which he did with Spesh... and end of story.
    We don't know and probably never will, but what's missing in this is to know if TWR had a chance to present AG with a counter proposal to what Spesh was offering to AG... cause what it seems is that after AG saw the new 3 year deal with TWR he rushed to sign the contract with Mike Sinyard brand... but we don't know what kind of negotiations went down before AG signed this new deal... and this the missing link...

  • nickhead

    1/9/2013 10:11 PM

    I blame Nigel Page

    Firstly, for those who are having a go at Martin Whiteley, I'd suggest doing a bit of research and understanding quite what he's done for the sport in terms of helping to bring the professionalism to team structure, first through Global Racing and then to Honda G-Cross. He's kinda like the Bernie Ecclestone / Max Moseley of DH

    The TWR statement does read a bit like one of those pissed-off emails you should have re-read in the morning before sending, but given the relatively last minute nature of finding out your headline act and cash cow has jumped ship - you can understand the frustration - there must have been a lot of swearing going on when that letter landed from Gwin's attorneys.

    Finally, CRC aren't a second-tier team in terms of budget, in fact I'd imagine they've thrown a chunk more money at the sport in recent years than many major manufacturers - and Hill wouldn't have signed if he wasn't confident on the new bike.

  • Bissmeister

    1/10/2013 3:22 PM

    Wait so after reading that I don't understand why you blame Nigel Page...

  • Scott_Slattery

    1/9/2013 8:44 PM

    Well played Specialized, Well played indeed. Wait tell Sam Hill signs with a second tear team on a bike that's not top rate to drop the A-bomb, keeping Hill off of Trek World Racing and top level equipment.

  • sideshow

    1/9/2013 7:34 PM

    Why is AG so well liked? Because he is a classy dude, through and through.

  • David_Motay

    1/9/2013 7:06 PM

    Whitely is such a freaking tool, whats he doing in this sport...he looks like a lifer head cashier at burger king

  • kev.1n

    1/9/2013 6:41 PM

    this shit has clearly hit the fan. If I were martin, I would just give this thing a rest, maybe, just maybe gwin did the wrong thing but so what? At this point martin is just digging himself a hole and creating a bad reputation for himself and trek. The pursuit for one athlete in not worth this trouble and what if he magically wins this over and gwin is forced to sign to trek, do you think aaron will still be happy or perform at the same level if he is forced to? I thought not. There wont be any happy outcomes to this besides letting bygones be bygones and letting gwin be himself. enough is enough, this is high school drama.

  • erwinmruiz

    1/9/2013 6:36 PM

    When did DH become boxing with all the business drama.

    This reminds me of when Manny Paquia had the contract issues with both Top Rank and Golden Boy a few years ago. I hope that DH racing does not follow the path of boxing, baseball and other pro sports that focus about money, money , money and disregard the public

    But then again, it is a business first and foremost, pretty much always about money.

  • tyron.mclean

    1/9/2013 3:46 PM

    Give it up Martin, you only have yourself to blame allowing Gwin to submit a letter of Intent which has no legal binding!

  • ibeaver

    1/9/2013 10:14 AM

    I always thought whitley was a wank.... TWR should sell him off and get someone like me in there. I'll kick some ass and get that team s t o k e d!

  • Big Bird

    1/10/2013 8:33 AM

    Martin Whiteley IS Trek World Racing.

  • Pininator

    1/8/2013 9:58 PM

    I'm not up in arms over either end of this story as much as I'm compelled.

    Gwin has had unrivaled success with TWR the last couple of seasons with little signs of letting up. Most people would be prone to stick around, unless there was something and/or somebody within the program that couldn't be tolerated. I'd guess the Big S had some budget to play with since Hill went to CRC/Nukeproof, so that would help tip the scales their way enough to make the decision easier on Gwin. I'd also guess that Gwin wanted to originally race with Specialized when he hit the circuit, but the timing wasn't there to sign him......until now. It makes sense with Hill's contract expiring and Gwin not officially signed - one of the few racers in the world ANY team would let Hill go for would be Gwin.

    All I REALLY know at this point is that this is the best thing to happen to Ropelato's career since Sam Hill.

  • piggy

    1/8/2013 9:45 PM

    isn't there a potential conflict of interest here? If Whiteley is/was Gwin's agent, while also running the TWR team, that would be a problem... If so, Gwin has likely done the right thing... anyway, was he Gwin's agent?

  • astrizzle

    1/10/2013 1:05 PM

    I"m pretty sure rich houseman is

  • Mike_Franze

    1/8/2013 8:51 PM

    sounds like it might get ugly!

    Go Danny Hart