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Do you think a World Cup DH career debut like Gwin's is possible anymore?

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12/30/2014 10:23 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/30/2014 12:08 PM

Long title question, I know, but I often wonder about it and the future of DH.

Gwin wasn't a life-long mountain biker and he basically showed up out of nowhere, making his presence known on the World Cup in his first season. Yeah he had BMX and moto experience, but Cody Warren showed Gwin a downhill bike a year or two earlier, then Gwin top 10'd(!) at his first World Cup DH (Mont Sainte Anne, 2008) with not much other than a couple local races under his belt. His performance wasn't a one-hit-wonder, as we all know, since he went on to be a major force on the World Cup circuit.

Gwin at MSA in 2008

Is an "out of nowhere" performance like Gwin's possible in this day and age with all the training and focus? We had Palmer's performances back in the day (during what some consider the most competitive days of the World Cup ever), so I guess this same question could have been asked back then, too. Gwin would have answered the question.

Could there be someone out there who barely knows what a DH bike is right now yet could be on the World Cup podium in 2 or 3 years?


12/30/2014 11:10 AM

Yes, I think it's completely feasible that we'll see another guy (or girl) turn up out of the blue and nail ridiculous World Cup placings in their first season. The popularity of Mountain Biking is on the up 'n up. It's not beyond reason that there's somebody out there who isn't destined to try downhill until Spring 2015 and be hitting top 10's by summer 2016.


12/30/2014 11:19 AM

I want to say yes, but my perception was that the top of the game changed after Gwin made everybody look silly for a season. Seems like the serious factor got turned up another notch (in terms of training, diet, etc). It's not impossible that somebody could stumble into mountain biking from another sport, bringing a level of fitness or determination or talent that once more ups the ante, but I don't know how many of those leaps forward are possible. Could be that downhill is approaching a point where marginal gains are more likely than shifts of magnitude.

All that said, I'd be stoked if somebody did blaze onto the scene like Gwin in '10/'11. It makes for exciting racing.


12/30/2014 12:00 PM

Gwin comes from moto and msa or shladming where he get even 8th - it's pretty much moto-style track. So for me it's possible but it depends on track. 2014 world cup series was dominating by physical tracks so you have to be fit and there's no way to get decent result without specific preperation. I'd like to emphasize the level of dh racing is much higher than before. We have almost 10 contenders in every race who can basically take the win - not like before Greg Sam and Gee.


12/30/2014 12:02 PM

Absolutely possible. Gwin, for the monster he is on a mountain bike, was (by his own admission) an "average" motocross racer. I'm sure there exist pro/semi-pro motocross guys who have hardly given thought to "downhill bikes" (but probably cycle for cross-training) much like Gwin, but could have a change of heart, show up, and throw down.


12/30/2014 12:04 PM

maybe someone with dirt bike racer who can handle the speed aspect and is stupid fit like Tomac


12/30/2014 12:10 PM

What anotherbikerguy said; not by orders of magnitude, but marginal, meaningful gains.

I've always felt that the bike handling standard for BMX and moto is higher than mountain bike. I would not be surprised if in the next few years a mid-level BMX or moto guy picks up a mountain bike and becomes a top contender, kinda like Gwin. While that is a somewhat depressing thought, I have to remind myself that mountain biking is much younger than those other two disciplines. We're still in the fast growth phase of our life cycle whereas those other two have had more time to build and establish higher standards. We'll get there too, we're just a little behind, which makes it easier for a BMX or moto guy to port his talents over and excel.


12/30/2014 12:45 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/30/2014 12:46 PM

I think some one will step up and smash every one again at some point , hill done , then people caught up , gwin done then people caught up , one of these fast juniors/new elites could be the next one , I got a feeling it could be loic this season.

But as to a relative new comer doing it , would say chances are slim but not impossible


12/30/2014 2:51 PM

If BMX and Moto backgrounds are a precursor to success in DH, then Mike Day will be the next champ.


12/30/2014 3:01 PM

it seems moto experience would be more applicable than BMX due to the speeds, big hits and reaction times. there have a been a lot of BMX riders who've tried to crossover throughout the years and have struggled with the move, but there have also been plenty of success stories. gwin was (and still probably is) a pretty legit tennis player. maybe that's the secret? : )


12/30/2014 3:23 PM

sspomer wrote:

it seems moto experience would be more applicable than BMX due to the speeds, big hits and reaction times. there have a been a ...more

I believe Shaun is right. BMX racers are fit and great at riding nice smooth tracks. Mike Day has been racing DH off and on for years and hasn't become a major contender. Fast guy, but not a contender. If it happens again it will come from the Moto world. Or maybe some euro track racer with quads the size of hams who's been having fun and training DH on the side?


12/30/2014 4:13 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/30/2014 4:15 PM

While skill will get you in the gate, mindset gets you down the track. Gwin changed the game with his headspace. His skills are exceptional, and his abilities went unmatched for two season, but it had less to do with physical prowess than it did with his ability to draw focus and mentally commit to the win. People tend to tune out during interviews, but if you go back and listen to his pre and post race chats, that's where all the answers will be found. Everyone was training, everyone was riding, but not everyone could settle into the mental groove Gwin developed.
I believe that the way riders are being coached in the AGD (After Gwin Domination) has a lot to do with getting their heads in the game, and making sure they can draw on the physical training through mental focus to achieve results. Nigel (CRC manager) discussed Sam's mental game a lot throughout the season, and look at how that turned out - same with the people close to Josh: lots of talk about confidence, ease of mind/lack of stress, etc.
Darren Roberts dedicated one of his columns in Dirt to this subject of metal stability/strength/fortitude, and frequently alludes to it in his other writings. We tend to look at athletes as physical machines that perform with fuel and metal/carbon - forgetting that these are people with lives and people-problems, so sometimes, being super fit isn't always enough. Sports psychology has take off in a big way in recent years, and for good reason: an athlete with a strong headspace is an athlete that can perform at, and over, their potential consistently and without hesitation. Brains, not brawn, will surprisingly win out in sports more often than not.
So with that in mind, yes, someone stil can, in my opinion, jump into the WC scene as an unknown and put up crazy results


12/30/2014 5:00 PM

DH still isn't as competitive at the top level as BMX and moto. I mean, for a guy like Bryceland to take the overall says alot. No doubt he trains hard and has immense talent, but his antics won't fly in the BMX and moto world. Downhill is still in its infancy if we are being brutally honest, so I think it is definitely possible for someone to come in and pull a "Gwin". When and if downhill reaches the level of professionalism that's at the top of moto and BMX, it will be much harder for someone to come in and do what Aaron did. Downhill is still far from there, so chances are pretty good that we will see another, if not multiple, "Gwin" like performances in the next 5/10/15 years.


12/30/2014 8:34 PM

sideshow wrote:

While skill will get you in the gate, mindset gets you down the track. Gwin changed the game with his headspace. His skills ...more

Look at Manon Carpenter: one of her dayIntheLifeOfVids indicates she sees a pyschologist, which I'm assuming to mean she gets as much professional help with her mental preparedness as she does with her physical conditioning.

There's only so much existing tracks can challenge the riders on a physical level, and year-in year-out racing levels the mental approach to the same track in just as big a way. Maybe the new challenger will have to enter at a time when there is a wholesale change to the tracks on both a physical and mental level, ie, more tracks look like Dan Atherton's Hardline track.
To use a comic book analogy, A new hero needs a new villain, and maybe we need a villainous change to the tracks before that hero steps up wink


12/30/2014 9:54 PM

It's possible.

But as Gwinn showed, it starts with jesus.

And ping pong. Jesus and ping pong. Moto and bmx are cool and all but mastery of jesus and ping pong go a lot farther than people realize.


12/31/2014 6:31 AM

When I was in big bear this past summer Cole Seely was there doing dh runs . So maybe once honda stops giving cole a big check the next "major force" might be on the way from the moto world .


12/31/2014 7:27 AM

I think it's 100% possible for a higher level Moto guy to come over and pull a "Gwin". As far as bmx goes, a higher level BMX racer could easily come over and dominate Enduro racing. They'd just have to lose weight like Graves.