Gwendalyn Gibson, Trek Factory Racing XC’s newest rider, tears up thinking about Snowshoe. Her breakout year was also one of her hardest. She broke her kneecap after taking her first elite World Cup top 10 in short track in Nové Město last May, shelving her racing season for two months. She was told she might not be able to return until World Championships in late August, but she made unexpectedly fast progress and returned for the World Cup round in Lenzerheide in early July.
Recovering so quickly from injury is impressive enough, but a week later she one-upped herself and secured a new career-best seventh in short track in Andorra. Then came Snowshoe, and a performance Gibson never saw coming: a barnstorming short track victory by two seconds over the fastest XC riders in the world on U.S. soil.
“I didn’t go into that race thinking, ‘Today is my day,'” Gibson says. “I was just going through the normal motions. And I had more of my focus on the XCO. We’re talking about it right now, and I tear up because it was really special.
“I’ve dealt with injuries and different things before, but it was this big weight off my shoulders.”
I was in disbelief. But it was also confirmation that I could accomplish my goals, and that I could get to that level.
The win marked Gibson, just 23, as one of the most promising young Americans to watch. She is joining a TFR squad that will return all of its riders for 2023, including fellow Americans Riley Amos and Maddie Munro, who is also Gibson’s roommate in Grand Junction, Colo. Gibson is really excited to get started, though she’s still processing an incredible closing stretch to the 2022 season that included a second-place short track finish in Mont-Sainte-Anne and a bronze medal in short track at World Championships in Les Gets.
“I had these goals of things I wanted to do, and every time I would actually do it, I was genuinely shocked,” Gibson says. “I remember in Andorra, it was the first time I ever started on the front row of a World Cup XCO, and I was so stoked. I was in disbelief. But it was also confirmation that I could accomplish my goals, and that I could get to that level.”
Gibson is taking the next step in her career with a tight-knit TFR squad that prizes camaraderie as well as success. She is looking forward to soaking up knowledge and advice from her new teammates. It’s hard to think of two better resources than Jolanda Neff and Evie Richards, who have won the biggest races in the sport.
“In my opinion, Trek is one of, if not the best World Cup team that you can be on,” Gibson says. “Even if you’re just looking at teammates, Jolanda Neff is an Olympic champion and a world champion. Evie is a world champion. Anton [Cooper] and Vlad [Dascalu], Maddie and Riley, everyone is so strong. And just being around in that environment where you’re surrounded by other people who are doing things that you want to do, I think it makes everyone stronger.”
Gibson should fit right in. She is already well-acquainted with at least one member of the squad. Gibson and Munro live together in Grand Junction, where Munro is a student at Colorado Mesa University and Gibson is a graduate. As two of the fastest women mountain bikers in the U.S., they have a lot in common. One of the biggest is that they both fell in love with racing through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association — a.k.a., NICA.
Gibson credits NICA with sparking her passion for cycling, and says Trek’s close relationship with the organization is one of the biggest reasons she’s excited to join the team.
In my opinion, Trek is one of, if not the best World Cup team that you can be on.
“If NICA wasn’t a thing, I would have never even learned to ride a mountain bike,” Gibson says. “So being a part of a company that supports something like that is also really important to me, and that’s something that I want to stay involved in. I have goals in the sport, and performance goals, but then I also want to be in a position where I can inspire the next generation too.”
Gibson is still new to the elite racing scene. She, as well as anyone, understands how hard it is to reach the top levels of her sport. The emotions of a long season are still raw, even two months after it ended. But she’s anxious to dive right back in and show herself and others how high her ceiling goes.