Despite dominating several World Cup seasons in the last decade, the coveted Rainbow Stripes have always eluded Aaron Gwin.
Could 2019 be the year that Aaron Gwin takes his season-long consistency and turns it into World Championship gold? Or will the curse of that one run continue to pull the rug out from under the only title he hasn’t won in downhill?
While it’s not quite the Steve Peat story, Aaron Gwin is an example of a high achiever failing to convert that into World Championship titles. Coming to the World Champs party late, the American never got a crack at Junior World Championship titles, but 2019 will be his eleventh shot at the title.
Things do point towards the man now flying the flag for Intense Factory Racing making it count this year. Owning his own programme and being a long-term friend of Intense’s main man Jeff Steber must calm the nerves a touch. He’s injury free having put a gammy thumb behind him mid-season 2018.
Mont Saint Anne hosts the World Championships in 2019, almost a decade after it hosted the event the last time. The perennial Canadian venue has been very good to Gwin over the years. He’s raced there every year, bar last year, since 2008 and never finished worse than 10th. He’s taken wins there in 2017, 2012 and 2011, with podium spots in 2016, 2013, 2010 and 2009.
On the flipside of that is Gwin’s World Champs record. He came closest to winning at the 2017 World Championships in Cairns with a bronze medal for his efforts, a mere two seconds back on a flying Loic Bruni.
A fourth at the 2010 World Champs in Mont Saint Anne and a fifth last year in Lenzerheide are the only top 10 finishes in a decade of attempts. Val di Sole, a track Gwin has peeled apart in the past, saw his only DNF at Worlds in 2016. Twelfth at Champery in 2011 after an off-track excursion has been the closest after Lenzerheide, with results ranging from fourteenth to eighty-third at Leogang in 2012.
While there has been crashes, and maybe simply not being fast enough on the day, there have been some freak mechanicals thrown into the mix too. That said, losing a tyre at Leogang in ‘that run’, clearly isn’t always a hindrance to Mr. Gwin.
Should he stay injury-free and find his groove in his own team, then there’s not an awful lot that says 2019 can’t be the year Gwin takes the Rainbow Stripes.