1st, 5th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 3rd. That's how Aaron Gwin's season has gone so far, and with his third place result in France he has secured the overall World Cup title for 2011, even though the season isn't over yet. Gwin has become the first racer to do that since Greg Minnaar in 2005, and the first American ever to do it. In fact Gwin is the first American male to ever win a World Cup Overall Title.
Team Manager Martin Whiteley had this to say about Gwin's run in France:
Despite the fact that no American male has ever won a Downhill World Cup in France, and there's been 12 opportunities over 19 years, Aaron was as determined as he had been at all previous 2011 rounds, to win this event. Nothing changed in his preparation or practice from the previous events, and he looked set to take his 5th win of the season after qualifying fastest on Saturday. The big change for all riders was that Saturday afternoon after qualifying, the rain moved in. It had been dry all week and this meant that the riders who'd qualified on dry set up, would now only have Sunday morning practice to get things dialed for what looked to be a wet race run. Aaron was again on his new carbon Session 9.9 and had some special prototype pieces from Shimano, namely brake calipers and shifter, and decided on cut Maxxis Wetscreams for the race run.
The only glitch for Aaron was that he'd decided on doing a 3rd practice run late in the morning practice session, but left it too late and missed the window to get onto the shuttle for the top of the mountain. Coming back to the Trek World Racing tents he was clearly disappointed but accepted that there was little he could do about it. The rain stopped and the sun came out and the course started to dry out in some sections, but then half way through the race the rain came down again, firstly as light drizzle and then as heavy rain for about 3 minutes. This really affected the riders who were 45th from 25th to last starting. By the time Aaron started, the track was back to good speed. Not as fast as qualifying, but better than it had been. However, during his race run Aaron made some mistakes that compounded on each other, losing a little time here and there, and it was too much against the likes of Greg Minnaar and Gee Atherton who both rode strong and clean runs. Aaron was super happy at winning the overall, but was frustrated with his run as he knew it wasn't completely solid.
Pietermaritzburg (1st Place)
Aaron won the first round of the World Cup circuit in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and set the pace for his entire season. 4th overall at the end of last season, he moved up to the number one plate after this race.
Fort William (5th Place)
Running the number 1 plate for the first time in his life, Gwin had a few troubles at Ft William and ended up 5th. Greg Minnaar moved into first place overall and would start the Leogang race with the number 1 plate.
Leogang (1st Place)
Gwin started with the number 2 plate in Leogang, but his second win of the season there put him back into first overall, a position he would keep for the rest of the year, although no one knew it at the time...
Mt Saint Anne (1st Place)
At Mont Saint Anne Aaron started with the number 1 plate and won again, some people began to wonder if he was unstoppable. At this point everything was still undecided, Minnaar and Gee were less than 100 points behind and could still beat him for the overall title, but he was in the lead.
Windham (1st Place)Windham NY, and another win for Gwin. This was the first World Cup win by an American racer on American soil since Shaun Palmer in 1999 and the phrase "Gwinning" was really beginning to stick. Aaron's lead was growing...
La Bresse (3rd Place)
Gwin only needed a few points in La Bresse to secure the win, and 3rd place did it. Even with Minnaar's win here Aaron still ended up with enough of a lead that even if Greg wins the next round and Aaron doesn't race, he'll still take the overall.
Val di Sole
If Aaron Gwin wins Val di Sole he'll become the first male DH racer to ever win 5 races in the same year. That's a feat that has only ever been accomplished by Anne Caroline Chausson in 2000, and that was in an 8 race season. Do you think he can do it?