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02.19.14

Aaron Gwin Mentors Downhill Racing Team

MTB - Red Bull Interview

The World Cup Champ is guiding the next generation of gravity racing talent.

By creating the ODI Specialized Development Team, Aaron Gwin is paying forward the same gratitude that led him into the sport of gravity MTB.

As he transitioned from motocross to MTB in 2008, Gwin quickly trailblazed a new path to the top of gravity racing. Now, he is giving back to the sport by essentially paving the path for younger racers to find success just as quickly.

We caught up with Gwinny to get the lowdown on his development team and his plans to keep Team USA at the top of international gravity racing in the future...

Tell us about the ODI Specialized Development Team?
Aaron Gwin: My manager Rich Houseman and I started the team in 2012, so this is our third year. We’ve had a few [amateurs] come through the program, but once they go pro they usually do their own thing. Jason Schroeder just went pro. It’s more like a development team. We focus on finding the riders with the talent and the work ethic to maybe go somewhere with it…

From there, we try to give them as many tools and resources [they need], with bikes, and trainers. We just try to help them do the best they can do.

What was the major motivation to start your own racing team?
Since I first started racing [mountain bikes], I’ve always really enjoyed the coaching side of things and working with [amateurs]. As soon as we had resources, we jumped all over it. That’s kinda how I originally got into the sport with Rich and Yeti back in 2008. Rich was running a junior team for Yeti and picked me up as a rider. So we’re just kinda doing the same thing, but at a higher level.

Who is on the 2014 squad?
We have two riders this season: one on the East Coast and one on the West. Shane Leslie is our East Coast guy; he lives in Michigan. We may have a third rider soon…

Charlie Harrison is our West Coast rider. He has a similar background -- motocross. He’s been killing it (see Gwin guide Harrison to a Nevada State Championship here). We’ve had already had a good couple of years working with him. He’s young and he’s fast, so it’ll be fun to watch where he goes…

How does it work at regional races -- you’re a team owner and rider; do you share resources with the development team?
ODI is the title sponsor of the team, so they provide the trailer and mechanic. Actually, last year’s development team mechanic John Hall is going to be my mechanic on the World Cup circuit this year. We have the whole pit setup, so they have a spot with all the resources at all the [local] races -- Fontana, Bootleg orMammoth.

I try to help them as much as I can while I’m there. We do track walk together; we do all our runs together. Basically, we’re on the same team. I don’t have any team setup at a lot of locals, so the benefit is a two-way street.

We do everything together. Always doing runs and working with them on whatever it is -- lines, technique, race preparation or really anything they need that I can help them out with. Same with Rich; any way you can help.

There’s a cool group of people helping out each of our guys. The riders are working hard. We have them working with fitness trainers and on programs -- all that stuff! And they’re gettin’ after it.

Riding and practicing with amateurs can be a distraction to your own racing -- what's your motivation?
Mostly, it’s just helping the guys. I don’t really look to get anything out of it, except to help them. I had some really cool people helping me when I was coming up and, like I said, I really enjoy the coaching side of things -- seeing a rider get stoked when he does something you think he could do or if he reaches a goal or whatever it is.

But for me, the bonus is that I have guys to ride with at the local races. Charlie is fast now. So he’s actually not too far from my pace at Fontana and stuff. So we can ride together and try lines out and work on things together now that he’s getting really fast.

I don’t ever have anything I’m looking to get out of it beyond the enjoyment of helping them and hopefully make their dream of becoming a professional racer happen.

Follow Gwinny, the ODI Specialized Development Team and Red Bull Bike on Twitter for more mountain bike race news and action.
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  • Photo: Ryan Cleek/Specialized
  • Photo: Ryan Cleek/Specialized

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