Portions of this article were originally published on ChopMTB.com.
Downhill World Cup champion Aaron Gwin has signed with the Specialized Racing downhill team. In a surprise move, the American gravity star broke off a new three-year deal with his previous team, Trek World Racing. Gwin joins the Specialized team with its continuing riders, Troy Brosnan and Mitch Ropelato.
"I'm super excited to start this new chapter in my career with Specialized bicycles. The entire Specialized staff has welcomed me with open arms, and I'm blown away by the level of support they've shown me," said Gwin. "This is my dream program, and I can't thank them enough for this opportunity. Bring on 2013!"
Team manager Sean Heimdal is pleased have Gwin onboard. "The combination of Aaron Gwin and the Specialized brand have an American storyline written all over it that was always meant to be. Aaron will not only bring another element to the program, but it'll be amazing watching this trio ripping down the tracks together. We can't wait to get started with this new exciting opportunity and look forward to the season ahead."
Signing the mild-mannered Gwin is a win for Specialized. The company is hoping to take advantage of his interest in product development, advocacy and junior development according to the Geoff Rogers of the company's Sports Marketing division.
Former junior world champion and Gwin's new teammate Troy Brosnan said, "I'm stoked to have a new teammate this year, it will be a fresh start, and I will be able to learn a lot of things from Aaron. The season starts late this year and will give everyone time to get to know each other and do testing on the bike. I cannot wait to work together and smash out runs!"
Not everyone is happy with Gwin's new deal
Gwin's former Trek World Racing team was unhappy about Gwin's departure. The team issued a statement that said, "The last several weeks have been a very difficult period for our company as owners of the Trek World Racing program. Despite the fact that on August 9 of last year, Aaron Gwin signed a legally binding Letter Of Intent with our team for the next three seasons, his agent wrote an email to the team in mid-December stating he had decided to race for another bike brand.
"Mr. Gwin confirmed his agreement with our team in public statements, and he and his agent repeatedly confirmed the existence of, and commitment to, the agreement in written correspondence with us. Yet, only weeks before the team was required to submit the official team roster to UCI, Mr. Gwin informed the team that he was abandoning TWR in total disregard of his contractual obligations."
After reaching out on several occasions in December to remedy Gwin's concerns, Trek World Racing received a letter from Gwin's attorneys on December 27 stating that he would not ride for Trek World Racing, which said it is "actively pursuing all options open to us at this point, including legal action, and remain completely surprised by Mr. Gwin's unprofessional actions".
Trek World Racing Team Director said, "This has not been an easy time for us. In the bigger picture, however, I find positivity in the fact that the Trek World Racing program will continue regardless of the outcome of this dispute, as no single rider is bigger than the team as a whole. Every rider who has been on our downhill program has had the best years of their career with us, and we will continue to bring on talented riders. The team has a history of helping riders win who had not previously won, including Aaron Gwin. It's our intention to continue that type of record with new talent... In the interests of the fans, we hope this matter will be resolved sooner rather than later".
Gwin told Cyclingnews he will soon be releasing his own public letter to fill everyone in on what's been happening.
Notably absent from the Specialized downhill team in 2013 is former five-time world champion Sam Hill, who transferred to the CRC/Nukeproof team.
It appears as if Monster Energy is gone from the role of title sponsor and the former Monster Energy / Specialized Team is presently being referred to as the "Specialized Racing Downhill Team".
There is no word yet on who, if anyone, will replace Gwin at Trek.