Pre-race favorite Aaron Gwin's hopes of taking home a downhill world championship title came to an end around one minute and 20 seconds into his final run on Sunday in Austria. Inexplicably, both his front and rear brakes failed, resulting in a crash for the American.
Shortly after the crash, Gwin pumped the brakes to try and get some pressure going, but it was insufficient to complete the course safely at speed, and he cruised to the line disappointed that he was unable to throw down a run on the three and half minute course.
At the Worlds, there is no qualifying round or seeding run, but a timed practice session where riders can check their general race speed against official timing. Gwin was happy with his fourth in the timed practice and as race day drew nearer, and the sun came out drying the track dramatically, all was set for a classic Gwin winning run. Unfortunately, the brake failure, something he has never experienced before and in fact is his first mechanical in a race run since joining the team, took him by surprise.
Gwin said at the finish line, "I really don't understand what happened. I warmed up as usual, tested the brakes as usual at the top, walked down the course to have a look at how the track was running, went into my run, brakes working fine for the first minute or so, and then bang, nothing. I crashed and got up as soon as I could, pumped to see what was there, but it wasn't enough, and knew my day was run".
According to Gwin's Trek World Racing team, the brakes have been taken back to Japan for further analysis as there was nothing immediately evident from the post-race inspection, and nothing new was done to these brakes that Gwin and the team has run for most of the season.
Gwin will remain in Austria to cheer on his cross country teammates at the Worlds, then will head to Norway next Monday to prepare for the World Cup finals. With one round remaining, Gwin has locked up the overall World Cup title.