Image credit: Fox MTB Wallpapers

In the past few weeks the world cup DH scene has seen major shifts by two of the sports most dominant and legendary riders. The departure of Sam Hill from the Monster Energy Specialized Team for CRC/Nukeproof left a gaping hole in the team. Restless imaginations stirred and rumors began to float that the Big S was looking for a big name rider. One who could turbo boost sales and reel in the wins. Cue Aaron Gwin.

The most dominant American on the scene and the first to win an unprecedented five world cup races in one season, followed by another four wins the next, the man has spawned numerous gwintastic puns for his amazing performance. Unfortunately, for Specialized, he had already signed a three year letter-of-intent with Trek World Racing. A factory sponsored team which dropped it’s XC commitments to focus excursively on their tremendously talented DH team.

The news that Aaron had signed with Specialized, like the news that Sam was joining another team, leaked before either party intended for whatever reason and the back lash amongst fans and from Trek World Racing has been brutal and the team just issued this harshly worded statement….


Image Credit: Trek World Racing

“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.

The team reached out on several occasions in December in order to try and remedy whatever concerns Mr Gwin had, but these were ignored until the team received a letter from his Attorneys on December 27 stating he would not ride for our team. In the interests of the team and our sponsors, we are actively pursuing all options open to us at this point, including legal action, and remain completely surprised by Mr Gwin’s unprofessional actions.

Team Director Martin Whiteley says: ‘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. I would personally like to acknowledge the complete support and loyalty we’ve received from our title sponsor Trek Bikes who have been unwavering in their commitment to the program since this news broke. In the interests of the fans, we hope this matter will be resolved sooner rather than later’.” -23 Degrees Sports

Today, Trek World Racing also posted this video today. They’re not bitter at all.

The press release and video by Trek World Racing only covers half the story. We have yet to hear the details from Aaron Gwin, who stated on twitter this week:

“Proud to announce that I will be riding for Specialized moving forward. There’s much more to the story than what’s been shared and i’m looking forward to setting that straight very soon. Thanks to my team and fans who’ve had my back in this time “ @AaronGwin1

Regardless, the initial damage has been done and many in the community are content to point out that Aaron Gwin has lost his reputation for honesty and integrity. Although no one seems  surprised that the big bad Specialized huffed and buffed and blew Trek’s straw house right over.

This sort of backdoor wheeling and dealing is common in professional sports (F1, soccer, etc…). Leaping from one sponsor to another for better equipment, money, or that elusive chance at the big prize happens. The career of a professional athlete is short and limited by luck, injury, and age. They must act in their own best interest. So while the drama has been very entertaining, it doesn’t mean that the entire racing scene is corrupt and has lost it’s soul. What the sponsor hopping has created is more media attention and more riders reading and commenting about downhill racing.

Update: Gwin has also signed with new sponsor TLD, despite the upcoming release of his signature Bell Full-9 full face. Perhaps this is just an apparel deal. Updates as we get them.


Updated: Aaron Speaks! Read his side of the story here.


  1. Wow, classy move by TWR…

    In my opinion, it looks like they know a LOI carries the weight of a snotty kleenex when faced with a well funded legal team, and we all know how much the big S likes to be in court. I guess they’re just trying to feel better with some good old fashioned mud slinging.

  2. and as the best rider in the circuit today, hes entitled to reap the benefits of his success/hard work…ie money and riding for whomever he wants. the stay at the top is limited in something like DH racing – take advantage while you still can. It does suck that TWR has to scramble to get its roster set for the UCI deadline that’s fast approaching though…but trying to take legal action on an athlete to force them to race for you – im sure that will produce great results!

  3. While knowing nothing of the legal matters concerning a professional LOI, I would imagine at this point TWR is just going after Specialized for $$$$$$$$. And if they can, some kind of recompense from Gwin.

  4. In the end….until the contract is signed you can never expect anything to be finalized.

    And like someone else stated, this sort of thing is NOT new in normal sports world. I know people who set up this sort of thing with football/baseball players. They’d laugh at the stink all these amateur types are whining about his decision.

    Specialized and Trek have been at it for awhile. Don’t like what either do….don’t buy their bikes. Many small companies like Santa Cruz, Salsa, Guerrilla Gravity (Denver, made in usa DH frames), Turner, etc… to pick from.

  5. Pro driver do change teams and sometimes sponsors. However this is only legally allowable when their current contract expires. In the immediate case of Mr. Gwin, he has contractual obligation that have not been fulfilled. There could be a bail out clause, we will have to wait for more information about the extent of his contract.

    Trek can file an injuction and not allow Mr. Gwin to race for anyone. They can also file a Breach of Contract Complaint in civil court and sue for damages. No this is not your normal changing of teams as they do in all forms of professional racing. It’s like you promised someone you would work for them for a set salary, then you shake hands on it and verbally agree to do the work. Then you change your mind and work for you neighbor. That my friends is simplistically a breach of contract.

  6. Yeah a letter of intent is not always a binding contract. Also some companies use those so they can ditch you the first time you suck. If that was an official contract it may be different. But who gives a crap about loyalty to these big brands? I could care less about it. They can get other riders no problem.

    But this is the most interesting Aaron Grin news I’ve ever seen honestly, he’s usually a huge bore. I’m so over this crap about this american rider blah blah, the dude is like watching paint dry.

  7. First off, I think that this is being blown WAY out of proportion, Like so ^

    Second big bad specialized…. Really? Ive met sinyard and many others of the specialized family, Sinyard is all about the bikes and people and from the articles ive read treks all about the $$$$, Im not gonna be one sided because i dont know john burke and im not basing all of what i think of him on what i read. I liked Aaron with TWR and I like him with specialized. If you love him or hate him based on the brand well then you never really liked him. And as for WaynesRCworld comment If thats what they are out to do is take him out of racing over breaking an intent…. then thats low, they are gonna lose alot of support and as “imoral and unprofessional” as they claim him to be.

  8. Lol Sinyard is far from being “all about the bike.” He may like riding, but he’s also a ruthless business leader who doesn’t hesitate to crush people who come in his way.
    Ever heard of volagi ? That’s only one of the many lawsuits Specialized has filed against competitors.

  9. I think it’s okay for Gwin to ride for someone else. But the thing is, he should not have signed the Memorandum of Intent with TWR, when he was shopping for a new sponsor all along. That was just in bad taste, especially considering that he belongs to the elite level of the sport. I just hope for Gwin’s sake that he does not attract bad karma to his 2013 racing season. As for TWR, they should just drop the legal option and move on. It ain’t worth keeping someone who doesn’t want to be with you.

  10. Not surprised this is coming from Specialized. They love to crush anyone in their way. Google “Epic Designs” which no longer exists because of Big S lawsuit threats…

  11. That TLD development is no small affair. Specialized would not agree to have a Bell helmet on their prize fighter so the equipment deal had to be changed too.

  12. Letter of intent is not legally binding. Contract is legally binding. Letter of intent is not a contract – it is a promise to consider a contract.

    Trek is full of it.

  13. @WaynesRCworld: promising to work for somebody for a set salary, is what a binding contract does. Letter of Intent does not specify compensation.

  14. @ Moskowe

    Check out the settlement that came out of the Volagi suit. Kinda comical what the court slapped them with, considering the legal costs on each side.

    Personally I’m a huge fan of SBC. I think their bikes are the top in the industry (amongst the bigs at least). Maybe their tactics are not the best, but they do have top products beneath top competitors. You’ve got to give them credit for that.

  15. Who cares? Just another douche bag holding an energy drink can and talking about how he ” totally pinned it bro”. These guys represent .05% of the sport and .001% of the market, for shit’s sake not even the free ride crowd like these guys. Let them all shatter knee caps for my viewing pleasure on Youtube. Still gonna ride my bike wether or not some dude bra in a flat brimmed Monster hat rides a particular kind of bike or not. Look forward to see him over cook a corner and disassemble himself real soon. Better invest the paltry allowance you get in walkers and assisted living facility prepaid cards because when your career is over, in about ten minutes, and you move back in with your parents even they will eventually get sick of your high maintenance, dude bra bs. 🙂

  16. No offense, but it’s downhill. Who flipping cares? Gwin can win races with or without integrity, and Specialized is the “Bob Sugar” of the cycling world, so he should be right at home. Funny thing is that more often than not karma has a funny way of settling the score, so I’m sort of waiting for a big clavicle splintering fall for Mr. Gwin early in the season. I don’t want to see it happen, but things sometimes work out that way.

  17. Really- WTF is all the Gwin hating going on here? Best DHer USA has had in ages, maybe ever and he makes a change in Employer and many are here spewing absolute filth. Unbelievable! Is it a Trek homer thing, jealousy or something else?
    Maybe he isn’t sucking on your Atheist/Obama voting /Subaru driving/Trek XC riding (deleted) and you have an axe to grind. How far am off on this? Probably not much.

What do you think?