YT Mob Log: Entry Five
Angel Grills Aaron Gwin
Words by Angel Suarez // Photos by Isac Paddock/YT Mob
This month’s YT Mob Log is a bit different from the rest. We let the Mob’s rookie racer play media hack and interview the man himself, Aaron Gwin. Read along as Angel grills Aaron.
AS: What’s your favorite coffee at Starbucks?
AG: Oh, favorite coffee….for sure it’s just black iced coffee. I always order it black and drink it down just a little bit, then I add half n’ half. But I have to have the mixture right so I don’t let them put the half n’ half in for me, I have to do it myself. I don’t like black coffee so I only drink a little bit and it kind of like, I don’t know, charges me up. Then I add the half n’ half and I just, enjoy it. I never drink it for energy, only enjoyment. My coffee time is usually in the afternoons.
AS: What do you think about there being not many races in the U.S.? Do you think it’s strange, because many of the sponsors are there?
AG: Yeah, for sure, I would love to see more races in the US. I mean I’m from the U.S., but I think for the sport, and in general, it would be good to have races there, so yeah, that would be sweet. It would be nice to have more races there. I think it would be fun to just have more races internationally, just to move them around a little bit more, no matter where we’re going. Just to hit different fan groups and stuff, but I understand there’s additional expense to go over there and race and to do different things. It kind of is what it is, but it sounds like they’re moving in a positive direction and there’s plans to get some more races outside of Europe in the next couple of years, so that’ll be fun, just to change it up. I just like changing the tracks up a little bit– it keeps it fun.
AS: What do you think about racing the same tracks, year after year?
AG: Yeah, I think in some ways it’s cool to have some stops consistent, but it would definitely be nice to have a bigger variety of tracks. Even some of the ones that are there every year, the tracks aren’t changing much. It would be nice for them to change it up a little bit more. They’ve actually done that a little bit this year, which has been great and in the next couple of years we’ll have some new races on the circuit too, so I think they’ve taken the feedback from the riders well and other people who’ve made suggestions over the past couple of years and they’re making the changes now. I’m pretty stoked to race new venues next year and the following year it sounds like even more.
AS: How do you win so much?
AG: Haha I can’t tell you that, it’s a secret! No, it’s just hard work, man. Lots of time, and I’ve been racing bikes and motocross pretty much my whole life. The biggest thing is just a lot of hard work and years of experience. Everything has just come together well, but I can’t tell you the specifics– secrets [winks]. When I retire I’ll tell you, haha.
AS: How long did it take you to become really competitive when you started racing mountain bikes?
AG: It started off pretty strong the first year. I got 10th in my first World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne, but I knew that I needed another year or two to get my fitness and skills in certain terrains up to where I needed to win races. Those guys were kind of on another level that were on top at the time and I wasn’t fit enough to ride 100% top to bottom and even if I could I knew my speed was a little off. I believed that I could find it, and I could get the fitness and everything I needed. By probably the third year, I felt like I was ready to start challenging for wins. I had a couple of races where I believed I could have won, especially here at Val Di Sole at the end of 2010 when I crashed.
By the time 2011 started I kind of had my whole training program dialed. I was mentally in a good spot and I had enough experience to know what to expect. I had enough years of training that my base was pretty strong and then I hired John Tomac as my trainer to get me ready for the season. Everything felt very good. I had a great bike with Trek and the team with Martin and everyone, so all the pieces were coming together and my maturity as a racer all lined up at the same time, so yeah I felt good coming into 2011, which wasn’t all that long after I started racing DH.
AS: So on a scale of 0% to 100%, how much do you think it’s about technique– mental, or physical?
AG: I don’t know, that’s a tough question. Maybe it depends on certain riders a little bit haha. I’m not sure man, it would be really hard to break that down percentage wise. I never really think about the mental side because I just kind of have it. When it’s time to race I just always get focused and race, the pressure and the different stuff doesn’t usually effect my performances. I can usually just focus and get it done. So I always focus on my preparation, which naturally gives me a lot of mental confidence too because I know that my skills are really good and I know how hard I train. When you show up to a race and you know you’ve done everything that you can to succeed, with what’s reasonable, you can be content with your effort regardless of the result. You might not be happy with the result but if you’re happy with the effort you’ve put in then you just learn from it, and you just keep improving and move on. So yeah, I’d have a hard time breaking it down. Percentage wise I’m not sure.
AS: What would you say to a kid who wants to be like you?
AG: I get that question quite a bit actually. People think that sponsorships or free bikes are the key, but it really is just hard work, believing in yourself and in your ability to learn. Everybody has that, so if you just learn wisely from the beginning, you’ll build a really strong foundation. Get your body in a position where you can perform at your highest level– that makes a big difference! And, work on your weaknesses. It’s not always the most fun thing to work on the things you’re not great at, but if you do, in time, you don’t have a lot of weaknesses. That’s something I always focused on from the early days. I wasn’t always the best at pedaling and I wasn’t the best in certain types of terrain and stuff so I just practiced and really worked on it a lot. I never really understood how top racers could win a World Cup by 4 or 5 seconds at one race and then show up the very next weekend on a different type of course, have a good run and get 14th. I just always wanted to be good at every track, in every terrain, in every weather condition and under any circumstance. I want to be able to win every single weekend. So that takes years of work, but that was always my focus, and I did that by always trying to learn something. Every weekend I look for something that I can do after the race, leading up to the next race. I’d also say that it’s important to be patient, have fun and stay consistent with your work. I think that’s a pretty big one too. People want it to happen overnight, but it takes time so just be patient and enjoy what you do. If you enjoy it, you’ll do it longer. I love training and riding, so for me it’s pretty easy.
AS: If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing the wrong thing.
AG: Yeah, haha find something else to do.
AS: So what do you do when you’re training hard to unwind and relax?
AG: I’ve got a lot of things that I enjoy doing in my down time. Lately I’ve been playing my guitar a lot. I started playing it consistently in January when I had my knee surgery. I couldn’t do a whole lot, so I’d just play for hours every day and yeah man, I love it. I’ve always loved music, and I’ve always loved guitar even though I never played it that much as a kid. I come from a family with a big musical background so I’ve always enjoyed music. Lately that’s what I’ve been doing the most when I’m not training, riding or hanging out with my friends. It’s been a lot of fun learning everything involved with that. I have guitars on the road with me too when I travel to the races so I always have one to play in the hotel room etc. It’s a fun way to pass the time when we’re hanging out.
AS: So what have you learned from me?
AG: What have I learned from you? Haha. Good question. I think I’ve learned a bit. Sometimes I try to help you with advice, because I compare it to myself, and I remember being in the same position you were a few years ago. I remember the thoughts I had, good and bad. The mental side was definitely harder back then because I had less experience, so I wasn’t always so confident in my abilities. Learning how to train smart and focusing on technique and all that stuff. When I try to help you it causes me to have to think through things for myself and I learn things about myself that way, which is helpful. It’s also just fun to be around you when we’re hanging out or at the track riding– positive vibes and all that. I remember being in a similar situation when I started. It’s cool man, it’s exciting, it makes it fun to be at the races with you!