Vincent Hermance après Champéry

Vincent Hermance after Champéry

Tuesday 27 December 2011
by Ben Swales
popularity : 7%

PNG - 327.5 kb Here’s the next in our series of end of season interviews with the supermen of world elite trials, in which we talk about how they got on in 2011 and in the World Championship in Champéry. This time it’s the turn of Vincent ‘Supermance’ Hermance. The Koxx rider talks about “the most intense final of his career”, which took place in Dante-esque conditions and in which he was in the lead until the very last two sections where he let victory slip from his grasp. We then discuss the rest of an exceptional season that saw him return to his best, with two wins and the overall victory in the World Cup. JPEG - 325.5 kb After that we ask him a few questions about what’s to come: 2012, K-124 Land and other K-124 projects in which, as we know, he is heavily involved. Enjoy! Photos: Owen Gwilliam, K-124, Marco Patrizi.

Interview:

Hi Vince. Congratulations on a fantastic season and your great results… We know you went to Switzerland in search of the victory, so you must be a bit disappointed, but you still finished on the podium after an incredible year! What are your feelings about Champéry?

Happy memories really. It was the most intense final of my career, so I’ll always remember it well. Plenty of friends came to watch me, which helped encourage me to give my best, and that’s what I did. I was super-motivated, determined, but not stressed-out. In the end, things didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, but I try not to focus on things like that. I can’t beat myself up because other riders were better than me.

JPEG - 1002.3 kb The semi-final was, so to speak, a bit ‘light’ wasn’t it? Some sections didn’t seem appropriate for an elite competition, even the World Cup quarter finals, with one rock section that was practically flat and that an expert rider could have got through on zero… In the end the scores were very tight, you qualified in second place, setting off in the final between Gilles and Kenny…

It’s true that the qualification wasn’t very exciting or popular, but it was what it was, and there were no real surprises. As you said, the three of us were in pole position as usual! It’s regrettable that it didn’t give the best image of trials at this world class event, thanks to poor sections, but the final kept its promises and it’s really only the final that people remember!

The final was a bit more hardcore, almost dangerous, with soaking logs, slippery metal, big moves up high, floating obstacles that moved… but you, Gilles and Kenny still managed to put up quite a fight… You were practically the only ones to get through the sections! You were in the lead after a hellish first lap and managed to stay there until the final two sections, where you dropped two fives… That must have been terrible… Can you tell us what happened?! You were so close to a second world title!

JPEG - 720.2 kb On the second lap, at the end of the tree trunk section I dropped a five after having got through the hardest parts of the section, all I had to do was get through section 6 on clean to be World Champion. I put my rear wheel just off-centre on a really wet, slippery log and slipped off before I’d even seen it coming and that was it: the title was gone. It was such a tiny thing to lose it on as well, but that’s how it goes…

You still managed to come home with a World Champion’s jersey all the same, with France winning the team jersey. You played a large part in that collective victory with Marc Caisso minding you in the 26” competition and your excellent result in the qualifiers, bringing in a lot of points… That must soften the blow a bit? The French team have come home victorious seven times now…

I’ll be honest; I haven’t got a patriotic fibre in my body. However, I’ve had some great moments with the whole French team and I was really happy for Marc and for the Federation, who are more and more involved in the team. I obviously don’t count this title among my own - trials is an individual sport - but I’m still pleased that we won it, and happy for everyone that was counting on us.

JPEG - 659.2 kb Did you take the time to celebrate with your friends and family?

Sunday night was a heavy one, yes. Too heavy for me, I had to concede defeat early on… But all of that is my private life; I prefer not to talk about that. I haven’t had much time to celebrate yet, but I will!

In trials we often talk about the results of riders and nations, but we often forget about the companies. Koxx had a fantastic season in that respect, with four out of the five individual titles going to Koxx riders, most of the other podium medals too… Koxx really dominated this year! What do you make of that, as the manager, developer and salesman?

I’m so proud of what the company and its riders achieve in every world event. It’s an amazing testimonial for our products and helps us to build up the best sales pitch we could hope for. Thanks to all of our riders form myself and the whole team.

JPEG - 118.9 kb While we’re on the subject, have you started to take on more responsibility at Koxx?

Yes, completely. Things are going well for me at K-124. I’m really motivated with that side of things; not just managing something other than my sporting career, it’s nice two have two separate careers and I enjoy both of them equally.

Back to the sporting side of things: you had a great season this year, the training with Franck Martini paid off well! You were at your best again this year, with a really strong comeback. It was great to see after last year, with Gilles winning everything (until Mont Sainte Anne)... This year things were much more open, you each won one of the three international titles of the season: The European Championship for Kenny, the World Cup for you, the World Championship for Gilles… Did it feel like you were sharing out a cake, so to speak?

You could say that. I think we all deserved our victories. Gilles is still the master, and he was unlucky that his results didn’t show that this year. In any case, it’s good for everyone that there’s a bit of competition at the top, it’s more motivating for the riders and more interesting for everyone else. I really enjoyed the battles that we fought this year, it felt more sporting than it had in previous years. I managed to make a comeback with a world title, Kenny was consoled for the loss of his world title with his European victory; there was something for all three of us, which will keep us keen for next year. We’ll be back, hungrier and stronger than ever, and I’m sure the others will be even keener to topple us!

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All three of you increased the gap between you and the other elite riders this year. You continue to drag trials higher and higher, while the other riders struggle to keep up. The sections in the finals seem to be more and more exclusive, aimed at the three of you, with the rest of the riders viewing it as an achievement just to get through them. Things are getting really difficult… Do you think trials is getting too elitist?

You can’t complain about a sport progressing really, can you? For me, that’s what keeps a discipline alive. Each year the fans and riders can see something new, better; that’s a good thing, no? But what would not be good for trials is if the top three did not change once in a while. It’s almost ten years since we three have been at the top. As a spectator, I’d get a bit bored of that, even if, personally, I’m really proud of that fact. Luckily we’re a bit better off that in the moto world, where one man wins everything and no one else can touch him! I hope there’ll be a new wave soon, perhaps a rider from the other side of the world, who will knock us of the top and into the past, but I honestly can’t see it yet. We’re too hungry for victory and the competition between us is too fierce!

JPEG - 181.9 kb Yeah, the three of you are a real force to be reckoned with… Let’s talk about the World Cup, which is sitting in your trophy cabinet once more. You won the Cup in 2006 and for a long time you’ve wanted to win it again; this year you had two fantastic wins… Good memories? Since July in Val d’Isère, you took the reigns in the series and didn’t let them go, following it up with a memorable performance in Antwerp… Your international season has been amazing, you were easily the most consistent rider and it was logical that you would take the overall victory. Tell us a bit about your World Cup experience, Val d’Isère, Antwerp and the rest…

Every round was a memorable one. In Switzerland I’d already had some personal problems and I fell into my old ways… I was worried that I was going to have another terrible season. Once again, I felt capable of winning, but a long way from having done so. It was a horrible feeling! Then, in Val d’Isère, I had a win, my first since 2008. It was too good! And I managed it despite the super difficult conditions, broken parts and a change of bike. I had the taste for victory again! Antwerp was fantastic as well, a brilliant event, and I almost managed a perfect trial, with just a time penalty on my card, not a single foot down. I was under pressure and I left nothing to chance. In Poland I was disappointed with my result. I made sure of a few passages with a tactical dab and made some mistakes, maybe because I didn’t want it enough. I was afraid of putting too much pressure on myself and ended up not putting enough, so there was no fighting spirit. In Pra Loup, Gilles was back on his 2010 form, so I can’t complain about my average performance, just commend him on his brilliant one! So that’s the summary of the series, I’m really happy with my overall result. It’s fantastic to have won and I’m going to savour the victory for a while. There’s nothing missing from my trophy cabinet; I’ve won everything at least once, so now each new title is a bonus, like this second World Cup.

JPEG - 230.3 kb You also won the French Cup after another gruelling final that even saw a hail storm! Were you pleased with your performance there as well?

It was a cool competition, yeah. Just a week after the World Championship, it felt a bit like a holiday! I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t take it seriously enough, but in the end I had a good competition that was enough to take the overall win, which is always nice, even if it was more of a reward for going to all of the rounds, rather than my level of performance, given that the Cousts were not at a lot of the comps.

What’s your immediate programme? Will you be taking some time off, or is it all work, work, work? You spent a week in Saint Pierre de Chartreuse, where things are really picking up with deliveries of parts and frames, development of products, K-124 Land, etc.?

I’m taking some time of the bike, but there’s a lot of work to be done for K-124. When I start training again I should be able to separate the two again, which will help with my motivation. At the moment at K-124 we’re making a huge effort to produce quality and quantity where our products are concerned. There’s no problem with the quality, but our production capacity is fairly limited, which is really frustrating for us. And then there’s the development of the Bike Park. We’re snowed under! I think you’ve seen some photos of the trials park; the sections are only just starting to take shape… We’ve got some great ideas in mind, which is good, because the competition is severe! It’s good for the riders, but doesn’t give us a chance to relax!

JPEG - 239.5 kb It looks as though the Bike Park is taking shape though, it’ll be amazing when it’s finished! Another fantastic project for trials, Dom Hermance isn’t finished yet!

If only you knew…

When’s the grand opening? Hadn’t there been talk of opening in September?

That was the aim, yes, but to be honest, we weren’t ready. I rode there a few times with Vinco and everyone and it was cool, but if you go the day after it’s rained, like in Petit-Coeur that time, it’s really muddy and it’s a struggle to even ride on the flat. We don’t want that to happen, so we kept it to a few private sessions until the winter, then in the spring we’ll be having a grand opening!

OK – we’ll be waiting! Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse vs. Coulommiers, where does your heart lie? Do you ever feel like setting yourself up nearer to your new trials paradise? It must be tempting…?

That’s the question that’s been haunting me of late… For the moment I’m enjoying being based in Coulommiers and being able to make the most both places. From a personal point of view, that’s how I see it happening. I’ll probably have to move at some point, but it’s a bit too soon at the moment, with the family and everything.

JPEG - 291.6 kb OK, let’s talk about products and things for a bit. Monty have recently brought out the big guns, causing a bit of a stir with their full carbon M5. We know that at K-124 you’ve been toying with the idea for a while now, with the prototype in 2007 that was a bit ahead of its time and never saw the light of day. We’re starting to enter the ’carbon age’, with top of the range bikes using more and more carbon, 2012 will mark a turning point in the evolution of trials parts and the trials competition market is starting to orientate itself around highly technological parts and processes… What do you think of this new approach, as a rider and as a businessman?

I have to give Monty credit for the M5. We tested the water with the first prototypes, which ended up not being rideable, then the first productions carbon trials fork. They’re ahead of us there though, if development keeps going as they have planned, I haven’t had much info on their bike. We aren’t in a position to bring out a carbon frame to compete with our alu frames at the moment, I don’t know how carbon will be received by the public, how it will develop, how the frames will stand up to trials, what the prices will be… But it’s a really exciting new avenue to explore for trials! We’ve been the only ones pushing the limits in terms of innovation for a while now. If our competitors start matching us, or overtaking us, like with the M5, then trials has a bright future ahead of it!

JPEG - 50.5 kb Since you’re pretty heavily involved in the development of K-124 products, can you tell us anything about what’s to come?

We think we’re pretty untouchable with the Sky 2 frames in the ultra high end alu frames market and with various components, but we can go further (certain components deserve to have some more work done on them). We’d like to feel like we’d achieved this in 12 to 18 months’ time. After that it’ll be time to enter a new era, and carbon is a serious and exciting new avenue to explore!

The 26” carbon fork was the new product of the year and seems to be a very popular choice now. Any idea when the 20” version will be making an appearance?

We’re working on it. It’ll be months, not days or years. Or is that just me being evasive?

Haha… What are your plans for 2012? Will you be chasing another world title and another great season?

I’m still taking a bit of time to reflect on all that… But the competition bug is still in me. I don’t know what frame of mind I’ll be in at the competitions, but I’ll still be there!

Would you like to dedicate your 2011 season to anyone? Who are the people who contributed to your success? Milca was by your side a lot this season, and we know that Franck Martini was watching over you…

JPEG - 291.8 kb To Milca and Billie for their love and for the joy they bring me. To Franck: gratitude and respect. To God: for this life.

I don’t think we’ve ever asked you, but what did you think of the K-124 Days video by Tribal Zine? It’s had over 36,000 views on Vimeo; Marcus created the best competition video of all time, no? Did you like it?

I’m not really in a position to be able to say. Even if it had been bad, I wouldn’t say anything, for Marcus and for K-124. The video doesn’t really need me to ’sell’ it anyway, does it? I really liked it, like all trials fans, I imagine.

Us too! The next one will be even better… We can’t wait til K-124 Days 2012! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

No thanks, I think we’ve covered everything! It’s good to see more and more news appearing on Tribal Zine; welcome back!

Yes, we’ve still not quite got back to our usual rhythm, work, injuries, new houses and new families have kept us back a bit, but we’re getting there! Thanks for the interview, very informative as usual! See you soon Vince!

Thanks to all of you at Tribal Zine as well, see you soon!

Supermance in Champéry, by Marco Patrizi

Five photos of Vincent Hermance in Champéry, by Paolo Patrizi. Check out the Italian photographer’s 26” gallery here: Champéry 26”.

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