Supermance, the Koxx pro team’s free spirit!
Wednesday 16 May 2012
by Ben Swales

PNG - 372.8 kb There’s been a pretty big revelation before the opening of the UCI season, and we’re all still pretty shocked by it! In an exclusive interview with Tribal Zine, Vincent Hermance, the free spirit of the Koxx pro team, last year’s World Cup winner and one of the ‘Big Three’ Super Elite riders on the 26” circuit, the UCI’s No. 2 rider, has made the move to 20”!

When he told us that he was thinking about it a couple of months ago, we didn’t believe him. Especially as, when we spoke to him at a training session with some of the other top UCI boys and at K-124 Days he’d said that he was super-motivated for the 26" season to come and had been training hard for it over the winter in order to perform better than ever. And yet, here he is, on a little bike, turning his back on 26” competition to explore the ‘dark side’ of our sport. We had to ask him about his decision and the reasons behind it… After all, it’s sure to have a pretty big effect on the outcomes of the season, both in 20” and 26”!

JPEG - 201.3 kb So here’s an exclusive interview with Vincent Hermance, in which he explains the motivations behind the move.

Tribal Interview

Hi Vince. We saw you on a 20" at the Cerny trial and in training yesterday, and you said that you were thinking about riding a 20” in the World Cups… So? Have you done it? Gone over to the dark side?

Yeah, I’ve decided to ride 20” this season. Last week I tried out my 20" bike for the first time and I loved it. I figured I’d try it out and see whether I would go for it in the Worlds, that was all. After riding my 26” recently, I realised I wasn’t enjoying it as much. I don’t know whether it was the latest prototype, or if my riding has evolved, but it just wasn’t the same. I haven’t touched my 26” for over a week now, and I don’t miss it!

It’s a pretty big decision to take this close to the start of the season… You’re one of the leaders of the 26” circuit! Are you looking for a new challenge, new motivation? After 15 years of 26” trials, what made you decide to move to 20”? It usually goes the other way around!

Firstly, like I said, I’m enjoying riding the 20” more than the 26” at the moment. I thought it would be a big challenge, a completely new approach to my riding, with new techniques to discover and new opponents to compete against, JPEG - 201.9 kb I’m staying in the sport that I love, but at the same time trying something new. I’ve done pretty much everything in 26”, but apart from a few titles here and there several years ago, I haven’t accomplished much in 20”.

Is there also perhaps the hope that you’ll influence other riders in France and liven up the 20” market a bit?

No, no, I’ve got no ambitions like that – I wouldn’t dare think that I could influence the sport in that way. But if that’s an effect that it has, that would be cool. There’s certainly room for the two ‘disciplines’ in France, especially now that there are such good bikes available (the Sky 3 and the M5, when it eventually comes out).

It’ll certainly be a big challenge anyway; there are still a lot of very strong riders in the 20” brigade, with the Spanish specialists who will be difficult to beat, even if Dani Comas has quit the UCI… The Grand Master Benito Ros, who had a fantastic season last year, despite a bit of injury trouble, has seemed untouchable for the last ten years, Abel Mustieles is putting on the pressure and looks set to take the reins… It won’t be easy for you to break into the top end of the table!

JPEG - 333.3 kb I’m really motivated by the idea of having new adversaries. It’ll be tough, for sure, but so was beating Gilles and Kenny. To be honest, without a few big rivals, competition isn’t very interesting. I’ve got my work cut out for me, and that’s what gets me going! Gilles and Kenny, Abel and Benito, it’s much of a muchness, they’re all on top of their game!

Did you find the adjustment easy? Do you find the Sky 3 very different to your 26”?

I pretty much designed the bike to make the transition as quick and easy as possible. It’s a bit longer, both in terms of the chain stays and the wheelbase, to give it a bit more space. As ever though, it’s all about compromise and finding the best balance.

It’s still a prototype at the moment isn’t it? When will the production model be available? Will there be a shorter version for the purists and a long one for riders like you? HS33 and disc versions?

The only thing that’s certain is that Benito’s bike will be remaining. It’s him that dictates what happens in 20” today. My bike will come out eventually. Perhaps we’ll offer Beni’s bike with HS33 mounts and mine with discs. I guess it depends on what the public want!

So you’re riding the World Cups on a 20”, presumably you’ll ride both at the World Championships? What about in Europe? It might be nice to ride the two big championships on your 26”, to maintain a presence, and there’d probably be less pressure. Could be interesting for the Koxx team and the French team?

JPEG - 271.5 kb For the World Cups, European Championship and Pro Series I’ll be riding 20". The French rounds I’m not sure – the sections are certainly set for 26” and would be difficult on a 20. For the World Championship, if I’m on good form and can go easily from one bike to the other, I’ll ride both, but if not, just the 20”. In any case, I’ll be on the 20” 90% of the time – I want to really go for it! As far as Koxx are concerned, there are already two World Champions in 20 and 26, so I can allow myself to be a bit more of a free spirit and to do what I like! The same goes for the French team, I think I can do something for both disciplines and hopefully bring a bit more recognition from the Federation to 20” trials!

Definitely! What’s your next competition? The first round of the Pro Series in Aix? What are you thoughts on this new circuit? Do you think it’s a good thing?

I’m already looking forward to them! With Jean in charge, they’re sure to be top! I just think it’s a shame that they’ll all be in France, and you have to wonder whether it would have been better to incorporate them into the World Cup - at the moment the status of these new comps isn’t really clear. But we’ll see. I think it’s a great idea and can only help the sport!

The big prize pot for the 20” and 26” winners must be a motivation as well!

Of course, it’s great that there are good prizes and fewer riders, it’s good for the sport’s top riders.

Having the final at the Roc d’Azur, the French MTB Mecca, with 18,000 riders and 150,000 visitors, seeing competition trials returning to an event like that, that’s pretty cool, no?

Yes, it’s great that trials will be there - it’ll be like the good old days!

Thanks for your time Vince! All the best for 2012 on your 20”!

Cheers guys! See you soon!

Pictures

A few photos of Supermance on his 20” Koxx Sky 3 at the Cerny competition by photographer Jean-Pierre "JPK" Kohut, who was on hand to take photos on behalf of Tribal Zine. Thanks JPK! Thanks also to his son Tristan, who edited some of the photos. Check out JPK’s website, JIPEKAphotography.com.

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