Gilles Coustellier après Champéry

Gilles Coustellier after Champéry

Wednesday 28 December 2011
by Ben Swales
popularity : 31%

PNG - 363.3 kb The next n our series of end of season interviews with the 26” trials superheroes who fought each other mercilessly on he Champéry sections for the 2011 world title, a title that went to Gilles Coustellier after a majestic performance. The Koxx rider came to Switzerland hungry for revenge and determined to regain the title that had been taken from him in Canada last year by Kenny Belaey, despite Gilles domination of every other international competition of the season. The demons of the past were forgotten. Gilles came, he rode and he conquered, taking home the rainbow jersey, which he has no intention of losing again. The Big Boss of 26” trials gave us some of his time to go over those four intense days, telling us what he thought of the event, the highlights of his 2011 season and to make his statement of intent for 2012… “Win everything”!

An Interview with the Big Boss:

Photos: Taras "Mixmaker" Filatov, Marco Patrizi, Marc Van Hecke, Owen Gwilliam, Thomas Chauvin, Maxime Tolu, Gilles Coust.

JPEG - 152.6 kb Hi Gilles, let’s start by congratulating you. World Champion once again! And the most talked about rider of the championship! Last year it was Benito, who managed the great feat of winning medals in both elite categories, and it was definitely you who was the ‘man of the match’ in the 2011 World Championship with a gold medal in 26" and a bronze in 20", as well as the team prize! Everyone knew that you would bring out the big guns; the day after Mont Sainte Anne you said that you would have your revenge this year, and you did! That must be a great satisfaction for you!

Oh yes! More than satisfying! The goal that me and my team had set for the year was a 20” podium – the gold was a bit too much to hope for as I hadn’t trained for it – and to win the world title in 26”. All year I was preparing just for this competition. I had no other choice than to win!

JPEG - 82.5 kb It must have been a triumphant return to Martigues?

It wasn’t actually, if you can believe it. I was so exhausted I just wanted to relax. Four days of intense competition really takes it out of you. I had to give everything for four days, so the following week my TV had to work pretty hard too! But that was only temporary; we celebrated properly after I’d rested!

You rode well in 20" and 26" from the very start. The semi-finals were a drawn out affair, with 18 sections to be completed, even if they weren’t necessarily very ‘selective’ for a world event. With the same sections for 20” and 26”, what did you make of the qualifiers? In 26” you dropped a five and found yourself in third place, and apart from that there was nothing to separate any of the riders, it was so close!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think that the qualification sections were worthy of a World Championship. In 26”, eighth place was on 12, which isn’t really a high enough score to decide between riders at that level. The sections were more suitable for an Expert route in a national competition! It wasn’t an Elite competition. For my part, I did very badly in the qualifiers; I missed a flag in the first section and picked up five points; on the last lap I dropped another five, so I was really under pressure. In the 20” however, especially considering I hadn’t really trained for it, things went much better. But really, there was one section I could have got through on a scooter!

JPEG - 92.1 kb Yes, it’s been a long time since we saw a section like that in a world event! You barely trained at all on the 20” and yet you overtook some of the best in the world, like Benito and Abel in 26” last year, and finished up taking the bronze medal. What a performance! Can you tell us about it?

I only rode 20” once, to see if I still could, but that wasn’t my priority, I didn’t want it to get in the way of my 26” goals. I’m happy to have given the Spaniards a run for their money and to have beaten some of the top 8 though. Benito and Abel were untouchable, they’re the kings of the discipline. It was marvellous to be on the podium with them, it was just as emotional as on the Sunday when I won the 26” jersey!

It surprised a lot of people to see you riding so well on a 20”, but you had a good grounding on the little wheels, you finished fifth in Fort William in 2007 didn’t you?

Yes, in Fort William I finished fifth. I already knew what I was doing. I think it’s interesting riding in both competitions, I don’t think I’ll ever just ride 26” again. It’s the only international competition where you can ride in both categories, so I’m going to make the most of it! It would be cool if everyone did it! Although as the start of my 26” season wasn’t that great, I had nothing to lose!

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Not that great, haha. Says you! It would certainly be interesting to see the world’s best riding 20” as well; Kenny talked about it after Mont Sainte Anne, but in the end he didn’t do it. Vince neither.

Maybe in 2012 they’ll give it a go.

Why the White Sky? Is the geometry closer to a 26” with its slightly longer wheelbase?

I chose the White Sky just for the HS33s. Like I said, I didn’t want it to get in the way of my 26 » goals, so I wanted to keep the same feel. And the White isn’t a typical 20” with its lower than average BB and longer than average wheelbase. Next year I’d like to ride a true 20” with HS33s, then I think I could really challenge the leaders!

JPEG - 43.8 kb Let’s talk about the 26" final…. The conditions were very difficult and just getting through a section on the first lap was achievement enough. The expected battle between you, Vincent and Kenny took place, and what a battle it was! Vincent was in the lead after the first lap, then you stepped things up on the second lap, dropping just four points! How was the final competition of the season for you?

I started of pretty badly in the 26” final… first section, five, second section, two, despite thinking that I should have been able to get through on a maximum of one. Then I cleaned the river section and I though, “OK, it’s not over, I’m still in the competition and I could still win it if I keep my head in the game. Then I got another five in the fourth section! Fifth section, same thing… I dropped a one in the sixth section and I said to myself at that moment, “one more five and I’m dead, the title will be out of reach”. And then my dad told me that I was in second place by one point. That cleared my head and I rode hard, getting though the sections much better than on the first lap. A lap of four is incredible in those conditions. The rain had made things really difficult. Just what you want for a final, I suppose. If the rain hadn’t come along to make things harder, it would have been too easy I think.

Speaking from an organisational point of view, as we have with all the other riders, and given that you tend to say things as you see them, trials seemed to have taken a bit of a back seat in Champéry. There weren’t many spectators, no media coverage whatsoever for trials, especially compared with the DH and 4X… They call it the MTB and Trials World Championship, but trials seemed to have been forgotten a bit…

JPEG - 75.6 kb You’re quite right. Even a regional championship is better organised. I think it’s unacceptable that we receive so little consideration. We were in areas with long grass, no spectators, nothing. That’s down to the organisers. We get the impression that trials irritates them. It was the most important competition of the year and it was the worst organised. It’s a real shame! When you look at things like that, in the official international season there are two people who really give trials the events that it deserves: Jean Flambart and Kenny Belaey. They really know how to organise!

Yes, it was a real disappointment! What do you think the solution is to all of this? Trials is a great window for cycling in general, trials is being seen more and more in the media, and yet it seems that we aren’t being given the means to push the discipline…

To improve things I think we need to entrust things to competent and motivated people, it’s a massive job. When you look at the Pra Loup World Cup, it was fantastic both from an organisational and a sporting point of view. We were in the middle of the resort, with fantastic sections, there was a real ‘aesthetic’ to it. It was magic! We have to follow suit elsewhere. At the World Championship it was as though we were the last to be thought of! What a disappointment…

Let’s talk about the rest of your international season. What did you make of the 2011 World Cup? This year things were much tighter between you, Vince, Kenny and Giaco too. In Antwerp, we had the chance to talk and you told me that the format of the sections was disappointing, but in the final you were able to show off all of your talents. Kenny and Vincent both praised your performance, your second lap was fantastic.

JPEG - 252.4 kb I feel very positive about this season. I rode to win in the World Cup, but my absence in Poland cost me the overall win, but I don’t mind too much, that wasn’t the victory I was focussing on! And yes, it was a real battle between me Kenny and Vincent! I think it’s great, it really motivates us all. At the start of each competition, nothing is predetermined and no one can be sure that they’ll win. We have to give our all, it’s fantastic! In Antwerp it’s true I wasn’t a fan of Kenny’s dad’s sections, I thought they lacked variety. But sections never please everyone. What I was really disappointed about was the lack of difficulty. A final that is decided on one point isn’t hard enough, if you ask me. However, the positive thing is that his organisation is always very professional and gives a great image for the sport. It’s always a pleasure to ride in his events. The same goes for Jean Flambart; his sections are always brilliant. JPEG - 205.9 kb He’s the only one that pushes the riders to their limits. He manages to find the limit between do-able and impossible with all styles of obstacle… I love it!

Do you really not regret not making the Polish round, even though it would have meant that you could have won the series?

If I had gone to Poland I would have been almost guaranteed the victory. But I had a show booked since the start of the year and I couldn’t cancel it. And it would have cost an arm and a leg to get there as well…

The UCI 2012 calendar has five World Cup rounds again, with two in Belgium organised by Kenny, and the World Championship in Austria. What’s your reaction to the calendar?

Perfect, it suits me fine. We get to travel a bit, which is great, especially as we travel to each competition as a family. We’ll see some new countries, which is cool. I hope the Belgian sections will be a bit harder this time.

There were a lot of people around you in Champéry, does that provide extra motivation?

Yes, I’m lucky to have a great team around me. No athlete could hope for better. My whole family, my girl Claire, all my friends. With them behind me at the events I can’t help but ride to the best of my ability and win!

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JPEG - 443.7 kb 2011 was a big year for you, not only on the bike, but also in your personal life with the arrival of your little girl!

Yes, it’s been one of my best years in all respects. Anna’s arrival was what made it for me, the title was just a bonus. I gave her my gold medal.

Already a gold medallist before she can even walk! How did you prepare yourself physically and mentally? You played a massive part in the World Championship, with the express intention of drawing a line under Mont Sainte Anne and regaining the jersey. How did you prepare yourself for that?

The same way I do for the whole season. For my part, I try not to think about it too much and to treat it like a World Cup in order not to build up too much pressure. Physically, Xavier Barbier knows what he’s doing and made sure I was ready. He prepared some precision training regimes so that I was at maximum fitness for the four days. Mentally, I don’t relay know, I’ve never had any problems with that side of things, Maybe there’s some subconscious preparation. I don’t know. The diet side of things is important too. Isabelle Mischler is the best for that. She prepares menus that taste great and give you everything you need. What more could you want? JPEG - 95.3 kb And as everyone knows, my dad is always by my side! He’s there through rain, wind and snow! And I’ve never really talked about it, but I should say that I never train alone. I always ride with two or three friends, and bizarrely, when they’re not there, I’m never as motivated… Big up Romanesko and Pilou the gorilla! And last but definitely not least, there’s Claire!

How does a typical day in the life of a World Champion pan out? How many hours a day do you train?

There’s no limit – I love it! Preparation in the morning, riding in the afternoon, time with my daughter in the evening! But you’re right, it does all add up! I don’t count the hours!

Are you keeping the same sponsors for 2012? You’re with Koxx until 2015? Any new sponsors?

Yeah, with Koxx everything’s going great! The products are all fantastic and I play an active role in the development of new parts and frames. It’s amazing to be able to help develop products and the sport. It’s thanks to their relationship with the world’s best riders that they have such a lead on the competition. I hope to be able to see out my career with them, they’re the best! My contract expires in 2015, but I hope it continues after that, Koxx & Coust for the win! I’m also continuing my collaboration with the other partners that supported me this year, like the town of Martigues and Nutratletic. JPEG - 126.2 kb Dulight came on board recently and provided us with all of the tools that we need for maintaining and adjusting my bikes. And we’re always looking for other sponsors!

This new world title should open a few doors there… What are you ambitions for 2012? Another grand slam?

My ambitions are simple; ride to win in every competition and to try and bring home the gold every time. Apart from that I want to keep enjoying trials as much as I do, that’s the key to success as far as I’m concerned.

There’s a mystery that we’d like you to clear up if you will. We saw you riding with a number 18 on your back, the same number appears in your new logo. What does it mean? Is it the number of world titles you want to win before you retire?

Haha, no! 18 would be an impossible number to achieve, that would mean 18 years at the top in competition! I don’t think so... I’m going to leave it a mystery I’m afraid… That number’s personal, it’s sentimental. I think I’ve already said too much! The magic number…

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OK, 18 for the win… Have you decided to ’mediatise’ yourself a bit more in 2012 like your brother Giacomo? He’s got a stand that he has at all the competitions, where he can take care of his mechanical stuff, talk to his team, his fans… You’ve got one too now haven’t you, where your fans can buy t-shirts and other Gilles Coustellier products as well as energy drinks?

Yes, Claire and I decided to invest in all that after Pra Loup. Giaco’s tent was a real success, so we thought, why not? So we bought a tent! We’re selling Gilles Coustellier t-shirts, posters, helmets and yes, even energy drinks. There will now be a Gilles Coustellier/Coust Trial stand at all of the events that I’m at. I think that sort of thing is a step forward in the professionalisation of our sport and will help us to make it more credible. I hope that in the future all of the top riders will do the same. In other disciplines, all the top riders have a stand, and in trials, they don’t. It’s true that it shouldn’t really be down to the riders to do it, but of no one else will do it for us, we have to do it ourselves. Trials needs to be more professional. It’s cool for the fans to have somewhere to see their favourite riders, take photos, buy souvenirs, etc…

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Cool, cool. Let’s talk about your gear… 2012 looks set to be the year of carbon! Koxx started it off with the fork and now Monty have brought out the M5. How do you see the arrival of full carbon and the move towards high-tech, top-of-the-range products?

JPEG - 853.7 kb We’d already seen that carbon was the way forward, that’s why we produced the handlebar. It’s lighter, stronger… With Koxx, we worked hard to bring out a reliable carbon fork. I think that the future is a half carbon, half alu frame (aluminium chainstays for sidehops, and the rest carbon, for example). The evolution will be hard I think, we’ve already pushed the limits with the Sky 2. The bike and its geometry are top, I can’t see how that can be improved on, the materials apart. It’s true that with all that trials is becoming much more high tech and specialist. It’s also what allows us to keep pushing the limits, which is great!

Did you start training again right away? Or did you chill out a bit?

No, I didn’t start training straight away… I had a loooong rest, I needed it! I did a bit of cross country with some nice descents. I started training seriously again in October. The season starts again before you know it, so you have to be ready! But I spent a lot of time lazing about between then and now!

You deserved it! Did you watch the K-124 Days 2011 by Tribal Zine video? Marcus Gelhard did a great job again, did you like it? It’s been a success online with more than 36,000 views on Vimeo; not bad for a pure competition video! What did you think of it? JPEG - 327.1 kb

Of course I’ve watched it! I watch it a lot! I watch a lot of trials videos, but that one’s one of the best! It’s sick! Really well filmed, you can really tell how difficult it all was. It’s one to watch over and over!

On that note, thanks for your time and for the interview! Keep us posted on your progress for 2012, all the best! We’re looking forward to your performances!

Thank you for the interview! I’m always happy to talk to Tribal Zine! I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of the sponsors who supported me throughout the year and without whom none of this would have been possible: the town of Martigues who have a very active sporting policy and who have given me some essential support, Koxx and Try-All for the equipment and all the rest, Performance Athlétique and Diététique Sportive who help keep me at the top, Nutratletic and Auto Sécurité, who supply my vehicle. Thank you all!

Gilles Coust’ by Marco Patrizi

Some photos of Gilles on the Champéry sections, by Paolo Patrizi. Check out the rest of the 26” gallery here: Champéry 26”. And the 20” gallery here: Champéry 20”.

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