Supermance... "Il va falloir se réveiller fissa"

Supermance... "I’m going to have to wake up, fast!"

Saturday 6 October 2012
by Ben Swales
popularity : 35%

PNG - 288.4 kb Supermance has had his revolution this season… The former 26” superstar became a 20” superstar, completing the challenge that he set himself at the start of the season. He is rubbing shoulders with the Spanish riders who have dominated the discipline and has set the 20” world circuit ablaze. Despite that, he just missed out on the gold in Spain, The Koxx rider had wanted to bring the gold medal, which had been Spanish ‘property’ for so many years, but had to make do with bronze instead. On the Saturday evening after he had taken the victory in Martigues, the then leader of the World Cup spent a bit of time talking to us about the 2012 Worlds, saying that he had had “a bad day » and that he needed to “wake up, quickly”. While we had him, we asked him about the second half of his season, which had seen the return to strength of Spaniards Abel Mustieles and Benito Ros, both of whom had dominated in Europe and the World, notable in the last two World Cup rounds. We also talked about the coming rounds and 2013 in an interview that was, as ever, very interesting. Thanks to Mathias Lambrecht, Marco Patrizi & Marion Beltramone for the photos.

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Tribal Interview

Hi Vince... You went into this World Championship with big ambitions… It was the first time that a Frenchman had such a good chance of taking the elite 20” title, which had been considered Spanish ‘property’ for so long. The only other riders how had managed to take it from them were Germany’s Marco Hosel (2006, 2002 and 1999) and Poland’s Rafal Kumorowski in 2001… Did you think that you were going to do it? It was a close-run thing between you Benito and Abel… Was it a big disappointment? You didn’t go to Austria to win bronze, even if that is a huge achievement in itself!

Yeah, obviously I was disappointed. I had a bad competition – I never quite rode at my best. I did some good stuff, made two huge mistakes – thanks to not looking at the section properly... A bad day, all in all, although it was the third bad comp in a row after two horrible World Cups. Things can only get better! I need to wake up, fast!

What was missing in the final that would have made the difference in your battle with Benito and Abel? Luck? Hunger? Aggression? Fitness? After the first lap you were all neck and neck, with a small advantage to Benito, then it all came apart on the second lap. Talk us through it…

My first lap was really average, with a five for going the wrong way through a gate on the train section, a five at the very end of the Motorex section, which I had cleaned up to then. I started the second lap with a five on the beer barrels, dabs-a-plenty in the Motorex section and a stupid five for crossing the tape on the concrete pipes… And yet I was still close to the win! If I’d have just been a bit more careful, I could have done it! But everyone can re-ride a trial in their heads. It doesn’t get you anywhere…

JPEG - 113.3 kb What did you think of the World Championship in general? The general opinion seems to be that it was disappointing to begin with – unremarkable sections just set up in a car park - but that the final turned it around and was pretty spectacular?

My opinion on the World Championship? I’ll keep it brief… Not very good from an aesthetic point of view, but selective in the Semi-Finals. That’s the point of them, as far as I’m concerned. Nice final, plenty of spectators, great idea to run it at night. I only really didn’t like the moving objects. That was a disgrace, if you ask me.

The French team came second in the team competition… They lost the title, but seemed tighter than ever this year. Serge Froissart made a good selection and was able to manage the energies and the egos…

I don’t think that this team is full of egos. The good atmosphere was plain to see. I was really pleased with how it all went, hopefully it’s the start of great things to come for French trials… I think we deserve it! As for the team result, it’s a shame to lose the title, but no regrets, the Spanish beat us fair and square in every part of the trial! They deserved the title.

France dominated 26” again… Did you watch Gilles’ ride? He had a very convincing win and is definitely at the top of his game - he had the perfect season! Anything to say?

There’s nothing TO say. It’s incredible what he’s managed this season. To be frank, I though that the lack of competition with me gone and Kenny injured might cause him to be complacent, but he managed his trial perfectly and was a long way ahead of everyone. He was 100% the best. I think he’d been a long way ahead of everyone else for a long time, but that this competition is what proved it. He’s done what no one else has ever managed! I try to take inspiration from him in how I ride. I’m doing the same with the 20” specialists, so I’m not lacking in reference points!

JPEG - 483.9 kb Yeah, and you’ve got a bike that suits you perfectly… The Koxx Sky 20 “Hermance Evolution", which will be available soon, and which is very different to the model developed by Benito… It’s got a longer geometry, longer chainstays, higher BB, higher headtube, full HS33…

Yeah, I like the bike. It’s perfect! Beni feels the same about his. Our customers will find everything they need with us, that’s for sure! We’ve got another 20” project in the pipeline as well, so we should be fairly strong in that discipline, which I see developing over the next few years.

The wheels are still turning at Koxx then. Good to hear! You’ve just won here in Martigues, tell us about that. Event Performance know how to put on a trial don’t they?

It’s a shame there weren’t more riders. It was a great competition, like in Aix. I think it’s down to how late it is in the calendar. There’s no other reason why people wouldn’t come. There was everything we could want: great sections, great crowds, great organisation, great format… Congratulations to Jean for bringing trials on and imposing standards that will keep things moving. I’m so proud of our sport at events like these!

Us too! The last big challenge of your season is coming up; the final round of the World Cup in Geneva. You’re currently in the lead; Abel took the European title, Benito the World Championship… You need the Cup! How are you feeling in the lead up to the most important round of your season?

Motivated and exhausted! I really want that Cup, but it will be a tough job, that’s for sure! It’ll be a great event in any case – definitely one to remember! And yeah, it’s true that there are a lot of challenges this year… I really wanted the World Championship win – I would have been the first to win it in both categories. But now, the goal is the World Cup! It’s the same there – no one’s ever won it in 26” and 20”. If I can be the first to do that, it would be amazing! That’s the kind of challenge I like!

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We’re rooting for you! There have been highs and lows in this World Cup… After taking the reins in Aalter you had that magnificent victory in Val d’Isère! Was that the highlight of your season?

It was the top, yeah! One of my best victories ever! To win two years in a row there, once in 26” and once in 20”, that’s amazing!

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JPEG - 223.7 kb Before that, there was the European Championship in Germany where you JUST missed out on the win. The harsh law of sport… There was NOTHING in it. You were separated on most ones. That’s got to be enraging, no?

Yeah, too right. I was European Champion three times until then. Three times I won and three times I was level on points with second place. It had to happen the other way one day… Haha…

The tables were bound to turn sooner or later…

Exactly. It was a great final - a tough battle with Abel. There was never more than two points between us from start to finish. It was great! It’s for reasons like that that we ride. In the end it didn’t turn out as I’d have liked, but I try not to dwell on these disappointments. As well as that, I took a two on both laps on a passage that Abel cleaned, and it was a move that I’d not really practiced before, so there’s something positive to take from that. The European title is a good consolation prize if you haven’t won the Worlds, so Abel can be happy with that. Not me though. I really wanted that title! Only Dani Comas had won in both categories before that. Now it’s all sights on the World Cup. No one’s ever won it in 26” and 20”. If I can be the first to do that… Plenty of challenges though… I still want to win it though. Big time!

The Spaniards beat you in the last two rounds in Antwerp and Pra Loup. Both difficult trials… In Antwerp you were in the lead from the first lap, with quite a gap between you and the rest. Then you had that big fall and several mistakes, whereas Benito had a crazy ride and made a phenomenal comeback… And then Abel pulled it out of the bag and finished second. How did that feel, your first defeat of the season?

Something derailed me in that comp. I managed my ride badly and was under a lot of pressure. Balance in trials is a fragile thing and I lost the calm and the rhythm that I’d had in training.

JPEG - 317.3 kb Then in Pra Loup you had a bit of a catastrophic trial. The sections were spectacularly demanding, you finished pretty much level with Rick, but you had to concede by one point... You told your wife that you were “having a nightmare”. You were off the podium for the first time this season. What happened?

The answer to that is pretty much the same as the previous one. A really bad day. I think that was my worst trial in ten years. The sections were made for me, but I just couldn’t find my rhythm. I wish I hadn’t ridden so badly, but even if I hadn’t, the others were riding so well it would have been hard to beat them anyway!

Yeah, it’s tough at the top… Are you looking forward to K-124 Days? You can relax a bit after Geneva, take things a bit easier?

Oh yes. It’ll be great. We’ll all be worn out from the season and can just relax, enjoy our rides and put on a good show. I can’t wait!

JPEG - 215.5 kb You’ve gone back to nursing school haven’t you? Swapped you bike for your pencil case… A student again! You won’t have much time to relax between your studies and your training this winter, which will need to be hard if you want to get on the top of that podium! How will you manage it all?

I don’t know yet! The aim is to balance all of that with my family life, which takes priority. I think I can do it without too much trouble, but if not, I‘ll have to calm things down a bit. I started classes on Monday. It’s brilliant and I’m really into it. But here I am in Martigues. We left Coulommiers after a week of studies straight after the Worlds. I trained a couple of time in the week, and we’re moving house. I’m keeping afloat rather than managing… But it doesn’t seem to be going too badly. I had a super performance in the qualifiers, dropping two points on three laps of the same sections as the 26" riders. If you do that well early on, it’s really encouraging! Finally a good result, and just before Geneva as well! I’ll be relaxing and training lightly until Geneva now, with my studies in between, of course.

We’re already having trouble imagining an Elite 20” season without you. You’ve set it ablaze with your presence and we really hope you can manage to stay at the top of your game and come back fighting next season. At the moment, do you think you’ll be there to challenge the Spanish contingent in 2013, even if you haven’t been able to train as much as them?

I think I’m going to have to wait and see. I don’t know how things are going to go. But for me, the aim is to keep competing and, if possible, to be at the top! I’ll have less time for training, but I’m convinced of one thing: at my age, with my experience, training less, but better, could be just as effective!

20” has motivated you again, at a moment when you were beginning to question yourself in the sport. You struck a big blow this season… You entered the ring at the last minute, moving from 26” to 20” and you find yourself in the top three, matching Benito and Abel almost blow for blow.

Yeah. It’s been almost like a second career. A renaissance almost. It’s given me a real boost. I don’t think I was getting worse at 26”, but I needed something different. School was another page that was turning as well. I thought about moving on, opening other doors. But then I tried 20” and it gave me the boost that I needed! Whatever happens this season, even if I win the World Cup, it won’t be the end. I’m feeling good on the bike now, and there’s more progression to come. I need to keep riding. And there’s still some development to be done on the bike. I want to be able to get to a point where I can say, “that’s it, it’s perfect”. So there’s plenty to do. I’m not 100% sure how it’ll pan out, but I’m still here!

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Great news! We noticed that you’ve rolled your bars forward as well?

Yeah, I rode a lot last week to test the Carthy bars. I felt like it was going OK, even if it felt weird on two wheels. I was trying to see what sort of edge it would give me in competition. And going by today’s result, it seems to have paid off, even if I will be a bit achey tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll give me an edge in Geneva!

You’ve got Jack to thank if it does! There were some Japanese riders at the Worlds this year… That gave it a much more international flavour – it had been very Euro-centric until now. The Japanese Champion was particularly impressive in the World Cup rounds that he took part in, making it into both finals. He has a lot of experience from the BIU circuit and got into the final in Austria as well. He’ll be one to watch next year, no?

JPEG - 163.1 kb I’m so glad that Kazuki joined us. He’s a great guy and I have a lot of respect for him and his dad. It was a brave move on his part to come and ride in Europe. He was the last great BIU rider. It’s quite symbolic that he was there. The UCI Champion is the true World Champion. He’s really strong. Sometimes even the best. He’s almost untouchable on technical stuff! I hope he’ll be back next year. I don’t think, in all honesty, that he’ll be on top of the podium, but I wish him the best with all my heart.

Nice words. I think we’ll leave it at that. You look hungry… Anything to add?

Yeah, there’s a paella with my name on it! I’ve just had a moment with my priest Istreen. Another great moment with that wise and simple man. He’s a real role model for me. I really encourage everyone to have a look round the Evangelical Church in Istres!

Amen. Thanks for your time, as always! Best of luck for Geneva!


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