Fabien Barel is an icon of mountain biking. The three-time downhill World Champion was also national champion in his native France no less than six times. In 2011, he announced his retirement from downhill, instead turning his attention to enduro. It was a decision that proved fruitful – he won the first ever Enduro World Series race held in Punta Ala last year and was on the podium a further three times. Things were looking good for the Canyon Enduro Factory Team rider.
The 2014 EWS season started amongst the stunning autumnal colours of the Chilean Andes, as the series headed to South America for the first time. Any hopes Fabien had of repeating his opening round win in the first race of the year were quickly dashed. A hard crash on the first stage sent him over the handlebars where he landed on his head. Although in pain, he managed to push through for another three stages – even managing ninth place in stage three. However, as the pain intensified it became clear something was wrong and he pulled out of the race. It was only when he stopped that he realised how bad an injury he’d sustained – he’d broken two vertebrae in his back.
But it’s amazing the difference five months can make, and Fabien is back in the saddle and ready to race. Here is Fabien’s story, in his own words, as he describes his journey back to health.
“The day I fell in Chile, I did not expect how close I came to a radical life change. But that day, riding three stages after the crash, I was a lucky man…
The 19th of April, could have turned into what I would have called a ‘corner in life’. But it was a corner I was not suppose to take. During the three first months with no activity, every time my mood was going down, I was tilting my head down in my bed and was looking at my moving legs. Along with the support of my family and friends, this was my source of motivation.
Rehab is hard work – the dedication to it and the mental strengh to hold on every step of the way – but I did feel deep inside that I could push through. Then riding my bike on the road, the wind on the face, on my arms and legs was simply an amazing feeling! Being able to ride on the dirt, the feeling of my spine accepting vibration was just like a massage with almost no pain.
As every day is a school for life, I am different. We all are each day after the other, this experience is deep and filled with emotions. All those steps have been a memorable journey and now, riding again, the nature, my friends is what was making me happy and still does. Thanks for your amazing support.”
It was not my time, and therefore I consider it as a sign that I could continue my passion with the same dedication. The same dedication but maybe taking less risks…
The flow I have been talking about during all those years, is what, more than ever, I will be aiming for. Swimming was my first movement once I was out of the body cast and I realised how the sea could provide a huge benefit by getting rid of gravity; feeling light again, flexible with no pain and free to move was like a unbelievable release.