EWS: What will be different at Val d'Allos, compared to Punta Ala, where the first race in the series was held?
FG: We will have 5 different stages with over an hour of accumulated race-time, where there was just 20 minutes in Punta Ala. To reach the start of the stages, we will use mainly the lifts. There won’t be much pedaling. The first run of each new stage is untimed, so it serves as a kind of live practice. The combined live practice and timed stages will see riders do more than 10,000 vertical during during the race weekend. On Friday the riders will be free to practice walking on the track, but no riding is allowed. We start to build the course stages on Monday, so nobody is authorized to ride from Monday to Thursday evening.
EWS: And what is the vibe and experience going to be like?
FG: Val d’Allos is a very unique ski-mtb resort into a wild natural valley. The valley is the source of the Verdon river – the beautiful canyon de Verdon is below us. Very near the old traditional village you can enter also the national park of Mercantour.
So the place is pure, protected and authentic and very far in spirit from St Tropez and the French Riviera even it’s only a 2 hour drive.
EWS: Punta Ala finished with beers at the beach, which was a pretty good end. What's the Val d'Allos version of that post-race celebration?
FG: We’ve a nice and pure lake not so far and the Genepi is a very famous (and dangerous) local alcohol made in town!
EWS: We joked about the coffee, wine, pizza and pasta being a bonus of the Punta Ala experience. What makes the Val d'Allos experience unique, for riders off their bikes?
FD: Definitively around a good bottle of Genepi ,you can forget your disappointments (or your victory) and sample the local lifestyle . On Saturday evening, we’ve a free dinner/Paela party near the lake and we’ve organized the first ever non-official “Pedalo World Series” on the lake. For many riders that may very well be the only way to grab the podium! Something just for fun.
EWS: What is it about France that made it the obvious place for enduro to incubate?
FG: In the same way that British Columbia is, without contest, the place of the freeride scene, the south-east of France is the heart of enduro because of its enduro culture. First and foremost, it’s about nature. You have to adapt your ride to the environment. Then it’s about the people - riders bring with them their own history and years of experiences with a particular MTB approach which is always different in each place of this planet. BC is Freeride . South-east of France, it’s Enduro. For the past few years, we have had an enduro race almost every weekend from February to November in this corner of France.
EWS: 10 years is a long time in the events business. (Crankworx is celebrating 10 years this year, too.) What were the ingredients that made Val d'Allos/Tribe 10,000 series a classic?
FG: That it is fun to ride and a challenge to finish in a good shape. The tracks are awesome - scenic and technically ideal. It’s spectacular here – the summit start is at 2500m and the finish is at 1500 meters. Plus, there is the target number of 10000 meters for riders to reach.
Only 5 very famous enduro riders have won this race - Karim Amour, Willy Balaud, Alex Balaud, Remy Absalon and Jerome Clémentz.
But the battle is primarily against yourself, which is a huge difference from the mass start marathon races that pre-existed the Tribe 10,000 enduro format. This approach provides more equity for riders, but retains a good atmosphere and relationship between the riders.
Our first and main focus, still, is to offer riders the best ride experience on the best tracks possible.
Are those elements the same things that make enduro awesome, today?
EWS: How happy are you that your "sport" is going to reach an entirely new audience now? Where do you see the sport going when you first started out?
FG: We all started this sport, by which I mean mountain biking, because we love to go down and have fun and we love the effort and the challenge. The right balance between ability and effort with a high respect of nature - this is Enduro. Enduro is just a coming back to the roots of the sport. 25 years ago people were crazy about what MTB could offer to them and it’s exactly the same today. Enduro is MTB and MTB is Enduro.
EWS: Was there ever a time when you thought, enough, I'm done. What kept you going?
FG: In 10 years, we had quite lot of changes and evolutions. Nothing is fixed forever. Personally, I don’t like to reproduce things and I prefer to create if possible. I’m surprised myself that it’s been such a long ride with this race, to have gone from this local crazy concept to an official French Cup to this round of the EWS, but we kept getting good feedback overall and this gave us the motivation to keep going ahead.
EWS: Jerome Clementz and Tracy Moseley would seem to be the athletes to beat at Val d'Allos, based on past results. The field will be much deeper this round, with DH, BMX, 4X, XC World Champions all taking part. Who are you watching with interest to give them "a run for their money"? What kind of rider does the course favour?
FG: Jerome and Tracy are the favorites for the victory Sunday evening. Saturday is more for the fast downhill guys but Sunday is very physical also. Anything can happen. Some riders are fully dedicated like Barel, Vouilloz, Atherton, Absalon, Lau , Graves or Chausson for the women. I will be surprised to find someone else take the victory but.Enduro is also a race of regularity, you’ve to take care of your body and manage your bike, so the race to the victory is still very open.
EWS: Of the 300 riders in this race, how many are new to enduro, how many are regular Tribe 10,000 participants?
FG: Some of them are still there since the first edition. Willy Balaud, winner of the second race, and and his brother Alex Balaud, winner of the third race, now build the tracks. We’ve offered 200 entries to amateur riders – it was sold out in one hour.
We’re seeing more and more young talents who are fully dedicated to enduro, like Martin Maes. He’s a young phenomenon, but he is probably not the last one.
EWS: Finally, what exactly makes this race historic?
FG: At Val d’Allos, the Tribe 10,000 event was the first to use the words “the enduro race”. Most likely, that race was the guideline and basis for developing the enduro concept in every corner of France, then in Italy and finally all over the world. Now the Tribe 10000 is no longer “the enduro race”, but one of many… but we had, and we still have the Enduro spirit.
EWS: What are you most looking forward to?
FG: Like always , offering each and every rider the best riding experience possible.
EWS: What are you most anxious about?
FG: Weather. Storms are our main problem in the high mountains. I’m confident in everything else, and we will do our very best.
EWS: How will you know that you can call it a success?
FG: To see 300 riders, amateurs and pros, winners and losers, sharing the same smile Sunday evening.