Isabeau Courdurier isn’t someone who likes to sit still. With more time on her hands than she had anticipated in 2020, the 2019 Enduro World Series champ set about realising another dream. She teamed up with a French charity initiative called Fifty Fifty which seeks to help women who have suffered domestic violence regain their lives through sport.
We caught out with the Lapierre Zipp Collective rider to find out more:
EWS: Tell us about Fifty Fifty - what is it and where did the idea come from?
IC: Fifty Fifty is a French association that aims to spread awareness on domestic violence and to help women overcome it. The main goal of the association is to support programs of rehabilitation through sports. The association was created by Nathalie Grubac and Christian Douchement and many athletes rallied to the cause such as Carole Montillet (French Olympic ski champion), Isabelle Joschke and Yves Le Blevec (professional sailing skipper), Eric Baronne (MTB speed record holder) to name just a few. They were already doing rehabilitation programs through sports in skiing and sailing. When I joined them it was at the exact moment they wanted to do it in mountain biking too. I had the chance to meet Nathalie at the Velo Vert Festival last year, and it took me less than an hour with her to not only join the association but to get fully committed to launching the program. I have always been seeking a way to do good through my sport and I knew that this was the opportunity I was seeking! We all know how bicycles are a way to get that sense of freedom whilst also being able to work out and I wanted to share this.
Isabeau in action during the first practice session of 2020 at Specialized EWS Zermatt. Pic: Duncan Philpott
What have you guys been doing with it so far and who is involved?
We have been busy this last year planning the project. From getting medical supervision to getting the right equipment and knowing exactly how we will set the bike program for its first year. We are now focusing on getting some funds to make it happen. The more we get financial support the more women we will be able to help through the project. We have some amazing ambassadors to help us spread the word. Kevin Miquel joined the adventure a few months ago and will help us throughout the entire program. He is not only helping us bring the project to life but he is also a certified coach that will give some advice and supervise some of the training sessions with the women. I am amazed with the support we have received since we started speaking about the project and it just reinforces the idea that the MTB community is the right one to launch such a program.
The French rider has a stellar 2019 with an undefeated EWS campaign being rounded out by a win as part of Team France at the Trophy of Nations in Finale. Pic: Duncan Philpott
Is it important for you to use your position as the EWS Champ to spread awareness of issues like this?
I know I am lucky to be in a position where I can have an impact and reach an audience that shares the same passion I have for mountain biking. I have always used it to show how stoked mountain biking can get us and that it can bring joy to everyone. My main goal over the last year was to help more women to join the sport. When I first started speaking about the project of rehabilitation for domestic violence survivors the question "Did you have a personal experience that has pushed you to work on this project" came back a lot. I was quite upset because if we all wait until it happens to act on a problem like this then it will never be overcome. I am lucky not to have experienced it myself, but we live in a world where sadly one woman in three has faced it. I simply want to have an action and an impact, how small or how big so that our next generation of girls and boys will have a better society. And I am absolutely convinced sports has the power to heal and to help. I think if my position allows me to spread the word on how important sports and mountain biking is important, then fire on!
Isabea made news in the 2019/20 off-season when she switched teams to the newly-formed Lapierre Zipp Collective. Pic: Duncan Philpott
What have you guys got in the pipeline for next year and how can people get involved?
We will be launching the project at the beginning of the year. It means that we will have our first group of women that will take part in it. The goal is very simple: make them happy riding bikes. It will be a long process and this is why it is a one year program. It is not about doing a few sessions, it is about taking the time for each step and making it a habit. We will provide all of the support so they feel safe and progress step-by-step to instill a positive dynamic. If they can reconnect to their body, to themselves, be proud and achieve their goals, it will mean we reached our goal. The Velo Vert Festival 2021 will be the icing on the cake as we will take them to their first MTB event. The VVF is a very joyful event and will be the perfect way for them to mark their debuts as we will take them through their first randonnée. It will be a challenging year but we are all ready to do our best. In the end we want the women to feel empowered, to gain confidence, make social interactions and help them fully heal. We have a lot of people getting involved and I am thankful to see it. People can get involved by participating in our crowdfunding, sharing our content, or simply comment on it. We read each message and it helps us keep going. We are also receiving amazing support from brands that gave us equipment and funds. Thank you so much to everyone who already helps and supports us! And especially my partners who follow me in this journey! It all contributes to motivating me even more to race fully committed in 2021 knowing that I now contribute to represent a cause much bigger than I am.
You can find out more and donate to Fifty Fifty here.