Nico Vouilloz has been described by many as one of the greatest mountain bikers of all time. We recently managed to catch up with him in Dijon, France at Lapierre’s base to find out more about what all those years at the top level has made him think about the current state of racing.
Mtb – Mag : Nico after three seasons of the Enduro World Series what do you think of the sport so far?
Nico : I mostly saw the 1st and 3rd years, I have seen the improvements of the series, first of all it took a big improvement with the media and the rest of the MTB community. From inside for sure it is now more professional. Every organiser is able to do their race style, so it’s good in one way. We, the riders are asking now though about having more rules that are the same between events.
When you go to each race you have to look at the rules and see what will be the way you have to race including the pre-riding. In the beginning it was the idea to leave it free, “The spirit of Enduro,” depending on the country. Most of the racers are looking and waiting for something more similar between races. Especially for the pre-riding of the trails. We can see that the more you practice the better the benefit is. So I think it is something that needs to be improved to get a better atmosphere. Practice is always a concern especially if you live close to the race location. The rest is really good.
Mtb – Mag : With your personal riding, when are you finally going to retire? Or is it more about fun?
Nico : 2015 was a year for me to see if I could be able to race at a good level after my knee injuries; I had fun this year. It’s also good for Lapierre to stay at a good level, to try the bikes, put them on the limit. 2016 I don’t know yet. My first idea was to race some events, maybe a few European. Compete more in electric E-bike things. We are a brand that are pushing a lot on the E-bike market, also because I have fun when I ride E-bike!
Mtb – Mag : Really?
Nico : Yes honestly, I like the power feel, it’s a bit between bike and motorbike. I like bikes, I like motorbikes, I have fun on uphills, not when I’m without power! I will do more of this in the coming year. I don’t know yet.
I will stop when I get injured again. I’m almost 40 and it takes a long time to get back from injury now. I will not do what Fabien Barel did and just stop completely.
I think when I will stop I will continue to ride lower level events. I turn 40 in February, maybe I should win one event before 40.
Mtb – Mag : One of the things said by many people is that you are one of the greatest mountain bikers of all time, how do you feel when you hear this kind of acknowledgement, even though you career peak was many years ago?
Nico : I feel proud, people remember what I did in the past, winning all those titles in a row. I also think we are just proud mentally to be able to win like I did one after another.
Mtb – Mag : Now when you ride do you feel the same responsibility to win?
Nico : I do it now more for me to prove to myself that I am still fast, after 15 years of being at my top level. Now I’m old! I have no more pressure for that. I want to be fast, but no pressure now. It’s only for me now and for fun.
Mtb – Mag : The famous race back in Cairns in 1996 what happened that day from your perspective? How did it feel for you that day?
Nico : It was a special day. For me I was a true mountain bike racer coming from MTB and even if I was shy, I was an MTB racer. Maybe after many years people were expecting someone else to win the world title, but I was more concerned about keeping the world title to a mountain biker and not to someone who comes from another discipline. I was happy, because I lost 2.5 seconds in the last 30 seconds, as there was a lot of pedaling out of the forest, Shaun was pedaling strong. I was happy even if the margin was small, on the downhill section I was 2.5 seconds faster. It was intense for sure!
Afterwards I more remember with Shaun when he won one world cup in big bear, he put his arm up when I arrived late. He was wearing his special jacket, we were friendly and laughing. All the races he put his jacket on the box and was waiting maybe to put this jacket on. He was great for the show, he was good for mountain biking. I beat him at the next race, which was also the first race of Chris Akrigg, I won, Chris was second.
Mtb – Mag : Is the show missing in modern riding?
Nico : Maybe for the public, more characters and fighting, I’m not like that but I can understand that people like it. It gives more interest. I prefer the fight on the track.
Mtb – Mag : Is winning the only reason for racing? Does the winning matter or is it good racing?
Nico : Winning matters, everyone remembers, it’s like putting a rock to the side and saying it happened. In Finale I finished 1.5 seconds behind. People acknowledged it but would have made more if I was 1.5 ahead. I like to finish in the top 10. I’m not happy if I’m above the top 10, but 5th or 6th is ok, I prefer the podium.
Mtb – Mag : What are you going to be doing in another 20 years?
Nico : Hmmm, some racing and other different things. I said to Fabian Barel, “You can’t stop racing.” You need to do some other stuff, but when you compete you can’t switch off suddenly.
Mtb – Mag : Once a racer always a racer?
Nico : Hmm yes I think so!