Regardless of whether you hail from the gravity side or the endurance side of mountain biking, Jerome Clementz has barged his way into becoming a household name. You know who he is and you know what he is capable of…the bottom line is that he barely needs an introduction. The young frenchman exploded onto the Enduro scene in it’s adolescence and with grit and conviction he has dominated since his emergence as the discipline’s strongest force. Recently Jerome had a wild get off and suffered an AC separation. Sadly it put him out for the remainder of the EWS (Enduro World Series) season. During his recovery we were fortunate enough to pin Clementz down and grill him with some big questions.
MTB-MAG – Jerome! Good to catch up with you, we hope your convalescence is treating you well. How have you been occupying your time?
JC – Hi MTB-MAG. I’m doing great, of course it’s not easy to change the focus so quickly but I have friends who have helped me out! Basically I had surgery 1 week after the crash and I had to take a couple days of rest. I’ve been able to move around, so I visited Scotland for the EWS, to celebrate my birthday and went for a Stag Party with some friends. I was busy in a different way, having good times with friends, so I haven’t had time to think and depress too much. Since the 10th of June I’ve been able to do some training again, on the roller first, but after 1 week I became crazy, so I was looking for some options. Chris Dodman, one engineer from Cannondale offered to use his tandem. I asked my doctor, who said it’s okay if I don’t crash. So for the last 3 weeks, Pauline has helped me ride around and I try to stay fit, hahahah. After the 1st week of July I’ll be able to ride on the road bike by myself and start to mobilize my shoulder again, then from 20th of July to 10 of August, I’ll be in an athlete rehab center. I will reinforce my shoulder and after that it should be stronger than before the crash so I can start riding again.
MTB-MAG – Having you sidelined for the year is hard to put a finger on. In a sense it has taken some excitement out of things – but also, has surely given some of the athletes who chase you a glint of hope. That adds to the tension a bit. Do you look forward to everyone elevating their game and stepping it up, or does that make you a bit nervous about going into this next season? I guess the bottom line is – do you thrive off of competition?
JC – It’s something I’ve considered earlier. You train, you race, you take risks and you can crash and get hurt. So when it does happen it’s hard of course, but it’s not the end of the world. I had a great beginning of the season, I proved that I had the level, and I’ll have the opportunity to come back in September. So everything is not over. When I think about guys like Fabien Barel, or how long Nico Vouilloz has been injured, I feel even lucky that it’s only 3 months.
EWS is a young series, and we can see since last year that the level improves at every race. First riders become more and more professional, the “old” riders stay strong, the newcomers make less mistakes and the young guns push harder every time. It makes the race really intense and if you want to fight for the win you always have to raise the bar. We’ve seen in Valloire that you can win a stage and finish 10th at the next one if you take it a bit too easy, or even have a mechanical and ruin your chance for the week end. It’s becoming really tricky. I’m sure the riders will not wait for me and I’ll have to do my homework if I want to be up front again. I think it’s great that I can race again this season, so I can get some feeling, see where I am, and find some motivation to improve my level next winter. I’ll try not to lose too much of what I’ve done this season post injury and come back in good shape for Finale Ligure and the last race of EWS.
MTB-MAG – Clearly Jared Graves is your most noteworthy contender. In your absence he has taken the reins and been relatively dominant despite some mechanical issues as well as some struggles in Scotland. Jared’s prowess as a world class athlete is well known. Do his advancements make you nervous or help keep you motivated for next year?
JC – Jared is a smart athlete, he wants to learn and he never makes the same mistake twice. He definitely has class and talent, combine that with a strong motivation and the will to get better. All of these attributes definitely make him a contender for the title this year. He has been studious this winter and I was curious to see how strong he will be in Chile. Seeing him training didn’t bother me too much, as I expect many riders to do so. I’m training also and I like to focus on what I have to do more than what the others are doing. I had a really good winter, I’ve been serious and I was confident entering the first round. When you know you’ve done your best and you respected your battle plan, there is no need to look at what the others have done. So for me it doesn’t matter who win this year, I guess they will all train hard next winter, so it will give me motivation to do so too! My goal is to be a contender for the win again in 2015 and I’ll do what it takes to come back there (Natural, no doping involved of course).
MTB-MAG – You’ve surfaced at a couple of EWS rounds on the sidelines to scope things out. Are you taking notes? Are you getting cagey and a bit antsy? Prepping for next year? What’s up? We can only assume you’re mentoring some friends and keeping an eye on the competition, but we want to hear it direct from the source. Fill us in!
JC – For Scotland, everything was booked, some friends were racing and it was my birthday. So instead of staying home I travelled and stayed on the other side of the tape, cheered for the riders and spent some time without the pressure of racing. There was really no scoping involved and I was not too angry as my shoulder was painful, so there was no question of being able to ride. In a few weeks when I’ll be able to get back on the bike, I think it will be harder to stay next to the track. I went for the surgery to fully recover at some point so I will wait the time it takes to fully recover, and not play it dumb and try to come back too early on the bike. My shoulder will be fine but if I crash before it’s strong enough I’ll dislocate everything again. So don’t expect too see me in US or Canada because I know I’ll be to tempted and take my bike.
MTB-MAG – OK, we’ll stop putting all the pressure on you and where you stand as an athlete in the ranks. Let’s chat a bit more about big picture topics. EWS is a very new thing but has taken off and gained a great deal of exposure all around. The venues are breathtaking and seem to be very well organized. Without making your views sound too controversial, let’s talk about what’s going well and and what you think could change for the better…do you have any praise or constructive criticism for the series thus far? If you were in charge what would you change?
JC – I’m lucky to be a part of the advisory board of the EMBA, so when I have something to say I tell them directly. I’m also open to listen to other rider’s ideas and feedback to make the series better and grow in a healthy direction for everybody. So far the EMBA was really keen to listen and improve their series. Right now the main difficulty for me is that every country or region has their own vision and format of the sport. It’s great and interesting on some points but also sometimes difficult to follow and understand, even if you are deeply involved in the sport. Diversity is a part of Enduro but on some points I think we need to have more similarity, for example on the protection, the assistance, the time check, start order or start gap. This can make things more clear for everybody and allow us to easily explain our sport, have less controversy and bring more people in to the Enduro. The variety that comes with this format is definitely something that we have to keep and I hope things will go this way.
But this takes time and I think since last year, they’ve changed a few things for the better and they will continue step by step. Give us time!!
MTB-MAG – Back to some personal stuff – you are high intensity athlete, obviously you have an immense amount of energy. Are you struggling with the fact that you are a bit immobilized? How are you coping? Are you pounding on the spin bike? What do you do to burn off steam? Although none of us have an energy level like yours, many of us have been laid up and restless through out our time on the bike. Do you have any advice on how you have dealt with the lack of stimulation and activity?
JC – I drowned in alcohol first, so that helped me to find the sleep for the first 2 weeks. Then sex with my girlfriend. You always find a solution…More seriously after a surgery, your body spends some energy trying to recover. It’s a shock to your body, so I didn’t struggle at the beginning. After 2 weeks I needed to find something as I couldn’t stay without doing something. I’ve spent a week on a spin bike and then on a tandem. I’m more hyperactive and I can’t just do nothing. It is hard when you train daily then suddenly you have to sit and do nothing, but you know that you have to be smart if you want to come back as soon as possible. The thing is that if you don’t occupy your body you have to find something to occupy your mind. I’ve been quite busy with interviews, talking with my partners and it also gives me time to speak about my future and plan next season with my sponsors. So even with less sport I’m still occupied and I don’t spend my time watching TV!!
MTB-MAG – Speaking of recovery and the spin bike, what’s your program for healing up? Have you hired a trainer and gotten into some physical therapy to make sure you have full strength and range of motion? The bottom line is that we want to know your training plan during your recovery and into the off season. Without giving away too many secrets, can you tell us what that’s like?
JC –I’ve got to say that I hate the spin bike, I think this is the most boring thing on earth. I didn’t choose MTB for not moving and spinning my legs like an idiot. I want some movement, adventure, landscape, fun. But at the beginning there were no other choice so I’ve to do some. I’ve been watching some episodes of “My name is Earl” to make it less painful. I have a coach who designs my training program all year long, so for my recovery he has adapted my training to stay fit and I don’t struggle too much when it will be time to race again. I can’t move my shoulder yet, so it’s quite limiting. I’ve found a tandem that allows me to do something other than the spin bike. I do also some gym session for my legs only, at home with some basic exercise. Right now it’s not really important as I’ll have time when I can move my shoulders before racing again but it will be more serious in July with my shoulder rehab and some interval training on the road bike.
MTB-MAG – Is there anything you’d like to vocalize to your fans? We are all super excited for your return next season and wishing you a speedy and full recovery. Thanks for sitting down and chatting with us. Best of luck next season!
JC – First a big thanks to all my fans, friends and family, It as amazing to get so many messages of support, and so much advice from other athletes who had the same injury. I speak highly of fans but I want to also thank the riders from the scene for their sportsmanship and the healing vibes they sent me.
Then, thanks a lot for the support from my partners who always stayed behind me, even if it’s really bad timing for them. I didn’t crash intentionally and they know that when I go on my bike it’s to do my best. It’s easy to support your rider when they do good, but now I’m out, they all stayed behind me and want to help me to keep a smile on my face. I can say that all this support, helped me a lot and to give me some positive energy to face this test. Thanks also MTB-MAG to let me put some words on your website and to keep contact with all the MTB fans. I hope I’m not too boring!! Last but not least, dear reader, I’ve a request for you. As I can’t ride, please shred a bit more for me!!!
MTB-MAG – Thanks so much for taking the time and giving us such great insight Jerome! We’re all wishing you a strong and speedy recovery.
For those of you who want to stay tuned and keep a close eye on Jerome’s recovery process keep your eyes on www.mtb-mag.com. Jerome will be touching base with us every two to three weeks and writing a column on his path to healing, rehabilitation process and getting back on track. Stay tuned!