Despite some top finishes as an Under-21 rider, Louis Jeandel entered his first year on the EWS circuit as a privateer, paying his own way to as many rounds as possible. It didn't take him long to show the factory teams what they were missing as he finished 13th in Val di Fassa and followed it up with 26th in Olargues a week later. He was one of the recipients of the Wyn TV Privateer of the week award so we caught up with him to talk about how he got started in enduro, the struggles of being a privateer, and his breakthrough during the 2019 season.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I come from the center of France, in the Creuse department in Aubusson, to be exact. It is a small town at the door of the natural park of "Millevaches", an ideal setting where I spent my childhood and where I started riding bikes. Unfortunately, there is no elevation, so I decided to study in Chambéry in Savoie, a region with very good riding, and where I met people who helped me in my progression. And now I’ve just finished my bachelor degree, I think I will start a new training period.
How did you get into mountain biking?
I started with my parents around my home by hiking. In 2010, my neighbours offered me to come a day to test a downhill bike in Super-Besse, Auvergne. Since this time, I decided to go downhill mountain biking, unfortunately, there was no sport association near my home, so I signed up for a cross-country club. I started Enduro five years ago, and I haven’t stopped since.
Who do you ride for?
I ride for the Norco Ion Enduro Team, a team that we created with my friend Guillaume Larbeyou at the start of the season. Guillaume helped me a lot thanks to his knowledge in the mountain bike industry and some of the sponsors we have helped him in previous years. Here are our sponsors: Norco France, Ion France, Northwave France, Bell Helmets France, Slicy, Smith Optic France, Sixpack France and Duke Racing Wheels, Motorex France.
What bikes are you riding right now?
I ride on a Norco Sight C1 size M, it's a very good versatile bike.
Do you have a job outside of mountain biking?
I just finished my business studies degree, I worked last summer as a shaper in the Haute Maurienne for a bike solution project, to pay for part of my enduro season. It's pretty hard to combine my job and my training plan as my job is very physical.
What are your strengths?
The mind is one of my strong points, I don’t give up on anything! I am very motivated to break into Enduro.
What are your weaknesses?
My English... but I will work on it! Enduro is a very difficult discipline, I think we can always improve!
Did you expect to find a place on a team after winning at Under 21?
Yes, I was hoping for that, but the EWS I won was at the end of the season and most of the team budgets were done. I looked hard but I didn’t find anything, although this victory allowed me to increase my visibility and, to have better support and preferred prices for my season.
What are the struggles of being a privateer that people might not realise?
The main difficulty is the budget, the bike, the tires, the transmission, spare parts, everything is expensive. You really have to be careful with your equipment to finish off the weekends and keep the damage to a minimum. I’d like to do all the EWS races, but the registration, the accommodation, the travel are out of budget. Between privateer and pro rider, there is a big difference in the budget.
Teams hire enduro racers regarding their overall ranking but being a privateer means you can not participate in all races, that is why it is harder to go further.
What’s been your worst crash over the years?
Two years ago I broke my ankle when I was climbing and missed a whole winter training. So it was not the plan to start a new season. But I didn’t give up and I trained as best I could to finish the season in style, by winning the EWS Under 21 in Ainsa.
This winter I had a new surgery to remove the screws out of the ankle and it went wrong, I caught an infection, which blocked me from three months of training. In Madeira, I was not at my best, but good preparation and a lot of training allowed me to finish 13th at Canazei.
Where’s your favourite place to ride?
At home - the trails you make are always the best. Otherwise, I love Pilat next to Lyon and Argelès-sur-Mer in the Eastern Pyrenees!
What’s your favourtie non-bike website?
I like Netflix, it’s very convenient from time to time. I’m not a network addict, I prefer to spend time outside.
What’s your favourite motto or saying?
I don’t have a motto, I just think "do what you do," before my runs.
What makes you happy?
My family, friends, enjoy cycling and vary sports (climbing, motorbikes, skiing)
How do you want to be remembered?
Haha I don’t know, as one of the best riders would be cool.
What does the future hold for Louis Jeandel?
Good question, I would like to get into a team and do all the EWS! The dream!