Proving to be the perfect launch pad for aspiring young downhill racers eager to cut their teeth on the some of the sport's most iconic race tracks, the Junoir ranks of the World Cup circuit is a sure shot when it comes to spotting the big names of tomorrow. And if the dramas of the 2016 season brought one new name to the fore, it was that of Frenchmen, Gaëtan Vigé. Coming into the start of this season as a relatively unknown quantity, he was, without a doubt, the only rider to consecutively challenge the dominance of Canadian phenom, Finn Iles. Gaëtan would conclude his season just behind Finn in a battle that saw him miss only one World Cup podium, win two rounds (Lenzerheide and MSA) before capping it off by taking the bronze medal at the world championships. With an important off-season in front of him and his first year in the pressure cooker of Elite level competition on the horizon, we thought it was about time we got to know a little more about one of the fastest teenagers in the world...
Monte Saint Anne, 2016
Who is Gaëtan Vigé? I'm 18 years old and I race in the Junior category. I began riding my bike seven years ago. I practiced dirt jumping before and then I tried downhill. Once I’d done that, I stopped dirt jumping to concentrate on progressing in DH.
Where are you from and where do you live? I'm from the South of France close to Cannes and I’ve always lived in that area. It’s such a good place for riding and for training.
Who do you ride for? The Commencal Vallnord DH Team.
Where are you happiest? I am happy everywhere but I am at my happiest when I can ride, doing anything on my bike with my friends. Sometimes it’s still cool to be at home and chill after a big race but it becomes boring, fast. So I prefer to be at the races because of the good atmosphere and camaraderie with everyone.
What’s your favourite race venue? I would say Lourdes because it’s a French race with all my friends, family and the French fans supporting me. And the track is sick!
Where are your favourite trails? My favourite trails are in Vallnord, particularly the World Cup track because it’s really technical and steep. The other bike park tracks like the Commencal Track are so cool and fun. I love it! I also liked the trails in California, maybe because it’s nice to be in the US for a change. The trails are a little bit short but still so different to ride. Sometimes it’s too hot for riding but I don’t care because it’s super cool to ride Californian trails. And definitely Whistler too!
What are your strengths? After a few races, my strengths seem to be the technical parts, this is where my main focus at the races is because I know that’s where I can make the difference. I must also be confident on the others parts too if I want to be the fastest.
What are your weaknesses? I think my weaknesses are bike park berms and flat sections. Maybe it’s because I need more bike park training because before I just went with school and didn’t grow up riding bike parks. Hopefully, I’ll have more time to learn about these weaknesses.
What’s been your worst crash over the years? My worst crash ever was last year during a French Cup where I broke my femur and pelvis... That was horrible because I had a big operation and afterwards I was off the bike for eight months. So this year I didn't have too much time for training. I began riding downhill again in the middle of February so that was hard and there wasn’t much time to feel good and fast on the bike before the season.
What’s been your luckiest escape? Lourdes was one of my luckiest escapes because this year I didn’t crash in my race run in a place where I’ve always crashed in the past. What is also lucky is that I’ve never been injured there as it's such a wild track.
Which bike from over the years, conjures up the best memories? I have good memories of my first downhill bike which was a Santa Cruz. I had a really good season with this but I have the best memories with my Commencal Supreme DH V4 because I won my first World Cup on this bike.
What bikes are you riding right now? I have ridden on the Commencal Supreme DH V for the last two years in the Junor category (I’m in my last year of juniors now), Meta AM V4, Meta Trail V4 and my Absolut.
Who’s your favourite rider? I haven’t really thought about this much but I like and respect all riders because everyone is cool. Maybe I have a little preference for Loic Bruni because I’ve known him since I began riding downhill and he was already strong then.
Who or what inspires you? I think travelling inspires me a lot because I always love discovering new landscapes with new people and it’s very sick when you can share travelling with your passion and your job. This inspires me the most.
What do you enjoy doing away from bikes? Most of the time I’m on the bike so when I’m not I’m often tired. So I love to chill with my friends and have a good time with them. I hate being alone.
What are you listening to right now? I listen to everything, I like all types of music.
What’s your favourite movie/ TV show? My favourite film is “Into the Wild” because it’s very nice and it is a true story.
What’s your favourite non-bike website? I haven’t especially got a favourite non-bike website except all the social media ones... And when I'm on the computer it’s only to watch bike stuff.
What’s your favourite motto or saying? I don’t really tend to say anything in particular. I like to change my expression or mottos depending on my sense of humour at the time or what’s going on haha!
What grinds your gears? I keep working hard because my goal for next season (which is my first year Elite) is to come top 20 overall in the World Cup!
What makes you happy? Beautiful things in the wild and nature, different countries, different cultures, travelling, new experiences and obviously, beautiful women!
If you weren’t a pro mountain biker, what would you be doing? I have always wanted to be a pilot, a hunter or join the army.
If you were in charge of the sport, what changes would you make? I would publicise the sport more with, for example, more people filming for Red Bull TV.
When you hang up your racing shoes, how do you want to be remembered? I would just like to have contributed a fun image of the sport.
What does the future hold for Gaëtan Vigé? I will try and fulfil my goals but in general, I try not to predict the future…