Interview: Martin Maes on Being Readier Than Ever for World Champs

Aug 29, 2019
by Sarah Moore  
Martin Maes is beyond stoked to be back.

So this is your first time at Mont-Sainte-Anne, is the course what you expected?

It's obviously always different when you ride it. It's the first day of practice and it's already quite rough. It's going to be extremely tough on Sunday. It's a long course. Racing and practicing for enduro I'm used to long courses. I look forward to racing with my beautiful bike and new World Championships kit. It's always quite special.

Do you think the course plays to your strengths?

I think so yeah. Like I say, it's a long course, it's very physical. It's rough. I'm riding on a DH bike which saves a lot of energy. I don't have as much expectations as the top athletes who are racing DH all year long, but I finished second last year right behind Loic and I wasn't far off so I want to give it another chance and see what happens on Sunday.

Martin Maes was back racing last weekend at the EWS now he is swinging a leg over a downhill bike once again. He inspects the first flat out straight with team mate George Brannigan.

How much were you riding your downhill bike when you were suspended?

We went testing with my team manager and mechanic for a few days in France. I just want to give myself every opportunity to perform this weekend. You never know, the boys are flying this year and it's always hard when you haven't raced downhill to know if you're going to be straight into the pace of the top boys or not.

During your suspension were you more excited about coming back to the first EWS or coming back to Worlds? Did you prioritize one over the other?

I focussed much more, training-wise at least, on Mont-Sainte-Anne. I had a bit of time at home so I took advantage to do a bit more sprints and more intense stuff, but a little bit shorter than usual. I had the chance to ride my downhill bike a bit more. It's a big step forward coming into the practice sessions and your bike is already set up and you just need to tune it a little bit here and there but there aren't any massive changes. I also updated for the 29er front and back combo which is the first time for me. At the last World Champs, I was on 650b bike. Just a few small differences like this makes you feel better coming into this race. I would say a bit more ready mentally.

Martin Maes

What made you choose the 29er?

The reason is because Mont-Sainte-Anne is such a rough course. It's so long and it's so physical. I knew that there were the Masters World Champs last week on the same track, so it was already really rough on day one of practice here. The 29er just felt safer on a fast course like here.

Do you think riders that come back here year after year have an advantage over you?

Well, I don't think so. Just because it's World Champs and you have an extra day of practice compared to a World Cup. I think if it were a World Cup maybe they would have a small advantage, but having four days of practice you really get the chance to know the bike and get to know the track as much as possible pretty much. We did five runs already and it's only day one. So I don't think there is any advantage to the boys who raced here before.

You've had a really consistent season so far this year. How do you think you were able to become so consistent this year compared to previous years?

I'm getting older. Physically, I just feel stronger on the bike. Also the experience from racing, it's my seventh year racing. I started so early. I'm only 22, but I feel like I've got so much more experience now that I can manage the race much better. Physically, but also mentally, much more experience makes you a better rider. Back in the day, I was just going as fast as possible and never much consistency. Now I feel like I'm a step smarter on the bike and it makes a difference.

Martin Maes was on a mission the last stage of the day and broke Rude s winning streak but just barely.

How have you been able to stay sharp and keep your focus when you haven't been able to race Enduro or DH in three months?

It was three long months but I took advantage to be at home. In the last seven years, it was the first summer I got the chance to spend at home. It was actually nice and I feel like I've learned and I've worked on my weaknesses in the last three months. I just stayed extremely positive. I had nothing to hide. We explained the situation as much as possible and as well as possible and the amount of positive messages and comments I've got, they were all positive, and I can't thank the fans enough who sent me messages. It was really encouraging for coming back to racing.

What is your weakness that you worked on?

You can always get better. Just training-wise, trying some different stuff. It's been extremely good and when you're forced to rest you think a lot and that's how you get better.

Are you a fan of downhill racing and the EWS? Are you following the circuit even when you're not racing it?

Absolutely. Just watching the DH every weekend made me want to come back stronger. The racing is so tight these days, especially with Amaury and Loic in the past couple of races. I'm a big fan of mountain biking and racing and so obviously I wouldn't miss anything.

You get to wear your country's colours this weekend, what's that like?

World Champs, it's always a special one. You have five minutes to maybe make the dream come true. It's always exciting to be here and there's nothing like downhill racing. I look forward to being in the start gate on Sunday.

Do you think you can win?

I was second last year, it's not such a long time ago. I feel like I've ridden my downhill bike a little bit more and I'm feeling a bit more ready. But also I have more expectations for myself. On Sunday it's all about putting down the perfect run, it's not easy to do.

Loic Bruni Martin Maes and Danny Hart take all the medals in Lenzerheide.
Martin Maes.

Do you think it's more of a mind game, being at the top of the race run in DH compared to Enduro?

At the EWS you've got 40 or 45 minutes of racing in front of you. So if you make a mistake on the first turn, you still have 40 minutes of racing ahead of you. Downhill racing you've got five minutes. So the least mistakes as possible and just being focused and kind of relaxed on the bike will help massively. But like I say, it's not easy to do and you've got to make it happen on Sunday.

Do you have any pre-race rituals?

Try to be relaxed and not think too much about the race. Mark [ed: Mark Maurissen, GTFR Team Manager] is a good friend and we've worked together for a long time. We like to chat about anything before, heading up on the lift talking about moto, cars. I'm a big fan of those. Just try to take the pressure down and be as good as possible on the bike.

Martin Maes went fastest through the first split before ending up 4th just a couple of seconds back.


  • 41 3
 Different year and different track. There are so many hungry riders that have been to this track year after year and are able to put together perfect runs under high levels of pressure. I'd love to see Maes do well, but the deck is stacked. Gearing up to be a stellar World Champs race.
  • 17 5
 I would love it if he won!
  • 8 3
 Keep in mind that all the DH top racers are still fighting for the World Cup overall. So they may not throw everything they have on that one race... Bruni, Pierron and Brosnan may play it safe in MSA
  • 4 0
 @Minikeum: not brosnan. He´s out of the overall series race... He might give it everything on this one
  • 19 1
 @Minikeum: Bruni playing safe at the world champs, LOL
  • 1 0
 It'll be interesting to see how the track changes throughout the race and whether or not it'll play to Maes' advantage. I'm assuming he'll be dropping in pretty early and probably spending a good amount of the day in the hot seat.
  • 5 4
 @jeansebille: watch Cathro's interview with Loic, it definitely sounds like he is more concerned about the overall rather than world champs this year...
  • 1 8
flag nismo325 (Aug 30, 2019 at 10:21) (Below Threshold)
 @azogas413: Definetly think maes got lucky with conditions when he won last time. If the conditions stay constant this year he will be in trouble.
  • 4 0
 @nismo325: Fair enough. In that case, how do you explain his 2nd place world champs run the following race? Seems like that would have silenced the haters and earned some credit, no?
  • 1 1
 @Minikeum: Loic will play it safe, but I'm not sure if Amaury knows how to do anything but all out.
  • 2 0
 @JasonALap: Amaury is more a win it or bin it kind of guy at least at this current point in his career. Besides he has already one the overall once but never the WC jersey while it is the exact opposite for Loic.
  • 3 0
 Maes is such an athlete and skilled rider, he has every shot for the win, but it’s definitely a tough field. Personally, I’d love to see him win just to shut up the haters that tried discounting his results last year.

All that time riding a shorter travel enduro bike on gnarly tracks has to do wonders for your skills and confidence when you get back on a big DH bike. It would be cool for Yeti to build a DH bike again so we could see what Rude could do returning to DH.
  • 22 2
 The rough Northstar EWS should have been a good warm up for him. That boy was flying
  • 20 1
 Can't wait to see his race run. Would be wild if he wins...for the spirit of Enduro!
  • 10 29
flag tobiusmaximum (Aug 30, 2019 at 1:53) (Below Threshold)
 If he just turns up and wins the world champs there is something seriously wrong in the world(s).
  • 16 1
 @tobiusmaximum: I wouldn't agree. I think Martin is just an immensely talented rider, it's not like he has just turned up, he has been training for months, and has been riding EWS, so his fitness and speed are clearly there.
  • 4 9
flag tobiusmaximum (Aug 30, 2019 at 6:20) (Below Threshold)
 @melonhead1145: that’s all well and good but you ask any pro and you normally have to specialise to be at the top flite. Or, put another way, what does is say about the guys who focus 24/7 entirely on dh.. if they can’t beat the enduro guy? I’m not trying to take away from maes.. more like shining the interrogation light on everyone else. (With regards to ‘just turning up’, I should clarify.. I meant not done any other races this season.)
  • 12 2
 @tobiusmaximum: your comment annoys me. Your not wrong but despite all the media coverage and the wild popularity, people STILL seem to think Enduro is the little brother of DH... there’s no “turning up” about it. All of the top EWS guys and girls would be top WC contenders as well. Check the results of riders who have crossed over (either direction) and you will find they tend to land in similar positions between the sports outside of maybe Eddie Masters.

If Martin wins, it won’t be luck.
  • 3 7
flag tobiusmaximum (Aug 30, 2019 at 8:24) (Below Threshold)
 @HurricaneCycles: can you point out where I mentioned luck? Also, i clarified what ‘turning up’ meant. I also never mentioned any sort of hierarchy between dh and enduro. If you’re not saying that dh riders could turn up and challenge for an EWS podium (maybe you are?) then why is the opposite true? Are you saying enduro riders are the best riders in the world? Are you saying that people don’t need to specialise at the very highest levels of sport?
  • 4 0
 in alpine ski you always had (from time to time) athletes that outperform every other on their own technical disciplines. Examples like Mikaela Shiffrin nowdays or Tina Maze in the past always baffled everyone when they would show up and win or do a top3 on very specific disciplines and races that weren't theirs, while most of the crowd couldn't and just stood in awe of what had just happened - Like Mikaela; going from dominating the slalom and then without much preparation (or tradition on her end) wining on downhill WC and gold in Super-G.
It was amazing and inspiring as rarely skiers win in both technical and descent types.
  • 2 0
 @tobiusmaximum: no. In fact I said you are NOT wrong.

Your comment just reminded me of a trend of people thinking that “enduro is where the real pro riders “DH” go to retire”. That simply is not true.

I’m bringing light to the fact that Martin is an unbelievably skilled rider that has the capability to win in this game because his skills from enduro are specialized for going down a hill on a bicycle very quickly. Enduro and DH are very similar in terms of bike skill although they require a slightly different approach to strategy.

It’s sorta like the way XCO and Short Track are similar. Would you have said MVDP “turned up” to an XC win when he’s was obviously so good at Short track from the beginning? No. It’s the same sport with a different tactic needed to win. It’s the same with DH and Enduro they just don’t happen on the same weekend like the XC games do.
  • 2 4
 @HurricaneCycles: Dude you need to just accept that enduro is retirement for top level DH riders. Thats why most of the top contenders in EWS ARE retired WC DH races that couldn't win DH anymore. Other than Maes no full time EWS racers have come over and won a WC DH race but a lot of WC DH racers have won EWS races. Hill, Ropelato, masters, rude, graves and i think even keene all came from WC DH. Most of them came when they where getting mediocre results. Then they go to EWS and boom they are the best! lol so tell me more about how EWS isn't retirement for DH racers? Also I feel Maes win was definitely helped by his starting time which gave him better conditions than the top men that day.
  • 7 1
 @nismo325: HAHAHAHA!! I’m sorry... I shouldnt laugh... but you dumb.

You just called Sam freaking Hill a mediocre DH racer? Multi time World Champ and World Cup overall champion.

Richie Rude, first and only American Junior world champ?

Ropelato who had a string of top 20 WC results before going his own way and hasn’t won an EWS yet.

Graves? One of the most decorated veterans of bicycle racing across multiple sports. Including one world DH title.

Masters who has been a consistent top 20 all year so far.

MAYBE Keene falls into the category you have created but even so id say he was around top 30 WC when he switched and that’s about where he is now on average....

And did you miss that little thing where Maes went 2nd at world champs last year? His show at La bresse wasn’t a one-off result.

So I guess what I’m saying is... you need some history on who you are calling mediocre. Top riders are top riders.
  • 2 0
 @tobiusmaximum: you do raise some interesting points but ultimately it comes down to the fact enduro and DH aren’t that dissimilar. The bit that really counts is the downhill so where DHers are looking for the perfect run, enduro riders are looking for a series of very good runs over 1-2 days. The runs can’t be perfect because they have limited practice.

You could stick either rider in the other discipline and they would probably do ok but only the best riders would be top in both fields.

I personally think Mark Wallace would be a top 5 enduro guy.
  • 12 1
 Those fox 49's looks small on that gt..time for fox to come out with the fox 69's
  • 20 0
 I guess there will be one inverted leg on this one?
  • 8 0
 Hope the coverage is fair for the lower/none ranked riders. There’s a few wildcards in there. Not that Maes is one. He’ll be up there for sure.
  • 12 0
 No coverage in the United States, should be fair
  • 3 5
 @Mtmw: yeah there is. On NBC
  • 27 0
 @makripper: if by “on NBC,” you mean on an obscure NBC sports channel that’s buried in an expensive sports package that most people don’t have, then you are correct.
  • 2 3
 @lognar: I'm not wrong. Use a VPN tho for redbull. Vpn for a month is cheap
  • 3 0
 @makripper: use the browser Opera there is a built-in vpn for free
  • 10 1
 "I'm getting older..." For the rest of us that's just a dismal excuse.
  • 1 0
 "i'm only 22'!!!!! that was a shock to me, Maes rides like he's 32.
  • 5 0
 For sure going to be amaesing to watch. Rip it martin!
  • 5 0
 Still can't get over the orange forks on the red bike... My eyes!
  • 1 0
 Never too late for a quick Sam Pilgrim paint job Smile
  • 3 0
 I am pretty anxious to see what Martin can do!
  • 4 2
 When seeing the name 'Martin Maes' does anybody else get the uncontrollable urge to punch everyone in the UCI in the face?
  • 2 0
 No rules are the rules and every single racer who sign for a licence knows he has to obey them even if they don't play in his favour. They also have applied the smalllest sanction possible. Imho it is much more annoying when a federation is lacking consistency or decide to sanction or hide issues related to an athlete based on his popularity or lack of thereof
  • 1 0
 Anyone know how riders are chosen/qualify for World Champs? I’ve done some searching but haven’t found anything.
  • 1 0
 Correct me if I'm wrong, but outside of WC rankings, countries generally hold a national championship where the top riders get picked.
  • 4 1
 @Rubberelli: It's up to each country, each country has a maximum amount of possible starters, then the governing bodies set up a guideline to qualify (like in Germany for the Men I think you needed 1x Top 15 Worldcup / or 2x P16-P25 in Worldcup / or P1-5 at European champs / or 2x P1-5 at European Cup).

None of the german male riders met this criteria, but BDR still sent 6 riders in that class..

In some smaller countries with not many riders I can imagine some riders don't ride Worldcup but are being sent because they are national champions or continental champions..
  • 1 0
 Fingers crossed for Sunday. Will try to get hhe VPN up and running... Go Martin!
  • 1 0
 Looking forward to watching!
Schwalbe.. why can I not buy those tires?? >:/
  • 1 0
 Pre-race rituals ????????????????
  • 1 0
 Astronaut helmet.
  • 1 1
  • 2 4
 If he can just walk in to a podium spot, why tf is this guy not a WC downhill racer?!
  • 7 0
 According to an interview earlier this year, he simply prefers to ride his bike more in the Enduro race setting. After winning the Enduro series he intends to switch to downhill.
  • 15 0
 Because he loves riding bikes. There’s a lot more of that in Enduro than Downhill sadly...
  • 3 0
 Cos he prefers Enduro???
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