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.
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.
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.
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.
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.