Martin Maes has had quite the year. After becoming a father in June, he started the EWS season at the second race week in La Thuile, Italy, where was in the mix with the other top podium contenders, even taking a stage win, before a crash on the final stage set him back 40 seconds and into 9th place. Unfortunately, he suffered a minor concussion and sat out of the next race. Upon returning to the race tracks, he steadily picked up speed all season before finally taking the top step of the podium again at the season ender in Innerleithen, Scotland, returning to the form that we all knew he could achieve.
Ever since a handful of incredible EWS performances, a World Cup DH win, and a DH World Champs podium in late 2018 into 2019, we've suspected that his best is yet to come. Now, with that recent EWS win under his belt and some momentum heading into 2022 with a new team, we just might see him back on top. When we heard about his recent switch from GT to Orbea, we reached out with some questions to learn more.
First off, congratulations on becoming a father! How did you feel going into the 2021 season?
Thank you. It was the best moment of my life. It was a bit tough at the beginning, trying to adapt our new life rhythm and doing my training & recovery properly.
You suffered from concussion symptoms following a crash in La Thuile. How was your recovery?
It was a small concussion fortunately. It took me a week to recover and I was back to training. However, I still think that brain injuries are still underestimated for a lot of riders / racers.
Has becoming a father changed your approach to racing at all?
Totally. You know, all of a sudden your life priority that is racing becomes priority number 2. I’m now a bit calmer & smarter when I jump on my bike. Just because I want to enjoy those precious moments at home after training.
You made the bold decision to race an enduro bike at the downhill World Cup in Maribor. What was behind that choice and how did that go?
It was not the best idea to be honest! I gave it a go because my enduro bike had a newer geometry than the downhill bike. However after a couple of training runs, I soon realised that the stiffness of the frame wasn't adapted to the need of DH racing. It was rough & tough especially with the blown out conditions that we had.
Mid season, it seems like you hit your stride and you took your first podium of the year in Switzerland. Then, at the final race in Scotland, you returned to the top step. How did that progression happen?
Yes, the first races brought me to a good shape. I felt the confidence into my riding slowly coming back. We also had a new bike and I feel that it took us a few races to optimise it. Winning in Scotland was emotional. No one knew it was my last race with GT but I can tell you that I gave my personal best that weekend. It was just meant to be I think… the best way to say a massive THANK YOU to GT bicycles for everything they did for me the last decade together.
You've been with GT for nine years since you were a teenager, and you grew up in the GT pits with your father riding for GT. What precipitated the team change?
Together with GT, we have achieved great things together & unforgettable memories. I will forever love the brand. It was time for me to look for a new challenge, find a new motivation for the next part of my career.
How did you end up choosing to ride for Orbea?
Orbea and I share the same passion for racing. We want to win and keep progressing towards our goal to win a championship together. When we first met, I soon realised that we had the same vision. My final decision came naturally.
What are your 2022 season plans?
Racing as hard as possible.
We heard you'll likely keep racing a bit of downhill, even though Orbea doesn't currently make a downhill bike. Is that true? Are you able to speak about what bike you'll ride?
Correct. I can not tell you all the details but I’ll be racing a couple of DH in 2022 on an Orbea. ;-)
What is it about the Rallon (assuming that's what you will race) that makes it your bike of choice for the 2022 Enduro World Series season?
It’s quiet different than my previous bike actually. I tried it and I really like it. The quality of the bike is the most important for us, racers. I’m still discovering the bike and there’s some work ahead of us to extract 100% of its potential.
High pivot enduro bikes have made quite the entrance in the last few years. How do you feel about high pivots? Do you feel you perform better on a high pivot bike or on a more standard setup?
To be very honest with you, I don’t really see the advantage of a high pivot bike. Especially for enduro racing where efficiency is key. Yes it’s a bit more comfy when you pedal through rough sections but I often question myself and do you really need to pedal when it’s rough
?! I don’t think so.
What are you most looking forward to in the next chapter of your career?
I’m excited for this new chapter. My goal is to perform, have fun but most importantly keep improving every day the way I ride my bike.
Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
See you on the trails & thanks everyone for the support.