Yoann Barelli announced earlier this week
that he will be out for six to nine months after he lost balance when he was climbing. The result is a complete ACL tear, a severely injured meniscus, a small fracture on the tibia plateau and a first degree MCL tear.
I caught up with Yoann Barelli yesterday, just four days after his injury. We talked about how he's never broken a bone before, how he's staying positive and how he's already made a plan for recovery and getting on the top step of the Enduro World Series podium.
Take me back to the moment you hurt yourself. What was your first thought after you hurt your knee?Yoann Barelli:
Sunday morning, we were just starting our bike ride. One of my buddies mentioned that there’s a skinny that someone climbed with an ebike. I was like “Oh, I”m sure I can climb it with my regular bike.” I started and then basically, first try, lost the front end, tried to save it. I didn’t judge how far away the ground was properly and basically landed with all the weight on my leg. I heard two pops and right away I went into protection mode on my knee. I knew it was a pretty big injury. It wasn’t a gentle injury, or a little sprain. My friends carried me out since I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t put any weight on my leg. Right away I was already thinking about the season and that it might be the end of my season. I went back to the truck and called my physio and straight away just went to my physio.
Before you hurt your knee, did you ever worry about injury or do you try not to think about it too much?Yoann Barelli:
You don’t really think about this kind of stuff. I’m really comfortable riding all this gnarly stuff. It’s really natural to me. I go with my gut and when I feel like I can do something, I go for it. I know that if you feel it, why not try it. If I’m kind scared or hesitant, I won’t do it though. I never really think about getting injured though. I don’t think any pro athlete thinks about getting injured. When you are top level, you just go with the flow and you just ride.
Did you ever think you would get such a bad injury on a climb? Yoann Barelli:
No, but it’s always doing the easiest stuff that you get the most injured because you’re not really paying attention. You don’t have all your focus.
Do you think it is harder to come to terms with than if you had hurt yourself on a crazy descent? Yoann Barelli:
Actually no. The good thing with my injury is that most of the time when you have a big crash and get hurt, when you go back to riding you’re going to be kind of scared. You’ll think about the crash a lot, process the crash a lot. It’s always hard to come back right away. Which won’t be the case with this crash since it wasn’t even a crash. I just failed. So I won’t be scared or have any apprehension to go back to speed. So it’s good!
Have you been badly injured before? Yoann Barelli:
It’s actually my first big injury. I’ve never broken a bone before. I started riding when I was 7 years old and I’ve never broken a bone, knock on wood. And this is my first surgery. So I’m doing quite well.
How you think you have managed to avoid any major injuries until now?
I don’t know… I never really ride above my abilities. I always do stuff really consciously even if I seem really crazy and act really crazy. I always do things quite carefully. If my gut says “maybe you should not do that” I listen. I have had a few minor injuries that took me 3-4 weeks maximum off the bike, without any surgery.
No broken bones, but Yoann Barelli missed the first round of the Enduro World Series in New Zealand in 2017 thanks to this hematoma.
How often do you fall?Yoann Barelli:
Not really often. Sometimes I start crashing quite a bit but for me, that means that there is something else that is wrong. There is something wrong maybe in my head, so I try to think a little bit deeply in this case. Something wrong in my life, I’m doing something I don’t really like, or there is a set up on my bike that doesn’t really work. Most of the time I don’t really crash a lot.
How do you feel about not being able to race the rest of the season?Yoann Barelli:
It’s a bummer because riding my bike is what I love, it’s what gives me happiness. Although I am quite happy most of the time. But it gives me a bunch of joy. So I’m bummed for that, bummed that I won’t be going in the forest with my friends and playing on my bike. But I think I’ve already accepted the fact that I won’t be doing that for a long time and I’m already focused on going into surgery ready.
I’m going to be training a lot, not just sitting on my ass. Surgery will happen in 4 to 6 weeks, after the swelling in my knee goes down. But I’m not going to be sitting on my ass and waiting and drinking beer and going to the lake. I’m going to be training a bunch to be ready for surgery and then right after surgery I’m going to be training and rehabbing already. It’s a challenge and I’m in!
What are you doing to stay positive?Yoann Barelli:
I don’t know. This is me. This is just the way I am. I always try to find a positive side to everything that happens in my life. Right now I’m off the bike but there is probably some other stuff that I can do. There is photography that is one passion and then the YouTube channel that I created. I’m not going to stop that. I already have some crazy ideas. So be ready for some crazy stuff.
Are you planning on documenting your recovery process on your YouTube channel? Yoann Barelli:
I’m going to do that. But I have some other funny ideas already. Let’s see if I can do them.
What kind of training do you think you’ll be able to do leading up to and then following the surgery?Yoann Barelli:
It’s going to be a bunch of gym workouts mainly. Upper body, spinning, I have an ebike which is going to be a great tool to get outside and spinning with one leg on the Valley Trail. It’s going to be mainly gym. Maybe swimming as well, swimming might be good for me. And one-legged spinning on the road bike.
Do you work with a coach? Yoann Barelli:
I go to Crossfit in Function in Whistler and I already went to see my trainer and we came out with a plan for before surgery and after surgery along with my physio Mike.
So four days after your injury, you’ve already made a pretty solid plan.Yoann Barelli:
Everything is already on track. When I had the crash, my doctor, my physio, everybody really helped to push to get the exams done. I went through the private system and everything went super fast. Four days later I know what's going on and I know where I’m going.
How have your sponsors taken the news?Yoann Barelli:
Pretty good. I never had any pressure from my sponsors and they all know I am doing my best. I’m doing everything I can to promote their brands, to ride, to have fun, to do everything to be me basically. They know that we take risks, that we are doing quite a risky sport and that crashes happen and we can get injured. They are all super nice and say, “We have your back. Let us know what we can do for you.” It’s super cool. The mountain bike world is a big family and it’s cool to be a part of that and to have people like that behind me. It’s great.
What goals do you still have within the sport of enduro?Yoann Barelli:
I’ve been twice on the podium in an EWS but I’ve never won. I know that if I ride the way I ride normally when I’m racing, I can win. I can win an EWS. I’m 33 years old, look at Greg Minnaar. He’s still kicking ass. He’s doing that because he just loves the sport. I think I can do it. So my ultimate goal would be to win an EWS. And if I get back on the podium, that would be great. But I really want to do it. It’s going to happen.
Yoann taking second at EWS Whistler in 2015.
Have you worked with a sports psychologist before? Why do you think it is so hard for it to all come together on race day?Yoann Barelli:
I’ve worked with a sports psychologist but I feel like I don’t really need that. I just need to release and to let go on the right day. Sometimes I feel like I’m focused on the results, the outcome, and I can’t really let it go. I’ve been racing this year really tight inside. And it’s not working. I was looking forward to Italy and France and riding with just the passion and the fun, but it’s not going to happen. I’m keeping that for next year.
Do you think you’ll have even more pressure on yourself next year?Yoann Barelli:
No, I’m totally going to let go of the pressure. It’s easy to say and hard to do but I’m going to try and do that. We will see.
Anything else you would like to add?Yoann Barelli:
Just before you called me I was on Pinkbike and I was reading all the nice comments of people and I’m kind of overwhelmed by all the support of everybody. So I just want to thank everybody for their support and to let them know that’s I said, I’m not going to just sit on my ass and do nothing. I’m going to be creative and keep everybody entertained.