Yoann Barelli may be the least decorated rider in this series of articles, but he more than makes up for that with flamboyancy and charisma. Battling for years on the French and World Cup circuits, Barelli posted some top 20 finishes and was the French Elite Champion in 2004. He left the race scene in 2007 and went to Australia to learn English and do the travelling thing. Returning in 2009, Yoann dedicated a couple more years to downhill before transitioning to enduro and the newly formed Enduro World Series in 2013.
Checking his results we can see distinct improvements over the last three years - floating around the top thirty in 2013 and hassling the top ten in 2014, where his best effort was fifth place at Valloire, France. In 2015, he exploded onto the second step of the podium in Whistler, a feat that he repeated at the following round in Ainsa, Spain. That is positive progression, and plotting his results suggests that we should see him standing on top step in 2016. The Frenchman turned 30 this year and he seems to have come of age.
Let's start at the top. You're using aluminum handlebars?
| I decided to stop DH and do only enduro when they created the EWS in 2013. I was still working. I started the series and in the middle of the season, I decided to quit my job and focus on racing. At the end of '13, I signed my first pro contract with the Giant Factory Off-Road Team. For 2014 and '15, it has been a full-time job - and here I am this year, living in Whistler.|
Yes. I don't really want to ride with carbon bars because they are only available to me in 750mm. I like to have a wider, 780mm. If Truvativ made a wider carbon bar, I would ride with it, but I don't really care. I like this bar. I'm not really looking to save weight on the bike - that's not an issue or priority for me. I use a 30mm rise bar with a 40mm stem and large frame. I'm 177cm tall. And, you have a RockShox Lyrik fork up front.
Since they launched the Lyrik, I have been using it and I really like it. I ride it at 170mm, so it makes a little higher and slacker head angle, but I don't think it really changes the geometry of the bike when riding, because we can use more sag with the bigger negative spring and have more sensitivity. I would ride a Pike again, but I prefer the Lyrik, for sure. What settings do you use for the fork?
I weigh 75kgs, I'm not sure of the sag, I go on feeling. I use 80psi with three Bottomless Tokens and 6-clicks from closed on the low-speed compression.. Why a coil shock?
Now I have the Vivid R2C coil shock. I know that Josh [Carlson] and Adam [Craig] ride with that all the time, but I like to swap with the Debonair. When it's really pedally, then I have a compression adjuster and I can even change it during the stages. It's also a bit lighter and feels more dynamic. If there is like, a thirty-second climb, I will lock it - but if it's a sprint I won't touch it. Here in Whistler, I think it's a good idea to run the coil and a big fork on the front. I run a standard tune, but we use a shorter spring with this plastic token, so the spring is a bit lighter (similar in weight to a titanium spring) and this lets the spring move and doesn't twist up like normal. It feels like a downhill bike now, That's a huge chainring,
This is a 38 tooth, because I am just going up to do the Garbanzo. Normally, I use a 36 tooth all the time. Sometimes I change to a 34, if there is a lot of climbing. I like the 36 so that I can stay in the middle of the cassette and not at the bottom on the high-speed sections, so I have better chain line. I use a standard 175mm SRAM XO carbon crankset. What about tires?
I used a Schwalbe Magic Mary in the Trailstar compound for the race, with a Vert star at the front, both in Super Gravity casing. I put 22psi at the front and 24psi at the back. Sometimes I use a little bit more at the back, but no more than 26psi, maximum. The front is always at 22psi. I like low pressure to have good grip and its cool. Tubeless is standard - no ProCore or anything, and I use SRAM Rail 50 wheels instead of the Roam 50.Yoann seems to be all about simplicity. Except for the 'First Ride' factory Schwalbe tires, he uses a standard tubeless wheel setup. Do you ever use carbon wheels?
I don't want to try the carbon wheels, I think that's too sketchy in enduro. We have to do one, two, or three days of racing - and they mark the bikes at the beginning. If you explode a carbon wheel you're f****d, you're disqualified, or you have to change the wheel and take a five-minute penalty. With aluminum, you can just bend it and fix it. Do you have any special tactics for this race?
Not really. Just, as fast as possible everywhere?
Yeah, basically. We had two long stages, two and five. I knew the race would be played on those stages, so it was important not to lose time on stage two, and make sure I was near the front to contend for the overall. I just try to find momentum, be really gentle on the bike, be really light, and that's what I did. I was a little bit slow for the first three stages, finding it hard to get my line and the momentum. After stage three, I was like: 'OK, now you are going to do it!' I did a really good stage four and five.
How do you attack the long stages?
| At the end, I was so f****d, really f****d. I started full gas and I finished full gas. The same thing for stage five. Do not mess around - you just go for it and see what happens.|
Full crazy! I did like stage two full gas, I passed Remy [Absalon] at the top of Khybers so, obviously, I did a really good beginning of the stage. Then, we did almost all the rest of the stage together. At the end, I was so f****d, really f****d. I started full gas and I finished full gas. The same thing for stage five. Do not mess around - you just go for it and see what happens. Do you use a heart rate monitor or power meter?
No, not even when I am training. I'm not somebody with a GPS, Garmin, blah blah blah - I just do it with the feeling and that is it. I don't care about that. Timed runs?
Yeah, I do timed runs, but only with a watch on my bar. I time like that. That's it - easy, easy stuff.
Do you just concentrate on the riding?
| When I ride a mountain bike, I just want to do it for fun.|
I really like to ride for fun, I take my enduro bike or downhill bike and go for a ride and have fun. When I am training, I take my road bike or cross bike. When I ride a mountain bike, I just want to do it for fun. Any special tricks from your mechanic?
Every race, Colin, he puts a sticker on my handlebar with some key words that he finds. It's different all the time and it works. For this race, it was "Believe, Attack, Execute."
I just discovered that the morning before the race, they are always some precise words. He just knows all the time what will work for my mind, it's really cool. That's a little thing we have now.
No special mods with race wheels, like taking out seals or oil in the bearings?
| Believe, Attack, Execute.|
No, nothing. It's the basic bike you buy the bike at the shop, and it's the same bike I race. Do you carry a bag?
No bag. I have a bottle cage all the time and I feed at the food stations. I have a little jacket that I put under my jersey with pockets at the back where I put a tube and co2 stuff for repairs, and a few bars. I hate riding with a backpack. It's the worst thing ever. All the time, I feel so locked. I can't move properly. You seem to be a fan of nice and simple?
Yeah, keep it easy!Riding Yoann's Giant Reign Yoann was kind enough to lend me his spare bike for the EWS in Whistler - "Le B Bike," Similar to Nico Vouilloz's bike in Rotorua, the Rock Shox suspension was set with super-fast rebound, but with plenty of progression in the springs. His large sized bike was surprisingly comfortable for me, considering he stands at 177cm and I am 185cm tall with stupidly long arms. The suspension was way too hard for me, though, and we had to drop the spring rates after a few hours of practice, because I couldn't hold on to the Giant any longer. The boy must put in some serious gym time to keep a hold of the Reign on long stages. (Maybe, having a girlfriend as a personal trainer helps out here.)
The standout characteristic of the bike was steering. The slack Reign seems to steer better than its head angle would suggest. When weighting the front wheel, it felt like my mass dropped well behind the front axle. That meant changing direction on cambered or rough trails was a cinch. The front wheel would climb over obstacles rather than skid when turned. I wonder if that had something to do with the rearward axle path of the Giant, or the weight distribution? Or, maybe he's been playing with fork offsets. Does Yoann know more than he lets on?
So there you have it: Giant's Yoann Barelli uses a simple approach compared to many of his competitors. There's a lot to be said for having fun on the bike when it comes to putting in a good race performance. Many riders have been known to crack, or become demoralized under the constant pressure of racing. Yoann has a great, fun attitude and this is clearly reflected in his riding.