“MISSION, noun Fem.
Task given to someone to accomplish something or to do something. We gave him a mission. Synonyms: mandate "
Ever since Intense Mavic Collective was created, I have spent almost all of my season on these famous MISSIONS.
It’s part of my routine to set myself specific goals each time I go out on my bike and, apart from my racing programme, it’s by far what motivates me the most.
I've always enjoyed getting off the beaten track and exploring beyond my usual paths and peaks. Always searching for fantastic places or watching original videos of other horizons, I’m primarily inspired by the world of skiing and other winter sports. But, above all, I’m captivated by the innovative spirit!
This year, together with Pierre, the series cameraman, we were looking for something new and wonderful.
After having ridden across the highest dune in the world, a volcano more than 6,000m tall in Peru, the Namibian deserts in Africa and the heart of the Dolomites in Italy, it was time to add something extra to these adventures.
Until now, we had concentrated on the diversity of the places, the ways in which we filmed or - for the purists - the ways in which we rode. But there was no reciprocity. We are lucky enough to travel to the four corners of the Earth and it is often difficult to explain, in retrospect, the many life-changing moments and experiences that each destination offers.
It’s not just about cycling in unusual places. Through these latest videos and photos, we can only convey the tiniest percentage of what we have experienced in real life. My eyes have been opened to this by talking about my travels with my family and close friends. I've reached a simple conclusion: it is impossible to truly experience a journey unless you make it in real life. And it’s sometimes frustrating to have to keep your memories to yourself, incapable of expressing them.
At the start of 2019, we decided to launch MISSION ŠKODA. It took place over several stages, the first of which was to invite people to apply. The idea? To try to win a trip with me for the 5th episode of my MISSION web series.
Each candidate had to create and upload a short video to Instagram, showcasing their personality. We didn't get into detail about the type of person we were looking for, but it was clear that the eventual winner had to share my own vision of cycling.
Asking the public to enter a competition by creating content that goes beyond a simple like or comment, is already real proof of someone’s motivation. I’d like to thank all of those people once again (and, at the same time, apologise that I couldn't take you all with me
The profile and creativity of the various participants was such a pleasant surprise and it was difficult to decide on the final 10. After a public vote, this group was narrowed down to a top 3.
Charles Martigny, Elliot Lees and Yannis Pelé stood out from the crowd for all the reasons I've given. I was therefore pleased to spend a weekend riding with them in Finale Ligure, before the main trip to Chile.
Two days of riding, pizzas and conviviality in Italy. This wasn't to select a candidate, nor to put them in competition with one another but, above all, to get to know them. Apart from anything else, I wanted us all to enjoy the two days and for everyone to feel relaxed. I had a tricky job to do because I had to announce the winner after this little trip. Believe me, it’s always tricky to do this when you have been friendly since the start of the weekend.
Yannis was our winner. With a particularly difficult past, his story touched me the most. This promising, young downhill racer was the victim of a big crash during a French Cup race. Injured in numerous vertebrae, Yannis lost the use of his legs at 19 years old. The doctors’ verdict was unanimous: there was very little hope that he would walk again.
Still in rehabilitation since his accident, Yannis grew up faster than all his other friends. With unusual determination, he progressively regained feeling and stood upright once again after several months.
Personally, and I speak for many other riders, this is something we dread. I’ve always feared that type of accident, where everything can change in a fraction of a second. However, you can't let yourself get side-tracked by that, by thinking about it too much, but you have to be aware that these accidents happen.
I have to congratulate Yannis for his bravery and mental strength. I was interested in really getting to know him in Chile and I was also under pressure, since I did not understand his capabilities and limits beforehand. But he impressed me and it was often he who taught me the lessons. Thank you, Yannis.
Together with Pierre Henni, the project cameraman, we spent 3 weeks in Pucon. Our base camp dominated the lake and was located on the first slopes of the famous Villarica volcano. All around us, several other volcanoes offered up a different and unique landscape. From smoky summits to icy slopes, to magnificent, unusual forests way below, I knew from the beginning that this trip would be varied.
Not very relaxing, though! You have to earn everything there and access to various places is tricky. We started with our first big MISSION: conquering the Picchilancahue glacier. The goal? To spend two days in the mountains exploring the glacier and the possible free ride trails through the crevasses and brooks.
Yannis was not up to speed but I was also testing him. The best way to experience a trip to the mountains 10,000km from home, in a place that is ill-adapted to cycling, is on local tracks. Those first days allowed me to test his real motivation. Here, there were no shuttles, no chair-lifts, no official trails, just breathtaking scenery in the middle of nowhere.
It’s hard to imagine the surroundings, even when you see a well-made video. When you combine images with music, everything seems beautiful and easy. But there is always a huge amount of work that goes into it. Hours spent exploring areas with no success, nasty surprises, the unexpected - there’s a bit of everything! But that’s what makes the adventure interesting and that’s the first thing I tried to convey to Yannis. He understood quickly and focused on the essentials: the landscape through which we were moving.
I enjoyed being able to share these moments in real life. Yannis discovered what happens behind-the-scenes and the way we go about things. Apart from travel, I am really passionate about creating images that are just as intense as those I see when I ride!
The first night up in the mountains was also incredible. There was no light pollution around us, the Milky Way seemed unreal and the shooting stars were never-ending.
Even though I’d hated my huge bag at the start of the trip, I was happy to be comfortably set up. We had everything we needed! It is often difficult to transport water when you spend several days up in the mountains. It takes up space, it’s heavy and you have a whole lot of very important things you have to remember to take. The glacier was, therefore, our water source for this first small expedition. This allowed us to transport the tents and mats if we wanted to.
The next day, Yannis enjoyed his first trip down into the forest, among the great Monkey Puzzles. Surroundings worthy of Jurassic Park! Those trees, some of them 2,000 years-old, took us back to pre-historic times. However, I would advise you against rubbing up against them. Although they look like fir trees, they are just as aggressive as a cactus.
At the same time, I analysed the way Yannis rode and asked myself about his true DNA. He is well insulated and is gifted with a solid musculature. He takes front impact very well but he still has weaknesses at the back, especially with quick sequences. Yannis explained that it is difficult for him to make quick movements with his legs. It's therefore tricky to be very active in quick sequences or to stand up on the pedals. To give you a better idea of how he is doing at the moment, his rehabilitation work these days is centred around running, trying to ward off muscle spasms when he moves too quickly.
We made a series of other trips, especially to local bike parks. There is a real community of mountain bikers here in Chile and we had to see what it was about. The tracks are technical and involved, but always in very nice surroundings. One spot in the middle of a river bed, made from an old lava flow, particularly caught our attention. We will stop there at the end of the trip but, for now, there is some good weather coming in so we can't miss our next stage!
The summit of Solli Pulli, another volcano, 3 hours by car from Pucon. Besides that, it is one of the most unusual and varied summits that I’ve seen to date. Starting in a magical forest, lost at the bottom of the valley, we set out once again with our home on our back. We made the choice to take a lot of equipment and limit our climbing speed, divided over two stages. The first stage is over 600m of incline to set up our base camp among the huge swathes of volcanic rock, dotted with Monkey Puzzles. More surreal surroundings... You don't imagine for a second that trees could survive in the middle of a pebbled desert. The next day’s summit could be seen from the camp and we enjoyed the sunset, alone in the world!
Apart from the sun, we made the most of the opportunity to do a series of great trails flat out! I’m impressed by Yannis’s speed over this terrain, with which he was unfamiliar. He just wants to do well, to go fast, and it was also impressive to see the extent to which he had regained confidence.
A come-back of this kind after his accident was not just about physical rehabilitation work. There's a lot of groundwork and solid mental conditioning that goes into it. Despite his energy over two or three crossings, which made me break out into a cold sweat, I have to congratulate him.
Having given myself the responsibility of bringing him back to France in one piece, I had to insist on a few things. Falling in these circumstances is never fun. You are far from everything, sometimes without network, but it is vital to anticipate the fact that this can happen.
We cut the night short to wait for the sun to rise up over the ridges of the crater, 500m above sea level. I didn't warn Yannis, but the crater now contains a huge glacier across several kilometres. The spectacle was just like the others we discovered - magical! I took advantage of the end of the climb to get ahead a little and to stop at the first viewpoint over the glacier, excited to see Yannis and Pierre's reactions when they arrived.
They didn't disappoint and, I won't lie, the photo does not do it justice. I apologise again but it’s true when I say that you have to experience some things in person!
We spent quite a while contemplating the scenery, from the craters and the glacier. But great black free ride lines were calling us to the other slopes. It was also a first for Yannis and I invited him to follow me for the first few hundred metres.
Yannis lives in the mountains and he also skis. He therefore quickly grasped how to slide across this new terrain. We continued with the descent in the same order as the other volcanoes, leaving the volcanic rock for dust over a technical and winding trail, surrounded by Monkey Puzzles.
Back in Pucon, we will spent the last few days of our trip riding through those famous river beds and cascades. And as the end of the trip is for enjoyment and relaxation, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore the region in other ways. There are thermal hot springs dotted around Pucon and the area offers many cool tourist activities, such as parachute jumps above the Villarica crater!
I will have only great memories of new experiences from this trip to Chile. The team learnt some good lessons and I can only thank Skoda for allowing us to experience such wonderful moments. Thank you, Yannis, for your endless bravery and motivation throughout the trip!
I hope I've passed on the message: get out of your comfort zone!