For many, Yoann Barelli is most likely known for his EWS racing, or perhaps the insane stuff he does on a CX bike, but Yoann actually started out racing downhill and still really enjoys riding and racing big bikes, even though his career is in enduro. One month before the 2017 Red Bull Hardline event, Yoann received an invite to participate and after a few days thinking about it, decided to jump right in and give it a go. The high-energy Frenchman was excited to be involved in such an event and to push his riding and confidence in the process. Despite preparing for it as best he could, he had no idea what was really in store, as we found out. Nevertheless, he is the first enduro racer to receive an invite to the event and to have a go at riding the track.
Yoann ahead of heading over to the UK for the event, what are you most concerned about with in regards to the Hardline track?
I'm actually concerned about Lots of things hahahahahaha! I've Been watching all the videos that I could find online about Hardline, and I've probably watched the same ones about 50 times haha. I just want to get there and being able to ride everything. For me it's a test, a huge challenge, can I do it, can I race it, can I hit these big jumps? I don't know... It's not like Rampage where you can build your own line, here it's more like, if the line is the Graham Agassiz line from last year's Rampage, then deal with it man hahahaha... I'm just about to get on the plane for Manchester, Dave Garland (Dany Hart ex Mechanic, and my mechanic for the weekend) is coming to pick me up at the airport, we will have one day of riding/testing on Wednesday on a steep track to get used to the terrain, then we will head to the Hardline venue to meet everyone. I'm super excited to start this experience. It's rad.
You have been riding a lot of DH lately, is this purely preparation for the event, or somewhat normal for the tail end of the year for you?
It was purely prep for the event at the beginning, but after racing the Canadian Open at Crankworx I f*cking loved it, some circumstances made me race a BC Cup in Big White just after that, and I loved it, even more, then I raced the Stevie Smith Memorial DH. I kinda forgot how good DH racing was and it made me realize that it's the best way to get better on a bike when you are young. I really encourage all the young mountain bikers to get into it as a first sport or as a compliment.
I think that doing these three races will be beneficial for Hardline for sure, you know, just to get there and feeling good on the bike, not like a beginner… even if I might still feel like one, hahahaha!
How have you been preparing for the event, and do you think it's been enough to prepare you?
It's been a mix of riding on the big rig and watching videos of it really, I got the invite four weeks ago and made the call one week later… so it didn't let me much time to prepare properly for it really, especially when I also have the last round of the EWS just after Hardline—two completely different events haha.
I think I did my best in terms of prep, now I'll just have to connect with the track, the vibe of the event, the other riders, and go with the flow. I won't lie, I'm scared, but it's a good scariness, the one that makes you respect the danger of the track and the features.
So Yoann, we're at the event now and you've seen the track, but what brought you to Red Bull Hardline?
What brought me to Hardline was a dream. I was watching Hardline for two years in a row and I was like woah, this is something I want to do. I had a chat with Sven Martin, I think he spoke to the organizer saying I was really keen to do it. So I got the invite and I was super stoked, but super scared. So I asked a few people if they thought I could make it down the track, they said ‘yeah if it was dry you could definitely do that, if it's wet it might be a different story’. So when I arrived here and it’s pissing rain every day – hah!
Is this the craziest trail you’ve ever ridden?
For sure, that’s definitely the sketchiest, gnarliest!
What is the most challenging aspect of this track to you?
F*ck, everything! In the mud, like in the wet, the jumps are a big thing for me. I never did a jump that big before. Also in-between the jumps is actually f*cking gnarly, which is not seen on the TV. We don’t actually know what that bit is like until we actually get there and we see people tripoding down it, then you’re like woah, this is insane.
What's your favourite discipline within mountain biking? Does such a thing exist?
So I’m an enduro specialist but I really enjoy going down, I really enjoy the downhill stages. I’m not really a big fan of climbing.
So e-bike enduro stages then, yeah?
Eughhhhh, hahaha, no f*ck the e-bike. No e-bike!
Do you not worry about such a high consequence event a week before the final EWS?
When I came here I was like, look Yoann, your job is not racing Hardline, it's racing the EWS and to do some other stuff, that’s my personality and I like to be crazy! But if something is kind of too scary or too sketchy just don’t do it. Don’t push yourself over the limit. When I came here I did a few jumps that were quite big actually. Then I got to the biggest one and I was like wow, this is gnarly and if you crash you’ll get injured and not just a little bit injured. But really seriously injured, so I was just like yeah, I’ll take it easy.
What is your biggest fear?
I don’t know… maybe to not be able to express myself. But not in paralysis, if you are mentally strong you can do some other stuff and take it as a new start. I mean kinda express yourself not being able to talk or not being able to communicate with people. Because I kinda… You know when you learn a new language? When you learn English at first you can’t communicate with people, like, you can’t be yourself.
How do you like your eggs in the morning?
I don’t eat eggs, I’m kinda vegan. I’m getting to the plant-based diet.
How did you like your eggs in the morning?
What do you look forward to the most about the off-season?
Well, what I look forward to the most this off-season is spending it with Katrina (Strand). We are having a baby and the due date is the 23rd of November. So yeah, I’m really looking forwards to that.
F*ck yeah man!
If Hardline is a success, will we see you at Rampage in the future, maybe it won’t be wet…
Well, Hardline is definitely not going to be a success for me because I’ve decided not to race. I kinda realized here that taking big risks like that… I would have been comfortable two, maybe three years ago.
But you can dig your own lines at Rampage…
I was thinking last year because we actually went to watch it (Rampage), and I was like f*ck, if I do Rampage I will do something that’s me, something that's funny. Something kinda crazy – I wanted to build my line and dig a few switchback climbs to climb back up. And then kinda stop at the top, have a drink and then say f*ck you guys, I’m going for a second lap.
Hah, that's great Yoann. Thanks for your time, and good luck producing the Instagram story tomorrow!