It’s a question that leaves so many riders perplexed: just what is it that makes Jerome Clementz so successful? Is it his ridiculously tough training, or is it a question of experience? Perhaps there’s something else entirely that’s responsible for this success? We paid a visit to his hometown, hoping to delve further into his successes and dig out the secret. The result was surprising to say the least.

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Jerome welcomes us to his house in Alsace.

It’s Wednesday morning, and together with two colleagues, Klaus and Frank from SRAM, I pull up outside of an unassuming house on the edge of Guebwiller in the region of Alsace. “This is number 32, it must be this,” declares Frank. Klaus and I glance at each other in disbelief. Could this really be Jerome’s place? As one of the fastest riders on earth, surely he had to have a fancier pad. The walkway up to the house proved us wrong. Through the curtain-less windows the trophy he’d seized at the Enduro World Series 2013 made its presence known on a shelf. A second later, a window opened on the first floor, and Jerome greeted us with a grin: “Bonjour! How are you doing?” It dawned on us then that this house visit wasn’t going to have much in common with an episode of MTV Cribs. Fortunately, Jerome’s warm welcome set the tone for the rest of the day.

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When you’ve won as many trophies as Jerome, you can afford to only present a selection of memorabilia in your living room.

Until this meeting I had only chatted briefly with Jerome at races, and loosely followed his goings-on on social media. Today was going to be different. Over coffee, we planned the schedule: riding, hanging out, then a BBQ. Jerome and his girlfriend Pauline Dieffenthaler certainly know how great days should pan out.

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Jerome keeps the start numbers of every single race and meanwhile his entire stairway down to the cellar is plastered with them.

A veritable icon within the world of enduro, we’re naturally keen to find out more about this rapid French rider. Casting our gaze around the modern living-cum-dining room, the walls are adorned with photos documenting his trips, while a large trophy from the Enduro of Nations stands proudly on a shelf, and the Enduro World Series 2013 overall winner’s trophy sits on the worktop between the kitchen and dining table. His others trophies, he explains, have been donated to his local bike club, where he first starting racing XC and downhill. The sole items that he will never sacrifice are the countless start numbers, of which he’s kept every single one. The stairway down to the cellar is proof of this, plastered with said start numbers. The sheer volume of these is evidence of the 31-year-old’s mass of experience, but it doesn’t necessarily account for his success.

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The trails in the region are suited perfectly as a training ground for Jerome and Pauline.

So the hunt for his secret continues. We load the bikes into the team bus and head towards one of Jerome’s local trails. “If I really push, then I’m back at my house in twelve minutes from here,” he laughs. For us, it ends up taking a good four hours to get down – although this is largely due to the photo and filming opportunities that we seize on this super diverse trail. But, Jerome’s twelve minutes, would we be anywhere near that? Not a chance.

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Jerome gives us some tutoring in geography and helps us understand the surrounding environment.

If you’re looking for the definition of a perfect enduro race stage, then this is the place to be. The route contains every ingredient to satisfy a rider, offering an unrivalled mix of flow and technical sections, interspersed with short climbs, and covering around 1,000 metres in altitude. We come to a standstill in a meadow. While Klaus sets up the drone, Jerome takes on the role of geography teacher, pointing out the various mountains and the spot where the three countries border one another. While the landscape here is fairly gentle, there’s still a lot of climbing potential, rendering this region an ideal training location. It doesn’t surprise us that other successful pros hail from here too: think Nico Lau and Remy Absalon, two good friends of Jerome, who regularly participate in the races organized by him and Pauline here in Alsace.

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Jeromes riding style is swift, agile and smooth like a cat when he hits his varied home trails.

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Back home, Jerome first of all takes care of his bike…

During our shoot we can’t help but admire Jerome’s incredibly smooth riding style. Nimbly weaving with cat-like agility, he and the bike glide over even the toughest terrain without any hint of damage to frame or components. “I very rarely ruin any wheels or tyres,” confirms Jey as we express our incredulity. This leads to yet another important point, the age-old racing wisdom of “You must first finish to finish first!”

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… before he lights the fire and prepares the barbecue together with Pauline.

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The perfekt dinner to regain energy after a long day on the bikes.

We’ve now narrowed his secret down to a few crucial factors that certainly contribute to Jerome’s speed. Still, he’s been at the top of his game for years, so there has to be more to discover. While we sit around barbecuing, the answer becomes clear: Jerome simply loves what he does! He enjoys the travelling and the chance to get to know new countries and cultures. His philosophy, he tells us, is simple: “At every race it’s important to be exhausted at the end, but to always cross the finish line with a smile, regardless of whether it’s a local race or an Enduro World Series race! If it’s not fun, then I can’t ride fast!” It transpires that this is in fact the secret to his success. This is crucial not just for riders, but a statement that event organisers should never forget either. Despite being an ever-more professional sport, enduro’s unerring draw comes from the thrill of discovery, the fun of taking part, and the diversity it offers. Both on and off the bike, these are the emotions that Jerome instills in those around him – and at the events that he organizes alongside Pauline. Always popular, their races are considered some of the best that we (and all the other participants) have ever ridden. Simple, friendly, and non-commercial, they focus on having fun while riding amazingly different sections with your mates. And they’re rounded off with local Alsatian delicacies and a beer! Cheers to this sort of race format – or rather, to this way of life!

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Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer

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