Racing is a cruel mistress, and top level racers spend their lives on that fine line between giving it 100%, and going too far! Crashes are inevitable, most of the time you get up and dust yourself off, high five your mates and tell the tale over a beer, but sometimes you are not so lucky! We have all felt those first few seconds where you wait for the pain, out of breath and flooded with adrenalin, as it fades sometimes your body tells you that it is broken, and everything changes!

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That is exactly what happened to the 2013 Enduro World Series Champion, Jerome Clementz last Sunday. He was enjoying the intense racing at the French Enduro series in Blausasc, fully pinned on an easy straight, then disaster happened! We caught up with Jerome to find out not only how he is doing, but also to find out more about the man behind the champion, how he prepares and how he is so dominant in a sport that demands so much from an athlete.

Hey Jerome, we were all devastated to hear that you are out for the season, what happened?

The crash was quite simple and I’ll say unlucky! I was pedalling into a flat section in the first stage of Sunday, at the French Enduro series in Blausasc! Behind some grass, a rock was hidden and I smashed my pedal into it! I was thrown up and over the left side and hit the ground with all my weight on the left shoulder! It hurt like crazy but I thought I had been lucky, then I moved my shoulder I got worries, as soon as I tried to lift my bike I knew something was wrong and I thought I had broken my collarbone. I went to the hospital and the x-ray showed that it was not broken but dislocated!

I guess that’s what happens sometimes, so what now, you are booked in for surgery right?

On Monday I went to see a specialist, who told me I was at level 3 (pretty bad) and the option were clear. My first option was to have no surgery just yet, strapping it up and racing! However I would have a weak shoulder that could pop-out at any time and still require surgery at the end of the season with a harder and longer rehab!

The other option was to have surgery now, with 3 months off, but leaving me with a brand new and strong shoulder, perfect to start rehab! I took the 2nd option and I get a tight rope surgery on Monday the 26th. I should be back on a road bike mid July but will need more time for MTB.

The goal is to be back in perfect shape for Finale Ligure and to be able to have a productive off season to prepare for 2015!
The goal is to be back in perfect shape for Finale Ligure and to be able to have a productive off season to prepare for 2015!

The goal is to be back in perfect shape for Finale Ligure and to be able to have a productive off season to prepare for 2015! Of course it’s a big disappointment, to end the season this way, especially after a strong start and all the work during the winter! However it’s not in my spirit to attend a race at 80%; I like to be flat out and give my best! I’ve been lucky so far with injury and I always considered this situation as a possibility at some point in my career. I always said to myself that in this case I’ll choose the best long term solution for my body and my career. I’m only 30 and I want to keep my body in good condition, to be competitive and healthy in the future. Racing is only a part of my love for MTB and I want also to be able to enjoy my rides in a long term perspective.

Will you attend some of the races as a spectator? It will be strange to be on the other side of the tape?

Yes I’ll come to some races, I may even travel to Scotland to cheers for my friends and watch the race! I will be gutted for sure but at the same time it would be even worse to follow this from home! Then I will take some summer holidays, something that has not happened for me for the last 10 years! You have to stay positive! The hardest thing for me will be to stay relaxed after the surgery, I’m a bit hyperactive, so laying on my couch is not what I do the best!

We are all looking forward to seeing you back racing for the series in 2015, What are your thoughts on who may win the 2014 title

Thanks, I’m also looking forward to coming back! The battle for 2014 will be interesting one for sure. From what we have seen in Chile, Jared seem to be really strong and consistent so he’ll be the favourite, but there are plenty of hungry riders with enough talent to take the win. Florian Nicolai is showing some great speed, and Martin Maes is always so close to a big win. Justin Leov and René Wildhaber always ride super well so they are ones to watch too. And to finish I’ll say that Nicolas Lau has the potential to win everywhere if he can find the pace and consistency. But I could also keep on going with Absalon, Cure, Barnes, May, they are always around the top 5!

Jerome is looking to come back strong for the final in Finale, we will see another victory!
Jerome is looking to come back strong for the final in Finale, will we see another victory?

How did it feel to start the season with a win at EWS Round 1?

It’s always great to start with a win and I’ll not complain with the top spot. However, the most important thing was it’s good to know that what you did all winter paid off, and you’re in the mix for the battle. On top of this, Chile was a sick race with perfect organisation, wicked trails, great atmosphere and a top location, so for sure this one will remain in my mind for a while.

How did you spend the winter? What did you do in order to be just as good as last year?

I was a bit pissed because we didn’t get much snow this winter. Usually I don’t touch my bike in December and January, but this year with the weather I was able to ride non-stop with some trips skiing. I did also few sessions at the gym. Then at the end of January I went to Lanzarote with Ludo May and Ténerife with Mark Weir for some road and MTB training. Then with Pauline (Dieffenthaler, Jeromes girlfriend) we went for a month in Chile in February in order to race the Andes Pacifico and enjoy some summer heat and adventure. It was a perfect month with the best conditions to train and discover amazing places. So to sum up my winter, it was a mix of serious training and some fun adventures, which is important


Not a lot of people know that you started in biathlon; do you think that such a cardio sport set you up well for enduro racing?

Yes, I was competing in Biathlon and for sure this helped for the cardio, but it also got me conditioned to suffer a lot, you know what pain is when you do cross country skiing!!!

It must have made you a real cardio machine! You say that you still enjoy skiing, but does it worry you about the injury risk?

I love to ski and I love the snow. I like to leave my bike and enjoy something different every once in a while. There is a time for everything and also helps to keep some excitement when you take your bike out again.

Jerome is no stranger to self induced cardio agony!
Jerome is no stranger to self induced cardio agony!

What other sports do you enjoy outside of biking and skiing?

I like to swim, climb and more or less all the outdoor activities like surfing, slacklining and kayaking.

How much time do you put into training and fitness, compared to the time it takes to manage the business aspects of your career?

At the start I was doing everything by myself, but now Pauline is in charge of all the logistics, media relations and partners needs. I spend half a day training, then when I come back from my session I deal with the press, social media and other stuff at home. Sometimes when I’m bored I finish my day with a gym session at home. When you travel you do a lot more riding, so when you come back home, there is not too much time left if you want to catch up.

Is it hard to balance family life with such a time demanding career?

2 years ago, Pauline had a normal job in the kitchen industry, so we didn’t have the same schedule. She was working in the week and I was away during the week end. It brought some conflict, so we decided to try to work together and help each other. I’m lucky that she shares the same passion for biking, otherwise it would be way more difficult.

Do you get to travel with your family too?

Until this year my dad was my mechanic, following me with my mother through every round of the EWS. They have always been a huge support for me, never pushing me but always supportive. It’s great to have them around and to share it with the people you love.

Is there somewhere that you have ridden that really stands out in your memory?

It has to be Bolivia, my first experience of south America with René Wildhaber, Marco Toniolo and Allistair from Gravity Bolivia. We rode in incredible landscapes, lost in the middle of 6000m peaks, with perfect trails and an amazing culture. This was an experience I will never forget.

You are now an inspiration for many, who were your inspirations when you were developing as a rider?

I have a poster of Nico Vouilloz in my room, where I was adding the number of world titles every year with a Sharpie. Then when I moved more into enduro, René Wildhaber was my role model. He was so strong, winning the mega every year, but always staying humble, friendly and never arrogant. You could see that neither René nor Nico were doing this for money or fame, but because they loved to give their best, and loved what they were doing!

Do you still remember your first mountain biking podium?

I don’t really, I’m not sure if it was an XC or Trail race. But I remember my first win in downhill. I remember being impressed at how the riders were sprinting out of the gate, I never thought that I would be able to win. A friend of mine showed me the guy that normally won, and I still remember how aggressive he looked on his bike. When they called me on the podium I couldn’t believe it!

Was it hard to start making a living out of biking in the beginning?

This was never the plan and it came step by step. I first chose enduro because this is the kind of riding that I liked, they were no pros at the time. After winning Megavalanche, I got a deal with MBK with a bit of money to pay for my travel expense. When I signed with Cannondale I stop working as an educator full time, to be a ski patroller in the winter and enjoy racing in the summer. In 2010 I was able to race full time as Mavic offer me some work as community manager and ever since 2013, I can now live of my passion and also pay Pauline as a team manager and Jeremie Reuiller as a filmer/photographer!

Did you ever think about giving it up and choosing a different career?

I have always studied and ensured that I have a backup plan. I’ve a licence in sport education for coaching and training, my MTB guide and cyclist coach exams and am a qualified Ski Patroller. In 2009 I started my company Loizo Rider Productions, organizing MTB events and consulting for MTB brands. So yes I can say that I always thought of the possibility that this can end at anytime, and that I may have to do something else.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional mountain biker?

I guess I would probably be working as a MTB guide and Ski Patroller in the winter. Or maybe just a traveller, carrying my back pack around the world.

I first chose enduro because this is the kind of riding that I liked, they were no pros at the time
I first chose enduro because this is the kind of riding that I liked, they were no pros at the time

Speaking of travelling, you’ve spent so much time travelling and on the road, is there any trick that you’ve learned or must-have item to help make travelling easier?

Noise cancelling earphone is a must when you fly, and never be surprised if you have to pay extra cost for your luggage, the rules always change and you just have to make the balance up at the end of the year. Also one of the most important things is that locals are the best, if you go somewhere try to hang out with locals, they will give you the best advice and experience.

Do you listen to music to get you psyched up, if so what would be your top 3 ‘get in the zone tracks’?

I listen music all the time so it’s hard to choose. I’ll say: Metallica- master of puppets, Smashing pumpkins-Tarantula, Iron Maiden- Talisman, they are all big favourites.

What would your advice be to young riders who want to make a career out of riding and are looking for sponsorship?

The best thing is to just ride and if you’re good you’re time will come.

There must be more to it than that, with Social media being so important now, do you think it is easier for riders to gain recognition?

I think it’s easier to show your skill, but there is also more people that can do this. Being fast is not enough anymore, you should also be smart, innovative, have some communication skills and find a way to show who you are. Your personality is as important as your skill.

Are you still getting faster?

I hope so! I’m not that old!!! Peaty is still getting faster so I have some more years yet.

You have ridden a lot of bikes over the years, do you keep bikes that you have loved, and do any bikes have special significance to you?

For sure, I kept all my Megavalanche winning bikes, and of course the special Cannondale Jekyll built for Finale last year!

Who do you ride with the most?

I ride a lot with friends at home. When I go to races, I ride mostly with my team mates Ben Cruz and Marco Osborne. I also like to ride and travel with Ludo May, one of the funniest and nicest guy out there.

French riders are so strong in European enduro. Do you think that is due to the kind of terrain you grow up riding or is it about attitudes to the sport in France?

For sure the terrain helps, we have plenty of great areas to ride bikes and tons of singletrack but this is not everything. We have a good system for the kids with TRJV where up to 14 you have to race XC,DH, Trail and learn how to read a map. We have also held enduro races for more than 10 years now, which is a big advantage! Now we have at least 6-7 local championship and one great national series, basically you can race every weekend.

In my generation you were riding either XC or DH but now kids start at 15 in enduro, perhaps because it has became something central in the MTB scene, and it is suited to the vision of a lot of riders of what they want to do with their bike.

I have a poster of Nico Vouilloz in my room, where I was adding the number of world titles every year with a Sharpie.
I have a poster of Nico Vouilloz in my room, where I was adding the number of world titles every year with a Sharpie.

Do you think it is more difficult coming into a new season as the current world champion, there must be a lot more motivation for riders who came in second and third to train harder for example?

In my opinion motivation is a really personal thing, and it comes in many different forms. This year for me I think I wanted to prove that it was not only a one shot victory, and that it will not be easy to steal my title. I wanted to be a strong contender for the season! I think that in some ways I had less pressure, I didn’t have to prove that I was strong, and I had already achieved my goal, so if I could win again it would be a bonus. If I was not strong enough, it means that the level has become higher and I need to go back to work.

There must have been a lot of unknowns when lining up on the start gate at Chile?

It’s good to feel that everything you did during the winter seemed to work. Once the race is over you have less worries, you just have to keep doing what you plan and fine tune your riding and fitness. You sometimes worry over the winter, hearing of riders having different training routines, trying new stuff, but you carry on doing your thing, never sure if it’s enough or you are making the right choices. The first round helps you to validate your preparation, motivates you and shows that you are in the game, this all makes things easier for your mind.

Does the speed of the some of the young riders coming through like Martin Maes worry you?

Yes it worries me because it makes me feel like I am getting older! I’m master 1 on my licence this year; I never thought this will happen so quickly!!! It’s great to see new kids, riding fast and killing it in enduro. You can’t complain to have competition, it makes things more exciting and you have to dig deeper if you want to stay competitive. I’m impressed by Martin, he’s young, fast and consistent and on top of that he is already really mature. I was so happy when I won the title last year because I knew I will not have lots of opportunity before Martin or another kid moves up to dominate the discipline.

Your stages always seem super consistent, is it important not to push too hard and make mistakes?

You can never catch up the time you have lost. You can’t know a trail perfectly, so I try to feel the flow of the trail, find the pace and try not to be uncontrolled. In my mind this is the best way to stay consistent and stay on the top of the result sheet. Go fast when it’s easy and go safe when you can lose a lot!

Let’s talk about preparation, when you arrive at a new place with just 2 days to practice, how do you go about learning stages? Do you have a method?

As I said before, I try and feel the flow. When I ride for the first time if I don’t struggle to see a line or what is coming, I don’t stop. But if I struggle, I put this section in my head, I look if there is something to change and I try to remember where it is on the stage so when I race, I remember the key point where you have something to do and if there is nothing to remember I just go flat out!

When you are practicing stages, do you like to watch other riders, or find your own lines?

Other riders will not be there when you ride, so I like to find my own line. There are normally not too many lines in general, it’s more the way you ride it and you have to take the one you’re the more comfortable with.

And what about speed, do you like to build up to speed, or start doing fast runs as soon as possible?

Usually a first run, smooth and then a quick one. With experience I think that after 2 runs I can pretty much ride the trail at my maximum speed.

With experience I think that after 2 runs I can pretty much ride the trail at my maximum speed.
With experience I think that after 2 runs I can pretty much ride the trail at my maximum speed.

When the stages get longer (5 minutes +) do you think that tactics play a large part, do you try and find areas where you can ease back and save energy?

For sure you have to know your body and how long you can ride at the right pace! It’s not really a tactic, but with more experience you start to know that fine point between getting exhausted after 3 minutes or crossing the line with plenty energy left in the tank. The strategy is to choose the right bike or right approach during training, and then during the race it’s 100%.

Do you ever get nervous at the level of risk on some of the stages (Val D’Isere last year had some very exposed sections), do you ever think ‘I don’t really want to be racing on this’?

Not really nervous, but conscious that this is the wrong place to crash! You have to stay focused on these sections and be cautious. Technically it’s no harder to ride on a 10cm line on the ground than next to a cliff!! So you have to stay mentally strong, stay focussed on where you want to go and don’t do stupid things.

Is it easier being in the lead, or do you prefer chasing?

I prefer to be the chaser, you have nothing to lose and a goal is easy to see. When you are in the lead you’re in a defending position. I will not say that I don’t like to lead after the 1st stage but I think it’s easier mentally to be chasing. At the end what matters is to be sure you gave it everything you had, to be satisfied with your performance, with or without the results, and just knowing that you couldn’t have done any better.

Now you have the world champion title, what drives you to win?

I enjoy doing my best, I like to continually try to get better and faster. I love this feeling of being on the edge, the excitement of pushing to the max. On top of that you get to see great places, the atmosphere with the riders is friendly and I enjoy being at the races with everybody.

What does the future hold for you, do you see yourself carrying on into your 40’s at elite level?

Who knows? Personally I don’t think I want to race that long, but so far I love trying to stay at the top level. I think it will depend of how things evolve, I like challenges, so if it becomes a routine, I may be looking for new challenges in the bike industry with a job, or something else!

So let’s talk about riding, your style and position on the bike is very distinctive, is that something you developed yourself or have you worked with a lot of coaches over the years?

Not coaching especially. This is the way I feel better on the bike and how I enjoy playing with the terrain. Everything is natural and I think that is important

Personally I don’t think I want to race that long, but so far I love trying to stay at the top level
Personally I don’t think I want to race that long, but so far I love trying to stay at the top level

What is the best piece of bike setup advice you have ever been given?

Don’t put too much air in your tyres! (check out Jeromes thoughts on pressures here)

What is the most common setup advice that you give?

Except for the tyre advice, I think the most important thing is to feel comfortable on your bike. Try a shorter stem, good handlebars, try raising the position of your break lever and adjusting your suspension setting. You have to play with your bike, this is the best way to enjoy and get better.

Have you always run a firm setup on the bike, or has it evolved over the years?

I don’t think I ride a particularly stiff setup as I use all the travel!! It’s maybe because I don’t like my bike to dive and I take a bit less care about comfort. I want to feel my bike react fast and keep going faster. I’m quite light and dynamic so I need setups that suit the way I handle my bike.

Do you have a lot of input into the development of new bikes?

I’m not an engineer, I give feedback of my feeling to the people in charge of the development. I am happy to give directions, or things I want to improve, then the engineer or product manager works in this direction and I test again. It’s something I like to do to keep things interesting when I ride!

What innovation would you like to see in the bike industry?

Wireless Brake!! A bike that can change colors if you wash it with hot or cold water!!! This would be amazing.

You seem to suffer from mechanicals and punctures less than other riders, is that down to style or good setup?

I think it is down to good product choice, I’m light and my mechanic is awesome!! But seriously, I think that MTB products have improved a lot over the last few years and we have more and more reliable products with a great strength/weight ratio.

Who does the mechanic work on your bike?

Until last Year it was me and my Dad and Giacomo Angeli at some races. Since 2014 Matteo Nati, has become my full time mechanic. It’s important to trust your mechanic and with my Dad or Matteo, I know they give me the best bike when it’s time to race. They are a big part of the success for sure.

You are part of the advisory board for the EWS, it seemed like the sport learnt a lot over the last year, do you see a lot more industry interest in the riders now (in terms of sponsorship and career opportunities)?

There is more and more interest in the discipline, and for sure we learned a lot last year, with the EWS providing some good answer for 2014. Industry, organiser and riders are working together and this is a key point for the future in my mind. However, the economy is not growing fast and it’s hard for a rider to make a living out of Enduro, especially if you’re not in the top 10. In my position I’m lucky enough to have great partners and we try not to work only on short term projects but also for the future, for when I’ll stop racing. With Pauline and Jeremie we built a big and ambitious project with our partner, not only on the racing aspect, I think today it is important to multi task and make plans for the future!

Do you mentor or help train any rising talents?

I try to help the local kids that ride with advice and support. I have started supporting 17 years old Corentin Macinot, and try to help him with my experience, training and strategic tips. I was lucky to have good mentors during my career so I try to give back. Steve Peat for me is the best example of this with Beaumont, Bryceland and the Steve Peat Syndicate, it inspired me!

Steve Peat for me is the best example of this with Beaumont, Bryceland and the Steve Peat Syndicate, it inspired me!
Steve Peat for me is the best example of this with Beaumont, Bryceland and the Steve Peat Syndicate, it inspired me!

And finally do you have any particular goals for this year now you will miss your title campaign for the EWS? Is there a race that you are especially looking forward to?

As I will not be able to fight for a new EWS title my first goal is to fully recover and come back stronger. I’ll try to be back in September and enjoy the last part of the season! Winning Finale Ligure would end the year on a good note! In between I’ll enjoy my summer without a bike, which will be new for me as I am never able to do “normal stuff” because I was always racing in the mountains! But I will be back!

Best of luck with your recovery Jerome!
Best of luck with your recovery Jerome!

Interview: Trev Worsey

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