After a strong 2015 season in which she graced the podium twice and consistently placed in the top five, Isabeau Courdurier is off to pastures new for the 2016 season. Leaving the Rocky Mountain URGE Team, she has taken up a place aboard the SUNN Enduro Team alongside Thomas Lapeyrie and Kilian Bron. With fresh surroundings, a relaxed atmosphere and a custom SUNN KERN to match her needs she is sure to thrive… We paid a visit to Isabeau at home in the South of France to have a chat about the move and the upcoming season.

Isabeau Courdurier Interview Portrait 1

ENDURO: Tell us about your winter, what have you been doing in the offseason?

Isabeau: So basically I have been staying in the South of France between Sophia Antipolis and Aix en Provence for my studies. I’ve trained a lot more than last winter after being stuck in Montreal, so it’s very good to just enjoy the sun of the Riviera. I’ve been focusing a lot more on my physical aspect as it’s somewhere I’m lacking. So I’ve been spending a lot of time with Laurent Solliet at Extrain who is my coach. I’ve done a lot of BMX this year, it was my first time entering a BMX race which is very good, I’ve been doing a lot of dirt also, a lot of snowboarding, skateboarding, a bit of surfing and a lot of skiing!

ENDURO: So a new team and bike for 2016, what are your feelings coming into the season?

Isabeau: I’ve got a very good feeling for this season. I’ve got a custom bike that fits my small size, which is very good for me! I also really like the atmosphere, the brand, and I already know my teammates, they are very good friends so I feel very good for this year.

Isabeau Courdurier Interview Action Shot 2

ENDURO: As you already mentioned, you know Thomas and Kilian well, what do you think they will be like to work with as teammates?

Isabeau: Yeah I already knew them previously, I have known Thomas for a long time as he was into cross country just like me and I know Kilian for maybe three or four years. We have spent 2 weeks together over the past few months in a kind of training camp to ski and we went to the factory so we have already spent a lot of time together. They are also very funny, I think it’s going to be a great year!

ENDURO: Your bike was developed with SUNN to your direct measurements and preferences?

Isabeau: Yeah, so I told them which bikes I have already ridden, what size I was, why I liked them. So they have followed my feelings to develop a bike that fits my really small legs and they have tried to put together something which I have already seen on the bike and that I liked. I just received the custom one so I will have 1 month before the first EWS. Before I had the standard small frame from SUNN which was already a very, very good bike. I had a great feeling on it. As soon as I was on it I felt comfortable riding it, it’s a very good bike when it’s very steep and sketchy and so already I have a good feeling on the small so I’m not afraid to only have 1 month on my custom one.

ENDURO: How does it compare to your Rocky Mountain from last year?

Isabeau: They are two very different bikes but they are both good, just very different. The Rocky was probably more rigid which is not always good in the sketchy sections. I feel like the SUNN is more forgiving with my mistakes when I am riding, so it’s quite enjoyable!

ENDURO: You somehow manage to juggle being a full-time student with racing, how difficult has that been and have you had to make sacrifices?

Isabeau: I think that people don’t realise how hard it is to combine both studies with racing a bike at such a high level. But I feel like for me it’s finding the flow in-between both and if I’m having good marks at school I’m pretty sure I’m going to have good results on the bike, it’s really a mix for me and I have never sacrificed the studies for biking or vice versa. I feel like it’s just a habit to take as soon as you can manage to do both it’s a good combination. It’s really hard, it takes me a lot of time. Of course, there are some sacrifices, like social life and stuff like that. I’m pretty sure at 21 years old a girl doesn’t have the same life as I have! But it’s my way to do it and I’m okay with that.

ENDURO: And you have aspirations outside of racing?

Isabeau: It’s again the same for me. I really feel like my studies are a compliment to my racing, I will see where it takes me, but I would definitely like to work in the mountain bike industry helping brands to develop something like women-specific products. I really feel like it’s a good combination, we’ll see!

Isabeau Courdurier Action Shot 2

ENDURO: What developments would you like to see in the sport over the next few years?

Isabeau: I think it has already changed a lot, but the women’s place in mountain biking is something that is really involving and something that I think is very important. Like we are racing and doing the same thing as men, but we have already seen a lot more media coverage which is great and I expect the sport to continue to develop. Maybe to have some more clear established rules, like in-between the events and more of a structure. We do have the same prize money and I believe there is equality in the sport between men and women I just wait to see if there is a more specific range of women products that are developed. I definitely think that the women’s field this year is going to change a lot. There are a lot of girls that have finally found the right support, I think about Katy Winton and girls like that. It is a great opportunity, I really think this year it’s going to be tight! I really think there is a lot of young riders that will prove their worth, it will be really tight and I hope that we will see a lot of different faces on the podium this year. I’m pretty sure it will happen!

ENDURO: Your thoughts overall on last season, you probably didn’t have the best preparation?

Isabeau: I think I had a lot of fun on my bike last season and it’s the certainly the most important thing for me, I definitely think the more fun I have on the bike the faster I am. If I’m having a good race it’s because I’m really enjoying it, I’ve got a big smile on my face and I just enjoy every second of the stages and it might make me faster, I don’t know! If you are having a good time on your bike you are definitely having a good race too.

ENDURO: Have you changed anything in regards to your training or riding approach this year?

Isabeau: I really think the thing I need to work on is my physique, I am not fit like Cecile, Anneke or Ines… So I am really trying to catch up a bit on this and I have been doing a lot more musculation and also a lot more BMX to try and be more explosive.

Isabeau Courdurier Interview Portrait 2

ENDURO: Do you have any particular race or event you are looking forward to or have your eyes on to do well at?

Isabeau: Yeah, sure! There is Whistler… This is my big, big event I am waiting for because I really like this kind of track, this kind of terrain with fast downhill sections. I finish 3rd there last year and it was quite a surprise, I won a stage too. I had so much fun on my bike, it was like the best event for me of the season, so I’m really waiting for this one!

ENDURO: Have you set yourself any goals for the season?

Isabeau: I always set goals, but it’s more for myself. I want to be the best I can, so hopefully if I have the same season as I had last season and I’ll be fine with that! My main objective is to again step onto an Enduro World Series podium with my new bike and new team which have been a lot of changes to make. Otherwise, I’d like to just win more stages, not especially races, but stages. That’s my main goal. SUNN are open to my results, for sure if I do podiums they would be happy but they don’t put pressure on me. Which is good!

Keep up to date with Isabeau’s training and racing on her Facebook-Page.

Words & Photos: Ross Bell

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