At the tender age of sixteen, Belgian phenomena Martin Maes caught the eyes of Atherton Racing at The Superenduro of Nations at Sauze d’Oulz in 2012. Since his subsequent signing to the team, Martin has gone on to dominate the U-21 category of the EWS, take his maiden podium in the GC, as well as finishing in 6th place overall. Add into that two WC downhill wins from as many starts, a silver at World Champs and a win at Sea otter dual slalom, and that’s all before turning nineteen… For 2016 Martin and Atherton Racing are to part ways bringing to an end a very successful partnership, but with a fresh prospect and new beginning on the GT Factory Team you can expect more big things from Martin in the coming season.

Martin has already been hugely successful but the best is definitely yet to come.

ENDURO: So Martin, obviously the big news since the end of the season has been the Atherton / GT split and your subsequent departure from Atherton Racing. A big change for you, it must be tough to part ways but you’ll be excited for a fresh prospect racing on the GT Factory Team in 2016?

Martin: “Yes, it is going to be a big change without Atherton Racing alongside GT bicycles. I’ve always been super stoked to work with these two great sponsors. I guess it was time for some changes and having the opportunity to keep working with a brand such as GT was definitely super exciting. All the team is super excited to perform and have great times together for the next three years.”

ENDURO: You’ll be working with some new faces in 2016 with new teammates, namely Anneke Beerten, Rachel Throop and we hear Wyn Masters will be continuing to mix up his downhill and enduro racing, how will this affect your approach to racing?

Martin: “GT has never put pressure on for results or anything else. They just want you to have fun on your bikes and ride as well as you can. That is super cool and I think we’ll all ride with the same approach when racing. I can’t wait to be in Chile for the first round of the EWS in March !”

Mixing up both downhill and enduro, Martin took the win in the juniors at Fort William despite a crash!
Mixing up both downhill and enduro, Martin took the win in the juniors at Fort William despite a crash!

ENDURO: Over the last 2 years we have seen you turn up at the odd World Cup and World Champs and race them very successfully despite having little time for downhill bikes. Do you have any plans to mix up your racing next season?

Martin: “The plan will be the same as over last two years actually! I’m employed to race enduro and that is what I want to race the most. Racing enduro gives you so much in terms of ability. We all have to be complete riders to perform and I love this fact!”

ENDURO: What was your reason behind deciding to focus on a full EWS campaign despite being able to fight at the top in both downhill and enduro?

Martin: “Racing both Enduro/Downhill at the highest level isn’t physically and mentally possible. There is so much traveling and even being able to be 100% for each EWS isn’t possible. I try to focus on what I do as well as I can and that’s why I’m mainly focused on the EWS. When I race at a downhill World Cup I’m going there without any pressures. Just because I want to do it to see something different and get some experience. I’m still a young rider, I don’t want to get stuck on what I’m doing… It’s also fair to say that racing downhill gives me some extra confident for the EWS so it’s amazing! I’m stoked with my calendar for this coming season.”

Disbelief after crossing the line into the top spot.
Disbelief after crossing the line into the top spot.

ENDURO: It was a very successful year for you, taking your maiden EWS podium as well as a win at Fort William WC and a silver at World Champs. What are your thoughts as a whole on the past season?

Martin: “It’s been a good season, thanks ! I always try to find a good balance in my life. I’ve got an amazing family behind me and a great team. The GT sanction and fury are probably some of the best bikes on the market and it helps! After that, to me, it’s all about work and how far you can push your limits and how clever you can be on the bike. It’s never easy, that’s probably why a season can be so different than the previous one. Luck has a role too…”

ENDURO: I remember standing in the finish area at Fort Bill World Cup in disbelief when you crossed the line into 1st despite being 20th at split 1 with a crash! That must have been one of the sweetest moments of your career so far?

Martin: “Oh man… That was the craziest moment of my career so far! When I crossed the finish line I just couldn’t believe it. I knew after my crash that I could still manage to do a top 5 but not winning a junior downhill World Cup. It will definitely stay in my head for a long time…”

Martin is quickly becoming one of the best all round riders, quick on both the tech and the pedally sections.
Martin is quickly becoming one of the best all round riders, quick on both the tech and the pedally sections.

ENDURO: You’re a permanent fixture in the EWS top 10, coming so close to the podium in a multitude of occasions. How did it feel to finally step onto the podium at Ainsa?

Martin: “Ainsa was definitely a highlight of the 2015’s season. I’ve been really close a few times and it felt good to be finally up there. I always say a top 5 is great these days but on the podium, it was damn special. All the riders on the top 8 were so close too. I remember Jared Graves finishing 6th only two seconds from the podium! Crazy isn’t it?!”

ENDURO: People used to say you are a technical specialist but you absolutely schooled everyone on the pedally Stage 6 in Finale, but were also right up there on the techy stuff too in 2nd on Men’s Downhill (Stage 4) for example. How are you building on this with training / riding for next season?

Martin: “I was stoked to finish the season with a strong last stage. When you come back home after the season, you enjoy the off season even more and you truly know that the effort you put in pays off. It’s a good feeling. We all train so hard and just the smallest details make all the difference these days… I train 95% of the time on my bike with the goal to get fitter every day and not placing much focus on my technique anymore. I sometimes forget I’m racing Enduro…”

On his way to claiming 2nd on stage 4 at the Finale Ligure EWS.
On his way to claiming 2nd on stage 4 at the Finale Ligure EWS.

ENDURO: The future of enduro is a much talked about topic, you amongst others were very critical of the stage choice in Finale when I last spoke to you. In which direction would you like to see the sport heading in?

Martin: “It’s hard to say to be very honest. First of all, riders have a different point of view and that’s something you are never going to change. Personally, I had no idea what I was doing in Crested Butte and on a few stages in Finale Ligure in 2015. This is something that most of the enduro riders will agree with me on. We don’t want to have a 3 hours liaison at some crazy altitude. We don’t want to risk our lives any more than we already do during a stage with a cross country helmet on our heads. We just want to have some technical and challenging stages; with a bit of a climb if it’s necessary to make the stage longer. We are riding with pads, back protector, water and most of the time a full face helmet. There should be a difference between a Marathon race and an Enduro race. When it comes to practice there is much to talk about but we all know that Enduro isn’t an easy discipline to give a strict rule to.”

You can expect big things from Martin over the coming years!
You can expect big things from Martin over the coming years!

ENDURO: And finally, looking to 2016 what are your goals and targets?

Martin: “I’d love to win an EWS! But hopefully being consistent all year long with some solid top 5 and podiums. This is my main goal for 2016. After that, doing well at some downhill World Cups and performing as well as I did in 2015 at the Sea Otter dual slalom and Whistler Dual Slalom!”

ENDURO: Thanks for your time Martin and good luck for next year!

Martin: Cheers ENDURO Mag, see you on the trails!

Words & Photos: Ross Bell

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