An insider account of Amaury Pierron’s race week." />

World Cup #5: Les Gets - Behind the Scenes of a World Cup Win

French holiday weekend saw the fifth round of World Cup DH racing in Les Gets, France. A wonderful weekend for the COMMENCAL VALLNORD DH Team ‘at home’ where Amaury Pierron grabbed his second victory of the season! But beyond the hustle and bustle of the weekend, and for many months previous, the team has put a lot of work in for this round. This is the story of a World Cup with Amaury Pierron and Arthur Quet, Team Engineer.

Photos: Nicolas Brizin / Keno Derleyn / Thibault Sadargues

“Shouldn’t we remove the first Tokens to be more reactive on the grass?" This is one of the first questions that Amaury Pierron asked Arthur Quet when he watched his first GoPro run back on the Les Gets track. “We could do it, but I'm afraid the bike is too uneasy," he answers. It’s in the World Cup pits where mechanics, team managers and their teams will live and work together in order to find the best of everything before Saturday's grand final. The smallest detail can equal maximum importance. The goal is obviously to be in the best possible place before and during the race. And to bring home the win!

This Les Gets World Cup is important. Riders racing on home soil in front of huge numbers of fans. “Racing in France is a privilege for us. There is always a mad atmosphere, the public lift us... We must provide a good show! Especially for me, after last week's disappointment in Vallnord,” explains Amaury Pierron.

The Underside of the Iceberg 

The public sees part of the life of the team, the warm-ups and training sessions on the track etc. But the preparation by staff and riders starts well beforehand. "The track bears no resemblance to Vallnord last week. It's much faster, and shorter by about a minute. If I had to manage my effort in Vallnord, here it will be full gas from start to finish. Even the smallest mistakes will be very expensive. So we’ll have to understand it as best as possible and find the best settings quickly” says Amaury. Before Arthur Quet adds, "The settings of a bike can completely change from one track to another. Everything depends on the altitude difference, the slope, the lines... In the end, the track itself evolves a lot with all the runs throughout the week. The geometry of the bike, the suspension settings, the position of the shock, the pressure of the tyre rubber can therefore constantly evolve too!"

From Wednesday morning, the World Cup race week begins with the traditional track walk. The riders and close team including of course Arthur, spend time on foot analysing every inch of the track. After a first debrief with all the staff, Arthur says, "The track is ultra fast. We know that it can quickly deteriorate. The lines will change a lot during the week. We will have to make several adjustment tests."


At this level of competition, every day Amaury will spend several minutes with Arthur discussing the smallest details. We’re not just talking about the bike or the track, but also the man, the athlete, and his state of mind. "I spend a lot of time with Arthur all year long and when i’m racing, every day. Our relationship could be described as harmonious. This is very important to me. Not only mechanically, but also mentally. There is a lot of sharing, trust and banter between us. We discuss everything, even the most futile details and it works.” said the French rider.

Arthur explains, "After defining the strategy for the weekend with Thibaut (Ruffin, Team Manager) we must find the settings that we think are the most appropriate before the first training session. The rider must feel good on his bike. We must therefore find the best compromise between confidence on-board the bike, precision, choice of tyres, bike balance, geometry etc etc..."

According to Arthur, it is here that his relationship with Amaury makes the difference. "For me, he's the one who works the most throughout the week, who always tries to change the smallest details between each run that will be best for the final. So you have to constantly talk to each other, from day one. You have to trust yourself, to tell it how it is, whether the words hurt or not. Working together allows us to try a wide variety of settings choices with more ease. He is flexible, understanding and always attentive. Even when the choices I sometimes make are not the ones he would have gone for. He never really gets fed up” explains the Engineer.

Training - The Crucial Part 

Thursday normally kicks off training for the riders, the first rides on the track. It’s all about understanding and learning. What are the best lines? Where are the sections that you can gain or lose speed? How will the track run and wear through the week and what are the most appropriate settings from start to finish? "This track is so different from what we are used to, I don't know if it suits anyone in particular. It seems easy at first but it's really complicated to work out and manage,” said Amaury after his 5 runs of the day.

Between each descent, he’s straight into the pits to chat to Arthur and pass on info to his mechanic that will help them work together to make the difference on the last run of the weekend. "After three or four runs, the riders are already going very fast, even if they are not at full speed. So they go out with the GoPro to compare the centimetres of differences between each of them. On this track, the difference is hundredths, the smallest details.” Explains Arthur.

He adds, "We finally realised that we had to ride the bike with a spring damper. On this type of track, it brings much better grip but we must learn how to mix the theoretical calculations and the instincts of the riders and their mechanics. It is a job that requires patience, trust and understanding. I have to explain each of my choices to Amaury so that he rides the bike at its best but also so he's never surprised by his settings.


Qualifications - Final Details Before the Final  

On this Les Gets track life seems simpler than usual for our rider and his engineer. A few minutes before his departure for qualifying, Amaury admits that the hard part is done. His feeling on the bike is excellent. “On a fast track like this, it's easier to find the right settings. I feel really good on the bike. It is perfectly posed to go and has already experienced all the holes on track that are getting pretty big. Now it’s my turn to do the work. It's up to me to be 100% tomorrow," he said. Sitting quietly, comparing Amaury and Rémi Thirion's GoPro runs, Arthur explains that his job is also to analyse the physical and mental side of the riders to try to fully optimise their performances. "I spend a lot of time on the track, on foot or by bike, to analyse its evolution. Now that we found the main settings, I will spend the day on the edge of the track to make observations. Like how the bike is working, the state of the components, the physical freshness of the riders, their state of mind and feelings... Amaury seems particularly good in his head. I feel he's ultra-motivated after last week's disappointment."

After analysing Thibaut Daprela’s run and many other riders earlier in the morning, Arthur, Amaury and his mechanic Gaetan make the choice to opt for rather flexible settings given the condition of the track. It’s a convincing choice as Amaury gets the fastest qualifying time. For Arthur, everything is in place for the bike to be in the best condition for the final. "Now that everything is set, Amaury looked at the track one last time. He puts himself in his bubble and considers all possible scenarios. The weather being tough to read sometimes in the mountains, he must be ready whatever the conditions,” he said. Indeed, if the track is particularly dusty on Saturday, the arrival of rain could really mess with team plans, both in terms of technical choices and the way the track deals with it.

For Amaury, it's time to concentrate before the final, "I know that the bike works well. I am confident when it comes to speed and risk. Finally, this track suits me rather well. It's fast but I know that I am powerful. Tonight, it's up to me to think about the track in my head, millimetre by millimetre. I need to know everything by heart to be 100% on the ball tomorrow,” said a determined Amaury.

Saturday is D-Day 

After the efforts of Thibaut Daprela, (winner of the Junior Men’s race earlier in the day), the condition of the track, some practice and a final debriefing with the all the staff, Amaury is set, ready to battle against the clock and the track. He’s been feeling good all week and his best qualifying time gives him confidence to take on the world. The tweaking of the settings is complete, the choice of tyres is made. The Ruffin brothers and Rémi Thirion gave their last feedback on the state of the track before it was Amaury’s turn. And what a run it was! Amaury Pierron pushes the laws of gravity and lays down the perfect run in front of the craziest French crowd. A simply mighty run meant he won by more than two seconds!

"I was on my limit! I knew that my first section was very good. I just tried to do the maximum on the rest of the track. I was really close to my limits, I was close to falling for sure. We worked so hard with the staff. The bike was just perfect and seeing all these crazy Frenchmen was amazing! It is certainly the most beautiful moment of my life,” the rider explained a few minutes after the podium.

Calmer, but just as happy, Arthur Quet also hugely enjoys this victory, "Everything was perfect for the race. Everything was there for him to do it. Finally, the biggest job, it's him who smashed it! He slayed a colossal job (and pressure) all week to achieve this level of performance. This confidence inside him and the equipment allowed him to push his limits. This is where we recognise the best riders but also the very good staff around him. Maybe 15 minutes after the podium, despite the euphoria, we all sat down to take stock of his race and retain the essential information before the next big deadlines. This culture of work and victory is the very essence of our sport, of competition."




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