Isabeau Cordurier took 2019 by the scruff and won every race she turned up at, we chatted everything bikes and some things not with the EWS Champ.
Not an awful lot went wrong for Isabeau Cordurier in 2019. She won every round of the Enduro World Series, only relinquishing a few stages in the process, and rounded the year out by being part of the French elite women’s team who took the Enduro des Nations title.
What was your first bike?
My first real bike was a Scott USA 24”. I raced with it when I was 7. I was so proud of this bike.
I was 6 years old and it was a regional trophy called “Gambetta”.
Where was your first EWS and how did it go?
I was lucky enough to race the very first one in Punta Ala. I was still figuring out what enduro was after only racing XC. I was very happy at that time to finish this race 10th.
Who was your inspiration to take up riding and racing?
I started racing cross country when I was 6, always looking up to Anne-Caroline Chausson. My dream was to race some downhill but my parents wanted me to have first an experience in XC. I ended up racing XC for 11 years because I loved the challenge of pushing my limits.
Did you think at the start of 2019 you’d take a clean sweep of the Enduro World Series events and be a World Champion?
After the last race in 2018, I wanted to work as much as I could to take some wins in 2019. I worked hard in the winter for that, but I did not imagine I would be able to win 8 races. I think I simply took it race after race and tried not to think about the pressure I had.
How much of a change was it going from the Sunn team to essentially organising your own team?
I like challenges. I always wanted to be more than only a racer and having our own team is a way to be more involved with the brands we work for. I like the relationship it allows you to establish. It is obviously a huge amount of work and stress, but it is also very rewarding in the end when things work out.
Did you change any preparation for this season compared to previous years?
I did change a lot of things. I am working with a new coach, Nicolas Filipi who is a former pro XC rider. We increased my training volume but also the intensity. I also decided to work more closely with my mental coach, Patrick Pohier. The work we have done has helped me to focus on racing even with the pressure I had through the season.
I am also working with an osteopath, Stephane Vivinus. This season was not easy, and recovery was key. And my brother Romain is my physio. So yes, I made a lot of changes and everyone of them help me reaching my goal. It takes a lot of people to make it happen.
What was the toughest event you raced this year, and why?
The toughest one for me was Whistler.
I was not feeling 100% before the race. I went out on the first stage and ripped one muscle in my leg trying to avoid crashing. I kept on pushing as hard as I could during the rest of the day. At mid-day I was only leading by 3 seconds. I pushed hard every time it was only downhill and not too painful. I could gain a bit of time back before the last one.
Last stage was the worst of the season for me. I had a very big crash on a wet wooden bridge. I hit my leg, my hand, my head and thought for a fraction of a second that my season was over. I am very, very lucky I only got back up with just bad bruises.
Favourite moment from the 2019 season?
Racing in Les Orres in front of my family and friends was my favourite moment of the season. Also, my grandparents came. It was the very first enduro race they have seen. We finished the race with tears of joy together and I will forever remember this moment.
Not really, I think we tried to avoid disasters by being very careful. Cedric did an excellent job at handling my bike.
Do you have any weird race day rituals?
I race with my lucky charms. I always have two necklaces I only put on for race day. And one coin that is from New Zealand. I always have it in my pocket and even got a tattoo from it on my arm. I found this coin the day I realised I wanted to become a professional rider.
How do you have your bike setup, and what changes do you make for different tracks and conditions?
I have a “normal” bike set up, the one I ride most of the time. I then adapt it to the race and conditions. I mostly tune the suspension settings, the handlebar height. What I pay most attention to is the tyres. I run the Griffus from Hutchinson most of the time and sometimes ride the Toro. I then adapt the tires pressure depending on conditions.
But I will always put an insert in my back tires, the Smooth from Slicy. I always run 200mm rotor front and back. That is one of the particularities of my bikes… I am quite a light rider, but I like very powerful brakes.
Has it been difficult being a shorter racer and finding bikes that fit?
It was very hard when I started riding enduro because I was looking for a small, easy bike to ride. I for example had to ask SUNN to do a custom XS bike for me. But I know I feel better on larger bikes so a normal small is perfect for me. I even ride the standard small Carbine from Intense that is a 29er.
How do you motivate yourself when you go into a race weekend not feeling 100%?
I don’t like having regrets… When I don’t feel 100% I just try to focus on doing what I can, with what I have. I think it is important to understand that we cannot be in shape all season long. I feel like I have to adapt and simply focus on what I can do. I also think it is important to train mentally to keep pushing even when you are not OK. I think sometimes I just kind of stop listening to my body and just focus on what I’m doing.
How do you go about riding fast but not too fast over the course of a race weekend?
I think in enduro it is very important to have a pace that you are able to keep over the weekend. It is not about going full on for 4 mins and then not being able to reach the next stage. I have what I call my “comfort zone”, it is the pace I adopt most of the time when I race.
I believe it is better to lose 3 seconds by being a bit too slow than losing 10 seconds because of a crash. When we have a total time of 1 hour on some races it clearly makes a difference. I only go faster than this pace when I have no other choice.
The Enduro World Series is obviously a big focus, are there any other races you’d like to do?
I have been focusing on the EWS for a few years now because I like the fact that it challenges you physically, technically and mentally as well. I like the fact that we need to look after our bikes, hydration and nutrition over a race weekend. I would like to race more downhill to step out of my comfort zone and because it is something I have never done before.
Tell us more about Fernand Le Van…
Fernand is my old Volkswagen Combi. It is a 1982 Air Cooled Transporter 3. I always went camping with my parents when I was a kid and every single time I would see a Combi I told them, one day I will have one. It has been a long-time dream to own a VW Combi. I like the shape of the T3 and I wanted one that I could work one on and restore.
I found it last year and since then we travel together when I can! I also spend my days off working on it. I named it Fernand because this kind of car requires a lot of patience and it better becomes like a friend… Fernand requires a lot of energy, but I am very happy I adopted him last year.
What’s your favourite Iron Maiden song?
The Number of the Beast. I love the intro part. It is also the first vinyl I bought from them.
How do you switch off when you’re not racing, or is it all bikes?
Bikes is a huge part of my life, but I would say sports in general. To relax I simply do other sports such as snowboarding, yoga, wakeboarding… I am either in the mountains during the winter or by the sea in summer on my days off. I also enjoy making my own clothes or customizing some. And finally, I repair and re-built Fernand!
Favourite place to ride?
I don’t really have a favourite place… I think I just like riding my bikes and I can have fun on the easiest track or the gnarliest ones. But I really need to choose one spot it would be Squamish, BC.
Hey Bud in Whistler Blackcomb
Can you tell us a funny story from travelling that won’t put someone in prison?
The funniest one would definitely put me or my friends in prison.