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Max Chapuis, from ‘Downhill’ to ‘Endurance’

Max Chapuis, from ‘Downhill’ to Endurance

Text and photos: Anthony Brown (www.anthonybrown.ch)

The earth is dry, the air is fresh and the Bagnard trails have many happy days ahead of them. Among the faithful mountain bike regulars, there is one who continuously returns to Verbier’s single trails. Despite being a Geneva resident, he knows the mountains and their steep slopes very well. Favouring those with generous turns and those without snow and where nature has regained control, the Verbier Bikepark ambassador rides fast, really fast even, in spite of his calm, restrained nature.

Maxime Chapuis, a young sportsman, is under the spotlight as he takes a chance in ‘Enduro’, a new mountain bike discipline:

It didn’t take long for Max to become interested in mountain biking. Even in the city, where a bike is perceived more as a way to avoid traffic, he caught the mountain bike virus.

Dominated by the Salève mountain, Geneva is on the end of the Jura mountain range, which, despite not being as high as Mont-Fort’s 3328m, still offers many possibilities.

From the Salève to Verbier via Dovenaz, Maxime honed his mountain bike skills and found himself, at 12 years old, on top of the Croix-des-Ruinettes for the start of his first ever downhill competition. Ten years and many competitions later, he is lining himself up at the start of the Downhill World Cup stages. 2015 Swiss champion and vice-champion the following year, Maxime has been reaping impressive results at a national level, bringing him added confidence during international events.

However the level is extremely high in the World Cup and even though he often comes out at the top of the Swiss delegation, he hasn’t won any medals so far. Being a bit tired, he is setting his sights on the invariable downhill runs and he is now veering towards this new discipline, cousin of the downhill, the ‘Enduro’. A seasoned downhiller, Max is first and foremost a fan of road biking and the climbs he has to accomplish are for him part of the game. From 2015, he has tested himself in the Enduro Helvetic Cup races and managed to win it in 2016.

For passing visitors, it’s sometimes difficult to follow the development of all the ‘’new school’’ sports found in Verbier. Let’s give it a go: from outside, these youngsters ride the cable car up and all hit the bike park runs as quickly as possible on big bikes. However, some take off to go straight down whilst others prefer to take detours, their legs doing the work in further uphills, to then take advantage of a great technical downhill trail to go down.

In terms of the mechanics, the ‘Enduro’ bikes are completely suspended and have smaller cogs (and therefore slower speeds). This allows ‘Endurists’ to cycle up climbs, whilst simultaneously comfortably go down the single trails. The ‘Enduro’ trails are therefore really different to Downhill. The riders go up by cycling up (contrary to downhill) and they are only timed when they go downhill.

‘Enduro’ athletes’ days are much longer. They spend between six and eight hours on their bike, compared with downhillers who do two to three descents per day. In short, ‘Enduro’ biking is longer and more physical (whilst still maintaining a high technical level) and downhill is faster and more difficult.

These are strategic times for Maxime. The ‘Enduro’ founded its own federation (EMBA) in 2012 and launched an appealing international race circuit: the ‘Enduro World Series’. It’s all new and there is a lot to be done. He participated in the last stage of the 2016 event and obtained a wildcard, inviting him to participate this year. In 2017, Max has been taking part in all the series and has already achieved 14th place in the Rotorua event in New Zealand.

At the first stage, he declares his ambitious personal challenge to make the top 15 in one of the stages. There remains one challenge, just as risky: staying in the top 30 of the overall ranking – he currently holds 29th place.

By training in Verbier, Max has some of the most technical terrain available to him for him to improve his ‘Enduro’ skills. He also benefits from welcome support, where the competition is stiff, sometimes organized in a team and also has technical support also. Essentials which Max currently has on his own, from his own bike saddle.

Taking advantage of a shorter winter at 850m altitude, mountain bikers can use the cable cars over a longer period than skiers can.

Its gastronomic specialties, location in the heart of the Alps, many natural Valaisans trails and installations in Le Châble all make Verbier a prime choice for the ‘Enduro’ scene. If tourists use the lifts sometimes, sometimes, cycling to new trails is also a luxury.

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