As sports journalists, we occasionally get to chat with the inspiring individuals who push our sport and it’s requisite linchpin, traction, to seemingly unimaginable new limits. Interviewing 2019 EWS overall winner, Isabeau Courdurier was one esteemed occasion. She won every last round of the EWS in 2019 after taking second at each event in 2018 behind gravity legend Cécile Ravanel. Did someone say consistency?
The fierce Frenchwoman has been racing the EWS since its inception in 2013, after getting hooked on gravity during the French Enduro Series in 2012. Her sharp descending skills are backed by a lengthy XC race career from age 7 to 16.
For 2020 we’ll see Courdurier on a fresh team, backed by the French frame brand, Lapierre, alongside SRAM/Zipp, 100%, Hutchison, and several other sponsors that make up the Lapierre Zipp Collective. Training with talented teammates Adrien Daily, Chloé Gallean, and Nicolas Vouillo, the collective will surely be in contention for the overall EWS team title this summer.
In addition to her remarkable palmarès, Courdurier has proven to be an athlete that sponsors want to hire. She shows up to press camps to chat about testing procedures and ride feel and attends consumer events like Eurobike to chat with sponsors, fans, and friends. Now let’s learn a bit more about her.
With a new team this year, how are you adjusting to all of the new personalities? Is it easier to adjust to a new bike or new teammates?
I have known Adrien, Chloé, Nico, and Craig for a long time now. So it didn’t take long for all of us to get along. Part of my decision to join Lapierre was actually because I wanted to join this crew! I believe it’s quite the same when getting a new bike and being on a new team. It takes time to adjust to both. But in this case, I already knew my teammates before joining so it was obvious we would adjust very easily. Concerning the bike, [the adjustment] happened faster than expected. After two rides I was already beating some of my Stravas.
Have you noticed any clear advantages to the new Zipp 3zero rims you are running?
I believe these wheels helped me to get confident on the bike fast. It provides more grip, thus more control, and allows you to take a bit more angle. I was a bit afraid about how rigid they are, but again I found it’s a good balance. Not to mention how good they look!
What is different or special about your new Lapierre Spicy compared to last year’s bike?
Last year, I raced with a 27.5 at the beginning of the year, then a 29er, and then a mullet bike. It felt that this last option was the best, which was quickly confirmed when I rode with my new Spicy. I honestly felt this bike was suited for me. I like bikes that are rigid but not too much and this one is a perfect balance.
What are some advantages you have noticed while testing the mixed-wheel platform?
I have been on all three options and clearly, for someone my size, I’m 1m54 (5ft), it is the best one. It is stable as a 29er but still very playful and easy to handle. I think it’s kind of like having the best of both the 29er and the 27.5″. I tried the Spicy this winter in a full 29er set up and it confirmed my choice of riding a mullet. My legs are still too short.
Is there anything unique about the way you set up your race bikes?
I race with my brake levers in an almost flat position because it helps me with arm pump. I also run my cockpit quite high compared to other riders. Other than that, my bike has nothing too crazy about it. I simply think that suspension settings are key and should be adjusted to the type of race.
What is your favorite home trail to ride?
I live 30 minutes from what I call my home spot. It is named “Le Regagnas.” It is right in between the “Sainte Victoire” (which is quite famous) and “La Sainte Baume,” two other home spots. I like every single trail in the Regagnas. They are all different, but each one is technical and rocky. What I like the most about this place is that after many years of riding these tracks I still feel like I have a lot to improve. There are not a lot of places where trails keep on challenging you even after years.
Did you change anything in your training to prepare for the 2020 season?
I have been working a lot more on my bike setup. I did a lot of suspension tuning with the help of Rockshox, tire testing with Hutchinson, and bike setting with Craig Miller who is our mechanic at Lapierre Zipp Collective. I also rode a lot with Nicolas Vouilloz and Adrien Dailly, my new teammates, which helped me to progress. I have also been training a lot. I wanted to get better on the physical stages and races.
Who do you feel are the most immediate threats to your top podium spot for this season?
I believe the level is continuously improving and it’s the greatest thing that can happen to our sport. There are so many girls that can make it to the top step right now. I believe the most immediate threats are Andréanne Lanthier Nadeau, Noga Korem, and Raphaela Ritcher. But there are so many talented women that put the hard work in. We can have some good surprises. I always believe in giving 100% during race preparation. If I have worked as hard as I could and get beaten then hats off and let’s get back to work to see what I have to improve.
What’s your favorite bike repair to perform?
I am so bad at fixing anything. It takes me ages to fix a mechanical. But if I had to choose one thing it would be changing tires. I don’t do a lot of work on my bikes besides cleaning, basic care, and basic tuning on the suspension. I just check and write down my settings on every ride and then write about my feelings on the bike while riding. It’s something I’m working on this year.
What tire pressure do you run on a typical training ride?
It depends a lot on where I am riding, but if it is at home I will put a bit more pressure because it’s very rocky. So my tire pressure would be 1.35 (19.6psi) front and 1.5 (22psi) back.
What’s something most people in the mountain bike world don’t know about you?
I think most people don’t know that I have a Master’s Degree in Marketing and that I am also a certified MTB coach. Other than that, most people already know how much I like old school metal bands and driving my old Volkswagen T3 from 1982.
What’s one question you wish people would ask you?
What are the other projects behind racing bikes that you are involved in? I like to know what people are involved in and lots of athletes have amazing projects I like to hear about. That’s why I thought about this question. I am involved in a project we have worked on for almost a year now. The main goal is to help women who went through some massive difficulties in life to reconstruct themselves thanks to sport, and especially mountain bikes. It is still bike related but outside of racing. I hope I will be able to do a lot more projects like that in the future. It makes me grow and become a better person.
Courdurier has been leading some 80’s themed workout sessions via the Lapierre Bikes Instagram account, so check in and to see when the next sweat session starts.
This interview has been edited for clarity.