Twenty-six-year-old enduro champion Isabeau Courdurier is focusing on finding ways to give back to her community long before the end of her professional racing career. Over the past year, she’s been building a rehabilitation program with a French association called Fifty Fifty that will help women who have experienced domestic violence rebuild confidence and social skills through mountain biking. The organization also works with women in sailing and skiing sports, and Courdurier is the lead mountain bike coordinator and on-sight coach. In addition, she’s working to secure funds and sponsors to support the association moving forward.
The first cohort of women is set to start riding this coming November. Prior to engaging in sports, the women in the riding group will undergo physical and psychological treatment to help determine when they might be up for the new experience. From there they can decide if mountain biking might be the right path for them.
In terms of rehabilitation, mountain biking is not only a healthy source of physical activity, but the sport’s inherent challenges and requisite learning opportunities can help build confidence, a sense of agency, and to rekindle internal drive for trauma survivors. Reconnecting with the body can be an important part of the healing process for survivors of domestic abuse, and the meditative focus required in mountain biking is seen as a useful and fun way that folks can truly spend time in the moment, away from the trauma, when they’re ready.
Courdurier says, “to put your body through sport is also a way to be conscious of it. So the effort will help the women gain confidence in their body, and in what they can achieve and how strong they are. Also, they will set goals. When you set goals you are kind of moving on into life. Then, when you achieve goals you gain confidence. Anyone who has done something on a mountain bike that they had never done before can tell you — there is this kind of pure joy. You’re part of yourself. It’s something we all felt the first time riding, and even if you’ve been riding for years you still feel it. That’s what we want to bring to these women. That will take time, which is why the program lasts a full year.”
She added, “I love my sport. I love what it’s brought to me and I want to give back to the sport. If I can be helpful, thanks to mountain biking, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Courdurier is certified to work with beginner riders. Following her professional career, she wants to focus on sharing the joy of mountain biking with more people and plans to continue this project long after her racing days are dusted. Paired with info and ideas from a partnering doctor she will create ride plans for the participants that will take place in a forest outside Paris. The women will pedal together regularly for a year, culminating in a long randonnée ride with Courdurier and fellow EWS athlete Kevin Miquel at the beloved French Vélo Vert festival. They aim to keep the rides and events fun and lively and to adapt to participant feedback throughout the year.
The tireless Frenchwoman is also in close communication with the psychological professionals at the institute where survivors of domestic violence live during rehabilitation. Courdurier says that she’s excited to learn the best way to work with these women, as it’s all very different from her professional enduro pursuits. The cohort of riders will start off on easy, wide trails in the forest, with cross-country bikes provided by the main program sponsor, Lapierre Bikes.
Once the Fifty Fifty program has been running for a few years there are plans to add a cycling component for the children affected by domestic violence. Working with children through trauma requires an even more careful and thoughtful approach that will take some time to develop.
In addition to working with survivors through their rehabilitation, the folks at Fifty Fifty want to raise awareness around the realities of domestic violence and abuse. According to a study on the NCBI website, “1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. About 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence during their lifetimes. Intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking are high, with intimate partner violence occurring in over 10 million people each year.” In France specifically, another woman is killed by her partner every three days. Courdurier and Miquel will employ their social media platforms to share the association’s story and to get more people thinking about intimate partner and familial abuse.
Readers who are interested in donating to the Fifty Fifty rehabilitation program can do so via the association’s fundraising page. Remember to check Courdurier and Miquel’s Instagram accounts for more info on this topic. Lastly, keep an eye out for a Lapierre bike raffle to help fund the project later this year.
Isabeau is absolutely brilliant! This is such a great way to give back to the community. I wish more riders would do things like that.
Pretty awesome program here!