Feature

Je me souviens

February 15, 2019 Words By Stephen Matthews,
Photos By Etienne Dionne.

Story by Andreane Lanthier Nadeau

I was lucky enough to discover riding at a very young age. I was so young, in fact, that my mom had to attend every training session for my first year on my development club. In Québec City at that time, if you mountain biked, you raced. As a kid, racing was much more than results, it was a means to live life rich with experiences. A means to learn about setting goals and to experience camping trips, friends, and travel. Plus, I truly loved racing, so pursuing it felt like a win-win scenario.

Four years ago I relocated to Vancouver Island in British Columbia to train with the cross-country National Team. Moving away from Québec and leaving behind my community was difficult, but it was becoming clear to me that I needed a change. Over the years my love for riding had gone adrift. My years of focusing on numbers and results had taken their toll and I was no longer having fun. Yet, I knew that biking and I were far from being done and I hoped that the West Coast would offer a new perspective.

My immersion in this new riding culture was a turning point for me. On the West Coast, I found a more adventure-focused, fun-driven approach to riding. It was a new experience to be in a community that rode for fun, where friends gathered on the weekends with their bikes, and people loved the sport without racing in it. The challenge of the new terrain was a catalyst that put me back into a beginner’s mindset where I could start fresh with biking.

The move was a good one and it did not take long for me to fall back in love with riding in the Pacific Northwest forest. It was the best reminder of why I ride bikes; because I love it. It took me back to the days before racing, to the days of playing on bikes as a kid in Québec. We spent our time smashing through as many mud puddles as we could, riding our bikes backwards, singing out loud while bombing down the road, scaring each other during night rides, washing our hair in the campground’s creek, and cooling off from the scorching summer heat one gulp of Slurpee at a time. This return to the fun side of mountain biking allowed me to put the pieces together to transform my passion into a career and to find myself racing as a professional mountain biker all around the globe.

While I was back home for a visit this fall, I met up with one of my best pals, Antoine Caron, a filmmaker and shredder of all types, to discuss shooting an edit about our stomping grounds. I wasn’t sure how it would feel to return with my big bike, to experience the same trail networks that I had trained on as an XC racer. I came back to fresh new trails weaving through the old ones I used to hammer out intervals on. Coming back to fun, challenging new trails was a very refreshing contrast.

We arrived at a cold and snowy trailhead parking lot on one of our filming days, but we realized we did not really feel like shooting. After running into old friends, we decided to leave the camera in the car and head out for a ride. We saw people out there, smiling, enjoying being out on a ride, and getting stoked about new trail features. Seeing how the trails evolved and how the Québec mountain bike community is changing to incorporate what I foundon the West Coast was a truly heartwarming feeling. I realized that these are still my people, they watched me grow up, and I was surprised to find that they have followed my career. I realized that even though I have moved on from XC, Québec will always be my home, in my mind they were so tied together, until I brought my big bike and rode it!

Thank you to Mathieu Dupuis-Bourassa from La Vallée Bras-du-Nord for agreeing with all our bad ideas of quad follow-cam. Thank you to the unknown master builders of the jump spot by the train tracks. And finally, thank you to the whole crew at Les Sentiers du Moulin & LB-Cycle for building not only great trails, but an awesome mountain biking community in Québec.

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