From Dirt Issue 109 – March 2011
By Steve Jones
Somehow I’d half expected something a bit showier, an extravaganza of silverware beneath the whiff of burning rubber, oily engines and clear blue skies. Maybe that’s what would be expected over here on this damp island. Here the only noise is the cicadas, I’m dodging wild goat shit as a warm breeze pushes up from the Med. High up above the bells ring in the village of Peillon a medieval eagle’s nest. Rocks…hell they are everywhere.
Surrounded by olive trees and vines food is obviously a very important part of this household. It’s all much more simple to what I’d anticipated. A small rickety gate leads into the orchard and onto the side of the precipitous cliffs, it’s dusty, rocky, incredibly hot. Luca (Vouilloz Jnr) is tearing about on his little bike; the table is getting loaded with home made food.
For a second it left my mind that I was with the ten–time Champion Du Monde, but then there was nothing really to remind you of his eighteen years as a World–class sportsman. Except maybe that Nico had just got back from what had clearly been a particularly testing interval work out. He appears every bit as fit as he ever did in the days when he was the most feared racer.
What you notice most about Nico is his acute level of concentration; he is truly engaging to talk with, each question ticked off like a section of track. Measured but very simple. He still has that steely focus, and immoveable single mindedness that always set him way apart. Then again here, living in such uncomplicated surroundings is a great place for clear thinking.
Nico quit in 2002 as World Downhill Champion and since then has concentrated on rally driving whilst still keeping a hand in with enduro and Megavalanche series. When I met him again a few years ago he talked of being in a transition in his life. Where then exactly is the king of downhill at?