What does it take to ride like one of the fastest racers of all time? Talent, determination and hard graft to name a few. There's clearly a lot to it, but to help us mortals understand a little more RockShox have just put together this vid with insight into the goings-on inside the heads of some of their top French athletes...

French Lessons

What is the secret of mountain biking’s fastest language?

Words: Joe Parkin

Photos: Adrian Marcoux

Video: Mindspark Cinema

What makes French mountain bikers so fast? Is it the air? The mountains? The cuisine? Is it the fact that there are about 1,000 varieties of French cheese?  Anne-Caroline Chausson, Nicolas Vouilloz and Julien Absalon took home more than 30 World Championships between them — and we won’t even mention the World Cup wins, Olympic medals and rally-car championship. Loic Bruni rode away with this year’s UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Championship faster than you could devour a baguette and chunk of Brie.

We headed to La Thuile, Italy, to study the habits of a few of our French friends and, hopefully, tap into the secrets of their incredible style and speed. This beautiful alpine recreation destination, which was once known for its coal mines rather than ski slopes and mountain bike trails, is a hotspot for French mountain bikers. Its terrain makes it the perfect proving ground for some of the world’s fastest enduro riders and their equipment.

The reality of racing a mountain bike for a living is often one of uncertainty, exhaustion, sickness and injury. To be good at it, riders have to truly embrace the joie de vivre of mountain biking. Perhaps that’s the reason why Fabien Barel, now retired after a career that included two Downhill World Championship titles and multiple EWS wins, enjoys every day on the bike like he did back at the start of his 20-year career. Perhaps it is why Yoann Barelli is always smiling and laughing.

AM_French-Lessons-150707-1330
AM_French-Lessons-150707-1330

To be truly fast, a rider also has to have a creative approach to racing lines and life itself. Bryan Regnier has a nose for fine wine and an impressionist interpretation to line selection. And so does Pauline Dieffenthaler, who, while riding “like a girl", manages to go faster than many of the boys.

So what is it? Ask Walker Shaw. Shaw is half American and half Belgian, knows how to smile and is plenty quick on the trails. But there’s just another certain something special about French mountain bikers and their ability to dominate race-result lists — a certain je ne sais quoi.

You say you want to ride faster? It might help to learn French.

AM_French-Lessons-150707-1607
AM_French-Lessons-150707-1607
AM_French-Lessons-150706-1255
AM_French-Lessons-150706-1255
AM_French-Lessons-150707-1330
AM_French-Lessons-150707-1330
AM_French-Lessons-150706-850
AM_French-Lessons-150706-850