Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

Enduro mountain bike racer Isabeau Courdurier learned to ride when she was three and by the age of five had completed her first MTB race. Now 24, the diminutive French rider heads into 2018 with a successful year of podiums, a Megavalanche win, and second place overall ranking in the Enduro World Series to her name – all while juggling training and racing with studying for her Masters degree.

Here, she shares her thoughts on 2017, her favourite places to ride and her goals for the coming season.

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

Tell us about your background – how old were you when you first got on a bike?
I learnt how to ride a bike when I was 3-years-old and for me it was my favourite game. My older brother and I could ride all day around the house. We were pretending to be Dave Mirra and Matt Hoffman at the X-Games – they were our idols. We were building little jumps all around our grandparents’ house and of course we had a lot of crashes!

You competed in mountain bike races from an early age. What was that like?
The first time I ever competed I had no idea of what was going on and what I was doing. I was 5 and I remember being on the start line, then all the kids around me started rushing and I just did the same. I was at the back of the pack and I climbed back up the rankings all through the race. It was really awesome! I remember the feeling of crossing the line for the first time with satisfaction.

The year after, I signed up at the local club. I was one year too young to become a member of the club, so my mom had to learn mountain biking as well and attend the trainings with me. She is my hero and the person I look up to the most up. If she hadn’t started riding at that moment, I would have probably switched to another sport.  I then did my first ever season of competitions and won the local trophy. I felt like I won the world championship in my lil’ kid head and I knew I wanted to do more of it.

How did the switch from cross-country mountain biking to enduro racing come about?
When I was 16 and at high school, I felt like I was not able to train enough to be at the level I wanted to achieve. Also, I had a lot of pressure to succeed in both sport and school. At that time, I wasn’t enjoying riding my bike as I used to. I simply realised that maybe I needed to try something else. My good friend, Morgane Such, at that time was already racing enduro and she invited me to race on a French Cup in Val d’Allos: The Tribe 10000 – those of you know this event, know how mad it is! I went there, took the start, had two flat tyres, many crashes and even more rookie mistakes!

But at the end of the weekend I felt happier than ever. I knew this sport was a combination of everything I love about riding. It was really demanding in terms of physical and technical abilities. I loved the adrenaline rush in the downhills and how every second counts on a 15-minute stage. One of the aspects about enduro I instantly loved was being out in the mountains carrying all I need, and the great atmosphere between the riders. It was the first time I was racing against the clock and not with other riders like in XC (cross country). It was me, my bike and the time. It is still what pushes me in the sport. I always want to be a greater athlete and a better person, race after race.

Photo Credit: Neil Thomas

You won the 2017 Chain Reaction Cycles Megavalanche* event – how was it riding snow and ice?!
The Megavalanche is one the craziest MTB races in the world and what I love about this event is that on the start line you can have whatever plan you want, but the Mega might have another one for you! The first time I ever did it, I tore my ankle one metre after the start – yes, one metre! So, you better have no expectations about the race.

I had ridden on the snow before at the Mountain Of Hell (Les 2 Alpes) but I have never been good at it. I normally do a bad glacier [ride] and then climb back. But this year at the Mega, I wanted to do a good glacier! I thought: “Ok, let’s just go straight and don’t brake you lil’ rider!” It worked… I got over 50 metres! I then crashed, but I was able to climb back on my bike quite fast and I left the glacier first. After that, I paced myself in the downhills and pedalled as hard as I could in the climbs.

(*The Megavalanche is a downhill mountain race which starts on the summit of France’s famed Alpe d’Huez, and takes riders through snow and ice in a race to the bottom)

Will you be back for more at the Chain Reaction Cycles Megavalanche event this year?
There are so many races I would love to do every year, but the calendar is always really busy. So I hope I can make it, but still don’t know if it will be possible.

Photo Credit: Neil Thomas

What kind of training do you do for enduro mountain bike racing?
I think enduro training is one of the most difficult to describe as we do a lot of everything and there are so many aspects to train. I do long rides, shuttles to train technique and speed, and a typical loop with 2 or 3 stages where I can compare my times every time I do it.

Do you do any strength work as part of your training?
I do a lot of it and it is something I love. I like to see how much weight my little body is capable of lifting. I mostly do two to three weight lifting training sessions a week in the winter, focusing on the legs and upper body. Plus, I do a lot of core training all year long.

What’s a typical week of training look like for you at the moment?
In the winter, I don’t have a typical week of training as my trainer Laurent Solliet (of Extrain) knows I love to mix it up. But there are typical sessions I do: 2 to 3 hours of weights lifting, 2 hours of BMX (race and dirt), about 4 hours of MTB and about 4 hours of road bike. And between that I’m working part-time as a sports marketing consultant. It is a very busy schedule, but I love what I do and when your work doesn’t feel like work, you know you’re doing the right thing.

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

You had a successful 2017 season. What are you goals for 2018?
I had a great year in 2017 but I also had some bad times. I got really sick two times in the season. I was not able to finish the first round in New Zealand and it was hard mentally to cope with that. I think it was mainly because I was finishing my Master degree at school and I did not rest properly.

In 2018, I am definitely going to try to take care a bit more of my body and try to listen to it. My goal is to win again one round and to be consistent over the season. I know I have a lot of work to do to make it happen. But the main goal I have is more like a lifetime goal. I want to be happy and enjoy what I do. It is the only way to wake up in the morning with determination and the will to go out and make it happen. If you love what you do, you’ll be able to fight for it.

Enduro races can be very diverse. What’s your ideal terrain?
I like very tight stages with a lot of sketchy turns that are very steep. That’s why I love Whistler and the South of France. I also like fast tracks when you need to let the brakes go. For me, the ideal stage is 7-minutes long on a natural single track with as many turns as possible in between the trees!

What kit do you love for training and enduro events?
My day-to-day equipment to ride is black shorts, a ¾ sleeves jersey, knee pads and a small backpack. I like to know I am prepared for whatever happens to me on my ride.

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

During the race, one of the most important things to me is to know I will have enough water and food. That’s why I sometimes have a backpack or my back protection with my pockets full of stuff.

The weird things about my equipment is that I have a little pocket in my shorts to put in a coin which has been my lucky charm over the past years. And the worst thing that can happen to me on a stage is to feel my sock sliding down to my ankle…!

How do you fuel your enduro racing?
My race breakfast is oatmeal with almond milk, nuts and dried fruits. It has been the same for years! During the races, I take electrolytes in my water, two big Clif Bars, two smaller BeeA Energy Bars and, as I don’t like gels, I take Clif Bloks with me.

If we have a lunch break during the day my manager will have ready for me the only thing I can eat on race day, AKA my little secret weapon: the peanut butter and banana sandwich! It’s the only thing I can swallow and digest.

Where in the world are your favourite MTB trails?
Whistler is my favourite place because of the density of trails and their quality. But I just like to ride my bike everywhere in the world and on every trail.

Do you get nervous before an event?
I don’t get nervous before an event; I am nervous all year long [laughs]! I am a smiling and outgoing person, but when I get back home and find myself alone, I am the kind of person that questions everything. “Did I train enough? Am I ready? What can I do better?” and so on. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to do the best I can. Thus, when I get to an event I am normally quite calm, as all the questioning has already been done! I enter my zone where I am very calm and focused on what I must do.

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpore

My way to deal with the stress is to step back from the moment. I look at and consider the situation from another point of view. For example, when I was in New Zealand last year and had a DNF, I felt like it was the end of my world. But I stepped back, and thought: “You are at the other end of the world riding your bike, something you used not even dare to dream about and yes, you are sick but that does not mean you don’t have the ability. Take it easy, girl.” And that is how I deal with every problem that comes my way.

What would be your advice to women who fancy mountain biking but have no experience?
You can do it. Start small and don’t be afraid to try. The hardest thing is the first pedal stroke, once you’re going it is all good! Mountain biking is all about learning. You need to find out what you’re capable of and slowly work your way to be able to do a bit more or a bit better every time, step by step.

It is sometimes hard to start on your own, so I also recommend finding people to ride with. Contact your local club or look out on Strava if you want to find women to ride with. Attending a women’s event is a great way to start. You don’t have to do crazy stuff to enjoy riding your bike. Go out in the fresh air and just enjoy the freedom of going wherever you want.

Photo Credit: Neil Thomas

Who are you sponsored by at the moment?
That is the million dollar question! Haha, I am just kidding, right now I am a rider undercover for a new team and all the information will be released very soon.

Photo Credit: Neil Thomas

You can follow Isabeau’s mountain bike training and enduro events this coming season via her social media feed. Find her at and