© Outdoor Perspectives
Monday, 1 March 2021


Despite 2020 having no Olympics and its fair share of dramatic twists and turns, The Hidden Path, the web series co-created by JULBO and Maxime Marotte, has kept its promise of providing a fascinating insight into the daily life of an elite athlete as he faces his goals, challenges and successes… In short, a snapshot of the everyday.
While the Tokyo Olympics should eventually take place in the summer of 2021, The Hidden Path couldn't stop in its tracks. So we're back for a second season, with even more of an inside and engaging view, alongside our JULBO athlete, an international cross-country Olympic (XCO) rider.

Maxime, at the end of last season, you learned that your employer, Cannondale Factory Racing, wasn't renewing your contract. Were you expecting it?

No, I wasn't expecting it at all. So at the time, it was a big shock, really hard to take, especially as it wasn't necessarily the best time of the season to find out, being just a few days away from the first world cup events. The season was already highly unusual (Editor's Note: see episode 4 article), so the announcement added lots more uncertainty to a year that wasn't short on it. To be honest, the team wanted to continue with me, but it was the decisions made at management level of the company that carried the most weight. All contracts have an end date; mine was for two years and was due to be renewed at that point, but I wasn't expecting this outcome! So I had to deal with that blow while also combining a run of the most demanding races of the year and discussions on finding a new team.

The Hidden Path

Did this upheaval affect your results during the "world cups, world championships and European championships" run?

Of course, I could have performed better if I'd had more peace of mind. But that’s part and parcel of being a top athlete. Getting the news when the season had barely started wasn't easy, but that's life. Even so, my state of mind at the start of the races was the same as usual, to fight for the win, to try and do my best. You can always wonder about these things, if I'd been less stressed, perhaps I wouldn't have fallen on the second short track...

The Hidden Path

How does an elite athlete who's targeting an Olympic event a few months later cope with such a period of uncertainty i.e. not having an employer?

To be honest, it's not easy. Changing teams less than a year from the Games is obviously not ideal, given that you do extremely meticulous work over four years to optimize every little detail. At that moment, a lot of things were falling apart in my head. But brooding over my disappointment wasn't going to do much good and I had to move on. After two or three gloomy days, I bounced back very quickly.
And in fact, things moved pretty fast. Discussions with Santa Cruz started very quickly and both the Italian team and Californian company were really responsive to my wishes. Finding a team wasn't the hard part, but finding a team in synch with my Olympic medal ambitions was the real challenge. Santa Cruz has the resources to do things properly and has always invested fully in each discipline it supports. I think there's a fantastic story to be built with them.

The Hidden Path

Changing teams to Santa Cruz FSA has involved lots of new things for you (new bike, new partners, new teammates). How are you feeling at the moment?

Overall, I feel really great about the change. First of all, the feeling on the bike is good and that's really important for me. I noticed it from the very first turns of the pedals in November, and that feeling keeps growing day after day. With a lower handlebar set and therefore a more aggressive position than on my old bike, I quickly got used to it and it really encourages you to attack.
The team is also living through a new project, with a change in size compared to previous seasons. The partners are very involved and give us the resources to achieve our ambitions. The test sessions, adjustments, photoshoots – everything flows smoothly and is highly professional; it's going even faster than I expected. It’s exciting to see all of this coming together around a project in which I’m one of the main players. I'll have the role of team captain, alongside top athlete Luca Braidot, who hasn't yet been in a big pro team, as well as young athletes who I'll try to share my high-level approach with. At 34, I'm an experienced rider and this experience should be shared. It's a rewarding role that I'm really happy to take on.
Despite all these new developments, there's continuity in the change as I'm keeping my close professional staff - my mechanic, trainer, physio and physical trainer - as well as a few partners like Julbo.

The Hidden Path

After the twists and turns in the 2020 calendar, are you confident the Olympic Games will take place this year?

I think it will be an Olympic year! We've had confirmation from the federation and international bodies that it's going to happen, despite what the media say. In any case, you have to prepare, and you prepare as if it's going to happen. The past year has taught us to constantly adapt to changing schedules, so we'll be ready for the big day. But before that, I'll need to get my ticket to Tokyo. Places are still hard to come by as only two athletes will be representing France. And given the current level of French riders, the competition's going to be tough! So I'm 100% focused on the first two rounds of the world cup… And the others will be too!

The Hidden Path

After seeing the work of your team behind the scenes in season 1 of The Hidden Path, what can we expect to see in season 2?

In season 1, we didn't show much of the relationship with my personal staff, especially my coach. So in the fifth program viewers will see the close relationship I have with Philippe (Editor's Note: his coach), and we focus on all the micro-details that can make the difference when preparing for an event. We'll also give an insight into the process of changing teams and how to approach an Olympic project. I think it's interesting for the audience to see the build up towards a goal. As an athlete, you have a limited window to be in top form. So it's a massive challenge! Also, changing teams means a change in approach to the bike and the mindset. At Cannondale, the staff was mostly German, while at Santa Cruz the team is Italian. They're culturally quite different and therefore don't see things in the same way. There's no right or wrong 'school', but I think it's going to be interesting both for the audience and myself to learn from them.

The Hidden Path

Season 2 of The Hidden Path will feature three episodes, culminating in qualification for the Olympic Games. Don't miss a single moment of the saga by subscribing to the Julbo Eyewear channel on YouTube.

Team present in the article




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