The Hidden Path EP1 – Calm before the storm
At the start of an international mountain biking season which promises to be keenly contested, with the Tokyo Olympic Games in line of sight for many, this week Maxime Marotte and Julbo launch the first episode of a web series which will take viewers behind the scenes of the life of an elite athlete, his technical and mental preparations, and his relationships with all the people who help keep him in the saddle. Interview with our Julbo athlete.
Maxime, today you’re releasing the first episode of a web series in partnership with Julbo. Why this web series and what do you want to show through these images?
This project is something I've had in mind for a while. I wanted to share my daily experience to show that the life of a top athlete is of course a lot of hard work and training, but it's also a whole ecosystem with each person playing an essential role: from coach to mechanic, from my wife to my physio, from my friends to my competitors, and from serious times to fun times. I also wanted to show how I got to this level… I don't see myself as a 'natural' champion, one of those people who achieved success in everything from an early age. It took a lot of hard work to climb the ladder and get to the very highest level. It hasn't been easy, but that's where I am today. I hope that showing this "path" in pictures will inspire young athletes. Don't believe that because you're not yet a world champion at the age of 18, it's all over for you!
The web series will show different aspects of preparing for a season, and in particular this season, which will be very special! It's been designed to ramp up the excitement over the episodes.
I also realised that no other French athlete had ever initiated this type of project. France has been one of the strongest mountain biking nations for years. There's a definite wave of French success which isn't down to chance, and there are also many fans who encourage us and help us get these results. This project is also a way of thanking them.
In this episode, we see a part of your life as a top athlete that not many people know about – the winter break. Was this winter break different from others after your unusual 2019 season?
Yes, completely. I had a difficult summer because of health problems. It took a lot of physical and mental energy to catch up at the end of the season and finish in a good place (Editor's note: Maxime finished 2nd in the last world cup round). So this fall I had to really rest and do a big "reset" of my whole body.
I had a complete break for two months, which is huge for an elite athlete. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been out of training or competing for so long. But ultimately it came at a good time because I had big personal projects, including organizing my wedding! The break allowed me to prepare for that event with all the attention it deserved and to make the most of those precious moments.
Obviously, that time wasn't ideal for staying at my race weight (laughs), and I had a little trouble losing the pounds in the winter, but I'm on the right track again. Today, I feel fresh, all the signals are green and I'm really pumped. I feel like a newcomer for this Olympic year.
This year of course we'll have the Tokyo Olympics. What does that mean in terms of your timetable and preparation?
That's all we're thinking about; mentally, we can feel that we're getting closer to the competition. What makes the Olympic Games different is that you have to qualify first! France is a strong mountain biking nation, but there are only two spots for the Olympic Games. There are five athletes with the potential to qualify who are all very close in terms of level... So there's quite a lot of pressure already before we can really start focusing on Tokyo.
Winning my ticket won't be easy, but it’s the third time I’ve done this Olympic qualifying race so I have some experience which helps me stay calm about the whole thing.
I'm confident about my chances of qualifying for Nove Mesto (Editor's note: the 1st round of this season's world cup). For now, only two of us – Stéphane Tempier and I – have reached the minimum requirement, which gives me a slight advantage compared to other French riders, but obviously a lot can happen in a one-day race and I'm aiming to be at 100% of my capacity for this event.
You only joined the Julbo Family a few months ago and have already signed up for this first big project with the brand. What does this collaboration mean to you?
A lot! Honestly, after only a few months into my contract, I didn't think that this web series project could be done so closely with a partner. I'd started to seriously think about the idea and it was very important for to me to launch it in this Olympic year. Julbo had been wanting to work on a mountain biking project and decided to follow me. Their support is a huge sign of trust that the film crew and I are trying to reciprocate by doing the best we can.
Julbo is a brand that has values, and you can feel that there's a real attachment to their athletes. As an athlete, it's really great to have that kind of relationship with a brand. I agree with their values and their image in that sense.
What's your fitness and your state of mind like as we approach the 2020 season?
I'm pretty confident about the coming season. I’m the kind of person who arrives ready for the opening of the world cup, but rarely before. This year's going really well – I'm following my plan and we're actually ahead of the targets we'd set. The break did me a lot of good.
After winter work focusing on endurance and technique, we've now entered the intensive period with a few preparatory races, some of which have included my compatriots and competitors for Olympic qualification. Even if my results have only been fifth places, I'm really pleased and would have immediately signed up for that level at this time of the year if I'd been offered it! The first real goal is at the end of May and I'm focusing on that.