Clementz trains in the hills above Finale Ligure, Italy.
Jerome Clementz is about to ride a very big wave. And no, we’re not talking Jaws or Mavericks. The tsunami in question is a metaphorical one. See, Clementz, a gregarious 28-year-old Frenchman, is regarded as one of best enduro racers in the world. And enduro racing, in case you haven’t heard, is the next big thing in mountain bike racing, a new wave if you will.
Indeed, enduro is taking off like a Russian rocket. New events are popping up all over the world, bike industry manufactures are tripping over themselves to crank out enduro-specific gear, and the cycling media cant get enough of the new narrative, pumping out story after story about fat-tire racing’s ongoing sea change.
“For sure there is more attention right now,” said Clementz, who rides for Cannondale’s four-man OverMountain race team that also includes Americans Mark Weir, Ben Cruz, and Jason Moeschler. “The competition is getting better, the media attention is going up, and now we have the new Enduro World Series, which is very exciting. But really enduro is just something that all mountain bike riders have been doing for a long time. It’s just that now there is a name attached to it and more people are interested. In the end we just ride bikes and enjoy it.”
From Left to Right: Weir, Clementz, Cruz and Moeschler
For the uninitiated, the typical enduro race is held over one or two days and consists of 4-8 timed downhill stages that last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. In between these timed stages, riders can pedal whatever pace they wish as long as they reach the next downhill stage starting place by a certain pre-determined time. The winner is the rider with the lowest cumulative time.
Enduro bikes are usually of the all-mountain variety, such as Clementz’s Cannondale Jekyll with a 150mm Fox Dyad rear shock and a 170mm RockShox Lyric fork. [Check out an expansive tip-to-tail view of this bike in the photo gallery below.]
Jerome Clementz and his Cannondale Jekyll.
Like most French mountain bike racing teenagers born in the 1980s, Clementz grew up admiring the great Nicolas Vouilloz, who won seven downhill world titles between 1995 and 2002. Clementz too was a promising gravity racer, finishing 10th in the junior race at the 2002 world championships. But something just didn’t click, and it wasn’t long before he was looking elsewhere to satisfy his competitive needs.
“When you are racing downhill, you spend the entire weekend on the same track and then do just two runs on Sunday,” he said during an interview with Mtbr.com during the team’s late February training camp in Finale Ligure, Italy. “I wanted to ride more than that and see more. France is a beautiful place that I wanted to explore. The enduro format allows for that.”
The format has also allowed Clementz to become a bankable star in a burgeoning discipline. Combining what his foes call a silky smooth style with power and endurance, Clementz has won just about every significant enduro-style race on the calendar, including Megavalanche, Trans Provence, Mountain of Hell, and the highly-competitive French Enduro Series three times.
“He is so good at finding the flow of the trail and then maintaining his speed,” said Fabien Barel, a two-time elite world downhill champ who is transitioning to full-time enduro racing this year.
“He’s faster out of the corners than anyone,” adds Clementz’s Cannondale teammate Mark Weir. “There is no wasted energy with him.” (See a POV video display of Clementz’s speed.)
A knack for maintaining speed has made Clementz a star.
If that description makes Clementz sound a bit manic, it’s not completely off base. Besides a full race slate, he also runs a four-race enduro series in his home region of Alsace, France, operates an event timing company, and travels the world putting together action-packed bike-porn videos for his sponsors and fans (see below).
Clementz has also taken on a leadership role within the Enduro World Series, a first-year, seven-event series that concludes this October with the crowning of the first ever enduro world champion.
“At the beginning I was just talking with the organizers because I was curious about how everything would play out,” said Clementz about the non-UCI sanctioned series that was born out of the international governing body’s rejection of the discipline as a potential world championship event. “Once the UCI made their decision and the new group was formed, they asked me to come on board to give feedback and talk to the other riders. My goal will be to talk with the pros and the amateurs to see what they think, and then pass that back information back to the organizer and give them the feedback.”
As for the UCI’s decision to not add enduro to its rainbow jersey slate, Clementz thinks it may be a blessing in disguise. “I think it will be better that the series comes from people who ride and are passionate about the sport,” he said. “The UCI did not want it so we can do it without them. We are ready. To me they don’t decide who is the world champion. A world champion is decided when all the top riders come together and compete, and I think with this new series they will all come. And as a rider that is all I want, just to race against best riders.”
And have fun riding a giant wave, of course.