Interview – Pablo Gutierrez
I live in Pourrières, a village in the south of France. We have a nice pump track there, we are ten minutes away from Trets BMX Track and 15 min away from Peynier Trail. So, a good place to live quietly and keep riding!
Years in BMX?
I started when I was 5 years old and I still ride at 39… So 34 years of riding!
How did you get into BMX, how was your local scene?
My father was riding motocross. There was a BMX track not far from where we lived. My parents signed me up for it and I never stopped. I think they chose their child’s sport well! I don’t really remember the local scene. I just remember we had a nice old-school red and white jersey.
Who were some of the French riders who inspired you?
I loved Team Sunn in the 90s when they had the green outfits. It was classy and they rode hard: Falco, Poussin, Tricard, Lévêque… I really liked seeing Thomas Allier riding: it was fast and there was some style.
You had a good Am career. What were your highlights?
I won the French Championships 11 times, the European Championships 9 times, and the Worlds 4 times. The highlight from this period was my World title in junior men in Paulinia, Brazil. For the record, I have ridden on this track with a 40×16 or a 41×16.
Elite Year highlights?
I would say it was between 2005 and 2008. I was in the Europe top 8 riding against Lakucs, Allier, Boutte, Mattisons, Balztersen, Prokop, and some of the Dutch Army! My best year was 2007 when I finished 5th in the Worlds: this allowed me to be in the front row of an anthology final between Bennett and Young. Stumpfhauser made an inside pass on the second turn for third place. In retrospect, I think it was a classy move to have Stumpfhauser do an inside pass!
Explain more about your hashtag #fiveinavan?
My wife, our three children, me, and a van – that’s five in a van! We’ve always traveled a lot as a family, doing road trips of varying lengths. Last year we did a tour of Europe. We were gone for five months. We crossed 15 countries and did 22000 km, all this with 5 people in our VW Transporter. It was huge. I have only good memories of it. To be done again!
How’s BMX these days in 2023 for you? I see you are still on the flats riding trails.
I love to ride… Whether it’s Race, Pump Track or Trails, I have a lot of fun and as I said earlier, I live near three very good spots. That makes things easier. I ride when I feel like it, no training, just when I have time and feel like it. I think I have to do three sessions a week. It keeps me going! Recently we went to Spain for three days with my friend Gilles to ride two trails. I was like a kid. The passion is still there!
Tell us about your bike?
It is a Trail frame. I wanted to have only one bike to ride in Trails and Race, not to have to change. It’s true that it’s less efficient than an aluminum or carbon frame, but it’s much more pleasant and comfortable to ride. And, I don’t really care (anymore) if I’m in front. I’d rather have a lap of the track fighting to get to the semi-final, doing a jump where I should have done a manual, doing an old-school foot-out trajectory! It’s hard to believe when you know how I was competing before, but I don’t really care about the result. I just want to do a nice lap and have fun.
Who are some of the French top riders these days you like to watch?
I really enjoy watching Sylvain André. You know he’s not going to let up until the finish line is crossed. In fact, there are quite a few of them! Rencurel, Mahieu, Pillard… They all have their own style. It’s technically clean and they are nice. I can’t wait to see who the next generation will be. I think it’s still quite difficult to make a place for yourself among these riders. But it’s growing behind, it’s happening little by little.
Why has BMX always seemed so good in France?
Wow, I don’t really know. Today everyone is training hard. The training methods are different, but all riders are top athletes now. So, I don’t think it’s the training load that makes the difference but rather a group emulation. I often see sessions organized between several French riders and that must really make them progress. The young riders are also well-supervised and arrive at the U23 with a very good level. They are already making their mark. Honestly, I don’t know, good question!
Arnaud Dubois, 2012 Olympics, Road trip, and party friend.
How would you evaluate your career? How serious you were?
Pretty good. Of course, I could have been more serious a few times, in parties, nutrition. But on the other hand, I always gave 110%, whether it was in training or on the day of the competition. I remember splits or weight training sessions where I gave everything or races where I didn’t give up until the finish line. So, I’m pretty happy with my career. My only regret is that I was not selected for the Beijing Olympics. I messed up my season in 2008, even though I had done well the year before. It’s a shame but you get over it! I think this is the year I was the most serious yet. I should have maybe had more parties!!!
Have you ever partied the night before a race?
Yes, with you! As I said, I’ve always done everything at 110%. So, if there was a party, well, you had to do it. And then I had a good party companion! I think I had my best parties at the BMX. In Argentina, in Brazil, in the United States, in Spain… It was good and if I had to do it again, I would do it 150%!!!! It was part of BMX, that’s all.
Alex Dropsy, iconic dirt jumper, Hurricane Tracks founder, from Pourrières!
How, after 34 years of riding and racing BMX, having been at the highest level for several years, do you still manage to enjoy regional races and ride so many times a week?
Passion! I love to ride. I enjoy doing a lap, trying a new jump, and making a trajectory in a corner on any track… I even enjoy the practice, I try to get one more lap like the kids! I think it has nothing to do with the level of competition, whether it’s regional or a French Cup, I like the atmosphere. We see our friends, we discuss… And then there are the little ones! I have my son who is riding now and the children of my friends. I like to watch them, to give them one or two tips. I’ve been riding since I was 5 years old and I have great memories of it. I tell myself that they too may have very good memories of those Sundays spent at the edge of the track with their friends. As for riding so many times a week, I don’t think I can go too long without riding BMX. After a while I miss it. I think I ride as much as when I was Elite! And technically I’m still learning. I’m doing parts that I didn’t do before. I ride the trails better than I did before. I feel comfortable on my bike and that’s cool. I haven’t done with the BMX thing yet, maybe one day you can teach me how to do 3.6’s! It’s really the passion of riding, a bit like surfers who love to surf.
Gilles Fina, a BMX friend since 1990 and always there to accompany me on a road trip
If you are told that you have one last session and then it’s over, no more BMX. Where would that be?
For racing, it would be on the 2000’s track in Les Pennes Mirabeau, in the old style, doing first lines in June under a bright sun, with Blink 182.
For the trails, I hesitate between Peynier and Hidden Valley from 2007… But what is sure, with all the friends, until nightfall, the shirts wet with sweat and the hands full of dust. And finally, a few beers before going to a pub to celebrate the last session.
Can you name 10 riders you didn’t come into contact with or get into trouble with at the finish?
Easy… Not you already! Considering that you fell alone while I was overtaking you on the outside of a French Cup and that you were giving me the cold shoulder for 6 months. So: Samy Jahidi, Jérémy Chaffot, Michal Prokop, Henrik Balztersen, Carlos Brambilla, Santiago Duque… There are quite a few other names I can think of but I’m sure if I look hard enough there must have been a little touch in a corner!
My wife who lets me have fun like a kid with my BMX, my parents who chose my sport well when I was little, the friends who support the Atipi Family, my only sponsor – Hurricane Tracks (well, they are also friends!), the guys from Peynier, the club from Trets, the old guys who still have the motivation to go racing on Sundays, all the guys with whom I share sessions and you, Dale, who allows me to have what will probably be my last BMX interview!