We chat to nineteen year old Enduro star Martin Maes of GT Factory Racing who was recently in South Africa for the GT Good Times Tour. Having closed out the Enduro World Series season in fine fashion with his first win in Italy, Maes will be an exciting contender heading into 2017.
Martin chuffed with his win on the last leg of the 2016 Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure, Italy. Photo: EWS
I had the privilege of joining Martin (along with his team mate, and downhiller, Sam Dale) for a trip up the Garden Route on the first leg of the GT Good Times Tour.
After sharing many trails, stories and smiles and some good South African hospitality we sat down with Martin to fire off a few questions.
Your family has a strong background in bikes (your Dad racing DH, BMX and others). Where did it all start for you competitively?
I’d always been watching my Dad’s racing all through Europe when I was young so I kind of wanted to do the same and this is how everything started. At 6 years old I did my first race as soon as I could and, yeah, I kept going
Your background in both cross country and downhill seems like the perfect mix for Enduro. Which discipline would you say helps you the most?
I did some dual slalom races and four cross as well. I’ve always loved jumping and riding my little bike and I think that’s most of it. When you start racing, if you can jump you can pretty much do everything so I would say that’s the main thing really.
What made you focus on Enduro rather than World Cup Downhill (or any other discipline)?
Just because I live in Belgium and you know we don’t have much elevation. So basically if I want to ride my downhill bike I need to do maybe two hours driving, or at least one hour. It’s not perfect and you can’t really train short tracks. Enduro is kind of easy for me, I’ve got the forest next to my door so I just take my bike and I can go train so it’s really easy.
We know Belgium for flat lands, beer and road bikes. Where do you get your mountain bike training in?
I actually live in quite a good place to ride a bike, it’s quite hilly, well, as I said before the elevation drop is not much, but you can do something. For example if I go for a 50 kilometer ride I can get over 1000m of elevation so it’s not bad.
What bike (or bikes) would you take along to a typical EWS round?
I always take my [GT] Sanction. Do you want my setup too? It might be secret [chuckles].
No, I have a 170mm fork which is quite big. Pretty much all the riders are using 160mm still, but I think it fits well with the Sanction which is a really big bike. I usually run the Schwalbe’s with cut spikes upfront which is not very usual and quite low pressure.
Martin put in an aggressive performance to win the final round of the 2016 Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure, Italy. Photo: EWS
Looking back at your EWS win at Finale did you have any idea while on course that you were on the way your your first win?
No, not really. I felt obviously strong, but not stronger than usual. But my fitness was really good and the setup on my bike as well. I just felt really good all week. Even at practice I just felt, I dunno, like maybe something was coming, something special at least. It’s strange that that was obviously good to put it all together and finally get that win.
Aside from Italy, which was your favorite EWS Round in 2016?
I think Argentina was my favourite, it was pretty special because of the dust. Like I’ve never seen anything like this. So that’s the one I probably remember the most.
Is this your first visit to SA? What do you think of the trails so far?
Yeah, first time in South Africa and it’s a good country. I really like it, I’ve had so much fun with the GT Good Times Tour in South Africa so far. We rode the Garden Route Trail park and that’s, well, some of the best trails I’ve ever ridden, probably in my life. It was a good surprise. So they don’t have much elevation, but you know the work they put into it and everything was just really awesome. It’s a beautiful place as well.
Just hanging out at the Garden Route Trail Park
Find out more about the GT Good Times Tour here