Paul is a photojournalist and runs the French Vojo Magazine. An avid mountain biker, Paul enjoys exploring new places on his bike when he's not behind the camera.
VISIONARIES EP1 | Sardinian Road trip with Paulin, Bruni and Vergier.
Two trucks, three dirt bikes, six mountain bikes and too many bags later, we were in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea for five days with Gautier Paulin, Loïc Bruni and Loris Vergier.
Internet seems to have a passion for the most ambitious cross-over. We think we have a good one with :
- Gautier Paulin : Multiple MX of Nations Champ, former Factory MXGP pilot.
- Loris Vergier : MTB Downhill World Cup three-time winner. Team Trek Factory Racing.
- Loïc Bruni : 4 time MTB Downhill World Champion. Team Specialized Gravity.
After many years racing MXGP at the factory level around the world and multiple winter training camps in Sardinia, Gautier Paulin has decided to close the chapter on his professional career and focus on other things that he enjoys in life…like riding his mountain bike. Cycling has always been part of his training but it didn’t take long until his BMX background as a youth called for some mountain bike rides at this stage in his life.
Loïc and Loris share a different story. They’re in the middle of their professional Downhill Mountain Bike racing careers and right in their training season. For them, sailing to Sardinia is like sneaking out of your parent’s place to “do your homework” with your friends. They brought some training machines, but it might not be the most studious week of the year. Riding dirt bikes is a passion of theirs and another way to ride on two wheels when they’re not a 100% focused on downhill racing.
MX and MTB have a lot of connections and everyone shares the same love for a deep sandy rut. We only needed a short 15 meter section to spend more than an hour play riding which turned into pushing hard to the point the berms collapsed. Light is fading, gnocchi are overcooked and our Airbnb is rearranged to spend a few great « after rides ».
It’s sometimes hard to understand what makes a good road trip and ours begins with a quest for super unleaded. The corners of the first MX track we visit brings us straight to the sea. Gautier has spent so much time getting ready for this he doesn’t realize Loris and Loïc are a bit more nervous before entering this loop of sand. Their coach isn’t anyone, and they’re not your random beginner. A few minutes later you could hear them shout at each other with a big smile under their helmets.
You can’t make up talent and our two mountain bikers are building confidence fast. Gautier makes sure everyone knows retirement is still fresh with some massive whips over the sunset.
This trip to Sardinia is quite special to Gautier. He’s been here many times but for the first time he’s there for his own pleasure, only with his bikes, his friends and no training obligations. For Loïc and Loris, it’s time to raise the curtain on a world made of truth and fantasy. You can find many parallels; commitment is the same.
We save a bike from a full tank of gas-oil mixture, the safety nets prove themselves useful and the seaside pizza gets everyone excited.
Open the Instagram accounts of our three French riders and you’ll find that U.S. Supercross is a big thing for them. Without too much surprise our next morning was all about it and what happened during the night before going riding. And thanks to the Facetime magic and your friend’s collaboration, you won’t miss anything, even during a toilet break.
We dive deep into Sardinia’s hospitality when we meet the local mountain bike riders and their families, opening up their terrace for a massive lunch made of risotto, cheese, coffee and panettone. It’s about 3pm when our MTB tires finally touch the ground for the first time on a local track in the middle of the island.
The local riders are so hyped to see the guys on their trails they made everything perfect for them with a shuttle waiting at the bottom of the trail. Gautier quickly catches an impressive flow right behind the wheels of Loïc and Loris.
The sun set and some local honey waffles are calling it a day.
Back on the moto tracks, you ought to know that if you’re standing in the middle of a 40m triple, chances are high, you’ll get flown over by Gautier Paulin. Everyone stops moving when he gets out of the corner, full gas on his bike before jumping one good share of the whole track.
In the middle of the olive trees, confidence is rising up for Loïc and Loris. Joined by Gautier, they share a good few rides going the same pace all together. Last day on the mountain bike before sailing back to France. Loris and Loïc cruise down the trail looking (obviously) easy and Gautier and his MX and competitive background is far from being left behind. Who can do the most, can do the least, and Gautier makes every jump look easy on a bike he didn’t even know two days before.
Riding down under a bridge the whole crew is stopped by the local kids recognizing the riders for a quick signing session.
And just like when we started, all our gear is thrown deep in our bags while enjoying the extra minutes of ride allowed by Google Maps before being (really) late for our boat. Back on the boat we take our chances with scratch card games, dreaming of some extra days in Sardinia. In between training and holidays we were deep in the two-wheel culture : here for fun, but with an obvious seek for speed, style and performance.
No one is born a champion, but you can become one and work hard to stay on top. Loïc, Loris and Gautier have a common skillset but we realized they also know how to build their confidence and seek inspiration. Halfway between fun and training, it’s obvious they share more than just sweat and good times and you can expect them to be faster than what they already are.