Two years ago the relatively unknown (to American cross fnas) Nicolas Bazin kicked off his cross season in the United States, where he picked up a pair of victories in Vermont and Rochester. Bazin then headed back to Europe where he had mixed success before embarking on a long road season with BigMat-Auber 93.
In early September it wasn’t a big surprise to see Bazin’s name on the start list of races like Rohrbach’s Ellison Park Cyclocross and the Catamount Grand Prix. What followed was a string of victories, including sweeping Ellison Park Cross, the first day of the Catamount GP and sweeping Charm City Cross. Before heading back to Europe, Bazin added a pair of top ten’s in Gloucester to his five wins.
After Bazin headed back to France in October, we caught up with him via email. We cannot thank Nicolas enough for this interview. English is not his native language and French is not ours. He did a wonderful job responding to our questions in English.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in cycling in general? How did you get started in cross?
When mountain biking became popular in France, I started riding with my father when I was seven years old. In the beginning, we did some mountain bikes races, but I didn’t start racing with a club (US Domont) until I was 13. I raced some mountain bike and some road races with the club. When I was 14, I did my first cyclocross race to keep fit and racing during the winter. However, it has become my favorite sport!
What do you during the “off-season”? Road? MTB? Other?
For a long time, I raced all three sports. I would race road and mountain in the summer and cyclocross during the winter. From 2006 – 2008 I was on a UCI MTB Team [BH-Sr. Suntour] and raced all the World Cups. As a result, I didn’t do a lot of road races. Since 2009, I have stopped mountain biking and joined a continental team on the road, but I have continued to race cyclocross during the winter.
In France, cyclocross is the “off-season,” my work is on the road. I am lucky to have a team that is okay with me racing during the cross season!
Bazin with his coach Pierre Hutsebaut (www.peakcentremontreal.ca).
Why have you chosen to come to the US to start your season the past two years?
For the past two years, I’ve been going to Canada in December to visit my coach who lives near Montreal. It’s not too far of a trip to come to the US each weekend for racing. The US has a very good start to the season. Each weekend, I can do two UCI races. The level of racing is good, but no too high like in Belgium. My goal is to go for the win, get into the rhythm of racing and get UCI points. This is very important for the starting position at the World Cups.
What differences do you see between the US and European racing?
In the US, there are a lot of people at each race and a lot of races each day, with a lot of categories (masters, juniors, etc.). Everyone comes to race. At UCI races in Europe, there are less racers and races, but more spectators. In Belgium, there are 10,000 people at each race, and even more in December and January. In France we don’t have a lot of big races. There are only three UCI races, but a lot of little “regional” races.
Why have you been so successful this season in the US?
I don’t know. I’m trying to have a good season this year and I hope it continues!
Bazin grabs the victory at Catamount GP – Day 1. Photo: Todd Prekaski.
What are your big goals this season?
My big goal this season is the French National Championships, as is every French riders!
France has become a big-time cross country over the past few years. Francis Mourey, Aurelien Duval, Matthieu Boulo, Arnaud Jouffroy, John Gadret, yourself, the list goes on and on. Why/how has France become such a prominent cross country?
I think cross is a very pleasant sport for young people; it’s short, spectacular, fun, and muddy! Each race of the “challenge national” has a lot of Cadet [15/16] and Junior [17/18] riders. There are more than 150 racers at each race.
Note: this years series has had over 100 junior riders at it events, almost half of whom are women.
What one race would you love to win?
A lot! Of course, the World Champion’s jersey is the most important, but it’s a very hard goal for me. A French championship is very hard to win, but I can do that. It’s a one day race and anything can happen!
The 2009 World Championships in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands drew massive crowds. Photo: Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net
What’s your most memorable cross race or moment?
Maybe the World Championships in Hoogereide. There were 60,000 people, it was a very fast race and it was enormously noisy all the race. It was hard and I was nervous, but it was a wonderful experience.
We looked for you on Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc. and cannot find you. In this age of technology how have you been able to not get sucked into everything?
I’m on Facebook, but I try to have just my family and real friends in contact with me. I have a sportblog, in French (nicolasbazin.sportblog.fr).
France in known for their wine, cross is known for its beer. What’s your favorite wine? Beer?
Wine for sure! A white wine, do you know “Sancère”?
Once again, thanks to Nicolas for the interview. We will continue to follow him throughout the season and hope to catch up with him towards the end of the year.