Catching Up with…#377 Christophe Pourcel | Husqvarna Canada
By Billy Rainford
There are polarizing competitors in every sport – you either love them or hate them. There really is no middle ground. French former World Champion Christophe Pourcel is one of those athletes. He tells it like it is and doesn’t care if you agree with him or not. If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask him the question. It’s just that simple.
Being a so-called ‘media guy,’ I really enjoy talking to him. Because of his feisty reputation, it was a little intimidating the first time, but once we got rolling I found him to be one of my favourite interviews. You won’t find him beating around the bush, and that’s refreshing.
It was a big surprise and great for our sport when it was announced that he was going to race in Canada last summer. We suspected he was very near the end of his career and now the record will show he retired after one last year racing in Canada, and that’s pretty cool.
He was in a summer-long dogfight with Matt Goerke and only lost the MX1 title by a few points. We got in touch with him to talk about his summer in Canada and what he plans on doing next.
Direct Motocross: Hello, Christophe. We haven’t spoken to you in a while. I’m pretty sure we’ve never had a former World Champion compete in our entire series here in Canada. Can you take us through your decision to leave the American series and come to Canada in what turned out to be your final racing season of your career? Basically, why the heck were you here?
Christophe Pourcel: I guess it is good for Canada to have a world champ and US champ (Laughs). I got 2 cervical spine fractures in 2016 and that was about the end for me. After the second fracture, it was very difficult to recover. Even this summer was tough but I had to fight to get better and I am lucky that I was able to ride after all the spine injuries. With the team in the USA we decided that with my injury it would be best to take time off and only ride motocross. Canada was less risky and safer. Husky and Rockstar were able to put a program together just for me in Canada and Rockstar is big up there so it was a perfect fit for me to race up there and have fun.
Canada is a huge country with very different geography from one part to another. What was your favourite part of Canada?
Canada is big for sure. I would have to say Banff was one of the best places I’ve been. With all the lakes and the mountain bike riding, all the ice during summer and the waterfalls, it was amazing and I enjoyed my time there.
You famously blasted some of our tracks in our podcasts, but did you have a favourite up here from last summer?
I mean, I don’t want to trash talk anyone but some of the tracks were amateur tracks, for sure. Deschambault was an amazing track, but when I judge a track, it’s about the track but also the infrastructure around it. Safety is very important for me, that’s all. I still enjoyed my time up there and had a lot of good experiences.
How about your least favourite? Which track did you hate?
I am not sure. I would have to say all the rounds with the dust. We couldn’t see much but like I said, overall, most of the tracks were good, just amateur style, and I guess I expected to race a Pro Championship, so it felt weird to go back to my amateur racing.
You only lost the title by a few points. Do you look back at Pleasant Valley where you were docked positions for not going straight to the podium? What exactly happened there? Did you know the rule?
I mean, you cannot regret what happened. I was wide open focused on the race at Pleasant Valley. I got passed because of certain reasons with my health; I couldn’t ride the way I wanted. So, when I finished the race, I didn’t see any official so I just went to the truck. I didn’t think I made a mistake. I didn’t even think that I was on the podium that day. I think people don’t understand when you are in the battle, you don’t think about the podium or the rules, you just focus on the track and other riders. I don’t think it was very nice of the organization to give away the championship at this point.
This may be a difficult question and it may not be: Of all the races you’ve done anywhere, does one stand out as your favourite memory?
Probably my first race back in the US in 2009. I won after being paralyzed for 14 months of struggle. It was the best feeling ever.
Obviously, you’ve suffered some serious injuries in your career. Do they bother you on a daily basis or are you fine now?
A little bit. I am getting better every day, but it will never be like it was before all the accidents. I’ve risked my life doing this job for years. I knew the risk and I took it. It was a lot of fun and not so much, sometimes. I just wish I never broke my back.
Of all the riders you’ve competed against, who was the one you most respected as a racer? Did you have any great rivalries?
The best one is, of course, Tony Cairoli. We had some amazing battles…aggressive battles, good battles, and bad ones. We were young and all we wanted is to win, but today Tony is a good friend of mine and I respect everything he has won. I wanted to go to the US and win, but if I would’ve stayed, it would’ve been such an amazing battle between us. I love to have another racer who fights like he does for a championship.
In the USA, I would say (Ryan) Dungey was very good to battle with and a very respectful guy, but I was missing that fire in him to show me that he was the real champ when my bike broke. I feel that he won because I gave it to him.
If you could do your career over again, would you change anything?
I would change my decision for waiting for Kawasaki to give me a deal. I loved the bike and I knew I could win on it. I knew if I changed it would take me a few years before being 450 champion. But they never gave me an offer and they said that I wanted too much money, which is not true. I never ever received an offer to ride for my dream team. I was not mad but just very sad.
What did you do when the season ended last August?
I took some family vacation away from racing. It was fun and I needed more time for my neck to heal. We visited North Carolina. I just enjoyed life in general instead of traveling everywhere.
You just announced your retirement from Pro racing. What’s next for you?
For now, I am just trying to relax for a bit. I sold my house in Florida and am looking to move somewhere else in the US. A lot of changes and adjustment. I will find out soon what I’ll be doing, exactly.
Will you stay in the moto industry? Did you make and save enough money to live on? If not, what job will you do or look for?
Moto has been my life so I know a lot of people there. If there is a good opportunity, yes, I am interested, but the priority is to take a step back and relax at this time.
I have had a lot of success and made money to be good for the rest of my life. That was my goal before retiring.
Where will you guys call home now that you’re retired?
I would say USA is home, but not sure what state (Laughs).
Will you continue to watch Supercross? Who will win the 450 title this year?
Of course. I watch Supercross with friends and I have a bunch of friends riding. For who is going to win, it is tough for me to not cheer for my friend, Marv (Marvin Musquin). It is early to say who is going to be champion. I think Marvin has the next 4 years to be champion. This year (Ken) Roczen is back and looks very strong and he is very good in the whoops and showed us last year that he can win over Dungey by 20 seconds. I raced him outdoors and on a good day he is very tough to beat. He overcame a big injury like me with my back and nothing is stopping you after all that pain, so I say Roczen but Marvin is my favorite, of course.
If you ever get the urge to give your opinion on the races, we’d love to hear from you! Hearing what you have to say about the Supercross races this season would be great! Think about it, but it doesn’t pay well!
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today and enjoy your retirement.
Thank you, guys.