ML: Tell us a little about your background. You are 33 and currently work in real estate at Agence de la Gare on avenue Prince Pierre.
I was born and raised in Monaco, so I’m an “enfant du pays”, which has a real status in Monaco. This makes my adventure even more special because I am the first “citizen” of Monaco that will race in the Dakar Rally, from Peru to Argentine, on a motorbike.
ML: How did you get involved in motorcycle racing?
I first got on a motorbike at age four. My father was a rally car driver and gave me the passion for the sport from a very young age. I started racing when I was 4 1/2 until 6 years old. Then, because my parents bought a second house in Provence, close to my grandparents, I stopped racing but kept riding off-road for fun with my family and friends.
It wasn’t until I was 14 that I met David Casteu, who at the time was beginning his professional career as a rally driver but today he’s completed 13 Dakar races, was World Rally Champion in 2010 and now manages his own team – Casteu Aventure.
David saw that I had potential and suggested that I race again. So I competed in some local races, then I did the French Enduro Championship and later, I tried the Bajas World Championship in Morocco.
I really enjoyed this kind of race, where the concept is like a rally but without navigation. The only focus is on driving as fast as possible during 300km of stages.
ML: What happened in the World Championship?
In the 2014 World Championship, I finished third after a problem on my bike 80 km before the end of the last stage.
I was pretty frustrated so I tried the World Championship again in 2015 and this time I won.
I really like to challenge myself so I decided last year to start rally raid in order to participate in the 2017 Dakar race. I entered the Rallye de Merzouga, a Dakar-Series event and finished in the Top 20, which gave me a spot at Dakar.
ML: Any interests other than rally racing?
Yes, I love music. I played saxophone for 10 years when I was younger, and I listen to all kinds of music but I prefer electro and hip-hop. I enjoy travelling and meeting people, to discover different cultures.
Then there’s food … but I mean really good food – I really like to cook.
And, of course, I love my girl friend and to spend time with her.
ML: Where are your favourite places to hang out in Monaco? Favourite drive in the region?
That depends on what I feel like. For restaurants, I’d say Quai des Artistes or Maya Bay, but to party I prefer to get out of Monaco, where people are happy and don’t go out just to show off. I think the best places are in Spain. I have family in Ibiza so it’s a good excuse to go there …
I like to drive in the countryside. As I mentioned, my parents have a place in Provence where I spent all my holidays and weekends when I was child. I still go there for training or just for chilling. I love the connection with nature, when you only hear birds and smell the forest and the scent of flowers.
ML: You are the only person from Monaco in the Dakar race. What does it mean to represent your country?
I’m not exactly the only one from Monaco, Daniel Elena, who is the co-driver of Sebastien Loeb, is Monegasque. However, I am the only and first motorbike driver from Monaco.
I’m very proud because Monaco is the second smallest country in the world and even if Monaco is already well known on a global scale, I think it’s great for the Principality to show that we participate in many different activities. I am honoured to be the person that will represent Monaco as a motorbike racer.
ML: This is a 9,000 km course. What is the longest race you’ve done before?
The longest race I’ve done so far is the Oilibya Rally in Morocco, about 3000km. So 9000km will be a real challenge!
ML: How many days will it take you to go from Peru to Argentina? How do you tackle each stage?
The race is 14 days in total. From Peru to Argentina it will take about ten days. The first week takes place only in Peru, the beginning of the second week in Bolivia (more than 4800m altitude) and the last four days in Argentina, in the warmest part.
I’m going to take it day by day, try to keep calm and not burn myself out. It will be a long race.
ML: You’re going to ride on a KTM 450 Rally. For someone like me who’s never been on a bike, what is the hardest thing about a course like this? What do you eat and where do you sleep?
The most difficult thing is to navigate while driving. We are moving at a speed of more than 150km/h, so in one second you go a very long way.
Navigation is key. You don’t have time to waste on your road book because the time you’re looking at the road book is time that you’re not looking at the road – and that’s when accidents happen.
Eating during the day, I have a certain type of food – rich in protein and carbs – that I’ve tested before. At night, meals are served by the organisation. For sleeping, we are lucky because behind our little assistance truck, we have a trailer with beds inside.
ML: Tell us about Be You Monaco and how you became involved?
Be You Monaco is an association that was founded by Luc Moulinas to help people that have a specific skill to reach their best.
I met Luc through a friend, we got talking and he loved my project. Last year, he started to help me prepare for Dakar and a real trust developed between us.
As I always say, thanks to Luc, I found the strength to sign up for Dakar this year because of his positive attitude and passion to bring together many different types of athletes. As they say: “l’union fait la force” (There’s strength in numbers).
ML: What type of training has Be You Monaco been organising?
Thanks to Be You, I’ve had the benefit of a personal trainer, which has been really amazing. He’s opened my mind to a different approach of working out. I used to train hard every day but he’s introduced me to relaxation, also important for a balanced body.
ML: How have you evolved as a result of all this training?
I’ve learned a lot about myself. Of course, after all this training I’m physically more powerful and have greater endurance, but I’ve also progressed a lot mentally, a strength which will be my best “teammate” during this long race.
ML: What is your agenda before the January 6-18 race and after?
I’m enjoying the Christmas holidays with my family, to enjoy every second with my girlfriend, and relax as much as I can.
I will maintain some physical activity to release any stress and will pack my bags calmly.
At the end of the race, my parents, my sister, my girlfriend and one of my best friends will be there so we have planned to visit Puerto Iguazu and Buenos Aires.
ML: Future plans?
I think after this very long and intense preparation, I’ll need to spend time with my girlfriend and why not to start a new challenge with her!
Article first published December 27, 2017.