Montpellier, Fise 2011. It was a wet boring saturday afternoon, it should have been a day full of races, but the rain was unstoppable.
Tired of being tourists, we went to the Fise space to have a sad look to the wet parks brooding over what could have been if… Well, every cloud has a silver lining.
What follows is what came out from a friendly chat with one of our most loved bmx riders, Alessandro Barbero, busy too in ruminating on an impossible race.
Behind: How does it feel being back to Fise 2011 as the winner?
“It makes me feel much more excited, mostly because the last 3 years have been more than positive with 3 podiums. Not even Mark Webb ever did something like that in park, I think.
And it’s tough, you feel everybody’s eyes pointed on you, sponsors and agent included, the kids follow you asking for autographs, everybody asks you questions and spurs you… obviously, anxiety is behind the corner.
The end of all this is unpredictable, everything as anything may happen, after 3 winning years I could easily loose the podium, choose the wrong lines or make mistakes during the run ’cause of the wet park and fuck everything up. Anyway, what’s capital is that now I feel great.
Yesterday I also raced in Dirt. I didn’t touch soil from 2006, when I even got a podium by the way. It’s been stirring, it really sent me… terrific! Unfortunately it started raining after the 3rd run and the judges were forced to stop the race, while I was junt goin’on thinking “Again, again! I wanna ride!”.
Behind: By the way, would you like to weigh the possibility of racing in disciplines different from the park?
“In bmx the park is the most important category even in the USA and always gave me enormous satisfactions as much as victories, but after years spent racing there I’d like to change a bit.
So I decided to come back to Dirt. I grew up dirt jumping but soon its evolution speeded up, bringing structures and jumps height to increase exponentially. Obviously neither in Italy nor in Europe there would be parks that can even get closer to that level; so, training and aiming to the top gets hard.
I deeply believe in myself, my abilities and in the control I get on my bike. The few last Dirt runs fully showed me what I can get and payed me back for the sacrifices of the past years… I enjoyed it like never before! I’ll surely have more dirt, as much as I’ll try to do a bit of everything, as I consider myself a quite complete rider”.
Behind: How can you live just riding, or better survive, in Italy? I guess it’s hard…
“It’s more than hard! consider that the italian bmx pro who can live just riding are 3, me included. And it’s tough even when you’re at the top. Most of the people are not aware of what we do and how we do it, how many sacrifices we have to face.
I spend 6 months in the USA constantly beside the best world riders. Simply watching them spurs me to be more creative at 360° and inspires me in always trying new tricks. If I didn’t live there for so long now I wouldn’t be at the Fise with 3 podiums in a row.
Not even in Europe you can find such a source of inspiration that makes you grow so much.
In the USA you can train in warehouses where you can ride whenever from the early morning ’till late in the evening, as much as you want. I can spend a whole week training intensely to get a trick, to get how it works, its right speed and, most important, how to slip it up. Then, for weeks I can forget the foam pit and use the park in a completely different way, always riding new lines, trying technical sometimes already tested tricks on resin. That makes me extremely confident.
I have to develop the relation with my sponsors. Sometimes they force me to spend time and energies I would prefer using training, on my bike or in foam pit trying new and old tricks. Yes, the old ones you always have to try and keep up with, pretty much every day.
Then there’s the tiring part of my “job”. In winter I train every day to the gym with my very good and professionally exceptional personal trainer Lorenzo.
Training is essential, I don’t know anybody who can ride high-level excluding the workout. Even Daniel Dheers does it, for instance. Maybe Mark Webb doesn’t take it into account, but I’m 2-years older than him. Time flies for everybody, ironically the more you grow older the more you need to train.
Running, exercise bike, spinning, upper body ergometer for the arms, aerobics are what the experts at the Red Bull medical center in Austria taught me for gaining better and more concentration, decreasing tiredness, getting over the jet-lag and toning up. Bmx and its physical efforts makes you inevitably heavier.
You know what?! They were right! Given for granted that one week spent there means suicide, thanks to them I found out that even after a back-breaking period my tiredness level kept much over the limits of their tests.
Crazy, they were not even lightly satisfied, they couldn’t believe I had trained so well, they justified the good result by saying I was old!” Getting old makes you better”, they said.
While in the summer maintaining a constant aerobic training is harder: park trainings and races, lack of time and structures… tell me where I can find an exercise bike at the Fise for one hour of spinning course, and I’ll do it!”
Behind: When you turn to try a trick from the foam pit to the park, what goes on in your head?
“First of all, you have to feel the trick yours. The time spent to learn it is different for everyone. For example… nowadays the backflips can be learned in a day or two as much as you could need a whole week to get it.
Second, and basic for everyone: you need to perfectly remember every step and mouvement got in foam pit. The mistake Everyone’s usually scared passing from the foam pit to the resin, and move faster… I’m guilty too sometimes. But this is a big mistake.
You necessarily need to fix in your mind the speed of the trick, the way you leave the lip and the air time, I mean how much time is left from the landing moment. Unless the jump allows to constantly focus the landing, tricks are always blind; being aware of the time spent up without the landing in plain sight saves you. It becomes part of your skill through massive training and experience.
Last but not least, you must believe in what you do. Always. You can pass months to get a tricks, every day you do it wrong, until the moment when you believe in yourself comes and… et voila! It’s made.
What you must not do is trying a trick for the hell of it: you won’t do it and you’ll probably fall badly, for sure! You must always believe in it.”
Behind: Let’s talk about the switch from Mirra Co. to Hyper Bike.
“Hyper Bike was looking for a rider pushing their bikes either in Europe or in the USA. The pro riders in their team are 3: Mike Spinner, Donnie Robinson in bmx race and me.
Hyper is a long-standing bmx trademark comin’ out at the end of the ’80s and omnipresent in the world of bmx race. Once in the past they already tried to be part of the freestyle disciplines but failed. It’s a big Company with a remarkable turnover and a great american-made frame not solded in Taiwan that I feel great.
Hyper’s project is different from the Mirra Co., it better meets my riding style, I have a voice inside the Company as I’m involved in their development projects and they promote me even in the USA.
I’m happy about the decision I took, but this doesn’t mean I’m not sorry not to be part of the Mirra Co. team anymore. After all Dave Mirra’s always been a guide for me since I was a child and the one thanks to and for whom I’m here now. I spent a wonderful time with that team and him, laeving those years behind is impossible.”
Behind: Especially in the world of bmx don’t you feel a kind of fashion… trend? Let’s say it, they all dress the same.
You are far from it, a kind of white fly, you always have a different style. It’s raving.
Why such a choice? You never gave a damn or what?”
“Awesome question, really! I never let no-one affect me. I like my style, I love wearing colored gloves, riding a colored bike… everybody tends to use skinny jeans, but picture how I could look like, with my body! I couldn’t afford it! (laughs, Ed.). Think, the jeans I usually wear are quite tight for me, and they are normal-fit.
Everybody always tells me I’ve the style of a snowboarder… but I grew up in the world of snowboard! I carry on doin’ my way, I don’t feel the influences of this kind of new trendy “brakeless” school. Frankly speaking, it makes me quite baffled.
I think everyone’s free to think, and as this is what I do, it seems I chosed well.
Clearly, tighter jeans can help you in not hitching on chains, crank or pedals, they can make you ride safer… but it’s fashion, in the end.
In my opinion it’s not positive for the scene as the riders seem not to have personality.
And big sponsors prefer originality, for instance. After all, if a sponsor helps you, you have to return the favor somehow. It’s easy, and for me it’s funny! I like it doin’it.”
Behind: What, in 10 or 15 years?”
“It’s hard to answer. Until I’ll be at the top I’ll go on riding, this is the charming challenge. After what I know I’ll ride anyway, forever. It helps me, it makes me feel alive.”
Behind: Do you like the competitive side?”
” I like it ’cause I love training. Let’s say it straight, you always compete against yourself. Some riders are stronger than me, it’s obvious, but nobody says they are unbeatable. I can win as it happened last year. The psychological training is the secret. I’m not too competitive, on the contrary! I know that my position implies big responsibilities, such as givin’ people what they expect from me when someone calls my name … tough tricks. It’s not that easy.
For instance, when I ride in park in Italy I’m even embarrassed if I rock. I see how people look at me when I get there and I make tricks they couldn’t even picture. For this reason, most of the times I try just to be nice, to ride step-by-step and show the children the right learning way. Teaching them wrong would be stupid.
Sorry, I was wandering, let’s come back to the previous question…
I don’t know what will be of me. I don’t know if I’ll still be in Italy, it’s sad but it’s so. Life’s easier abroad, you have many more chances, you find more open doors and better services. Finding a good job would be great, but I’m not sure yet to work in the bmx industry. In the end, the world of bmx is narrow, I wish I didn’t have to do with the same people I always raced with. I don’t want to go on war even while I’m working (laughs, Ed.). I would feel it like a second contest session, I definitely don’t want it.
I’d like to make some money, make some little investments like buying a house. And I’d love to open a restaurant, for sure! I’m a fan of mexican food. But nothing is for granted yet.
Behind: Hypothetical destination?”
“California, there are many more opportunities and life’s cheaper. Moreover, I signed a deal with Wassermann for following my management this year. Its head office is right there, and being there would allow them to offer me a lot of chances.
I could be a stuntman or work on tv for Skullcandy. Maybe I could live there for a couple of years, houses cost as much as a flat in Ceva… (laughs, Ed.).
Obviously I wouldn’t leave Italy outright, I could open my own park and riding there.
Behind: Any advice for who gets into bmx?”
“Don’t follow trends.
Think of a bmx for what it basically is … a bike for children! Start playing with it, digging in your fantasy. Ride on the street and use everything you find just like I did myself at the beginning: a footpath can be a kicker, for instance.
Ride in miniramp, no spine… I grew up in a mini where I got tricks one after the other, not aware of what I was doin’. The first time I saw the park I immediately thought I would have used it as a mini … and so it went.
Ride safe with protections and helmet on. It’s fundamental. Unfortunately the models we have around don’t spread the same message, in every video riders don’t wear anything just to be trendy… it’s silly.
And you must love it!
I always liked the supercross. It might be a nonsense, but when I watch the supercross I feel more pushed in riding bmx than watching bmx. I’m just talking about supercross or freeride motocross, I like freestyle but it makes me tired nowadays. It’s understood that despite that the freestylers have my whole respect, they risk the impossible and work hard for every trick they get, just like us.
I’d like to buy a motorbike but I wouldn’t have time to use it.
What more?! All day, every day!”
He got third to the Fise park finals. Definitely, the man is still riding on top.