Featured Rider: Nicolas Gachoud

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Nicolas, is the man behind La Fièvre, an association in Switzerland and is responsible for creating a lot of stoke with events like the Bukolik freeride, now he’s organising Descente!, the next stop on the IGSA Euro circuit. Get to know the man behind the action below.
Hey Nicolas, where are you from?
I’m from Lausanne, Switzerland. I was born there and have been living here for the last few years.

When did you start skating?
I’d rather say “riding”, because I’ve been into BMX and bikes as well as skateboarding and rollerskating since a very early age. I was about 3 – 4 years old the first time I broke an arm that way.

Have you broken many bones since then?
Not that many actually. I must have a lucky star or two, I guess.

Which of the sports has left the most love bites?
Funnily enough: athletics. Because you’re always injured, muscles, articulations, there’s always something going wrong. And skeleton riding, for the ice burns.

Have you remained active in extreme sports since that early age?
I’ve never done extreme sports to my point of view. Alternative sports maybe. To me, downhill skiing or ski jumping, and some other “classic” sports are way more extreme than what I done. But I’m always active, as I’m still riding – hard – as often as I can.

Do you practice all forms of skateboarding?
No. I don’t do street. And I don’t go over 30 MPH as it’s written on my old red Kryptonics 70mm Route wheels! But I like to commute with a longboard, go for a giant slalom session or riding the bowl early in the morning. For the rest, I’m relying on faster ways to ride: inline skates and streetluge!

Did you start riding in Lausanne?
I started downhill riding in Lausanne, as it’s possibly the best city for that.

Why do you think so?
Great pavement, great slopes with various gradient, friendly people and police department, a fantastic public transportation system, gorgeous panoramic view of Geneva Lake from any street, etc. It’s not just about topography.

The public relation with ‘’alternative transport’’ riders is good?
If you mean by alternative transport, middle aged women on electrical bikes, I don’t know. But WE work with the City urbanists and other structures caring about how the city could develop without car traffic in a near future. It’s part of my job in fact!

Your job is maintaining a good relationship between skaters and the government?
I’m working for an organization running the city skatepark, looking after all the other structures offered to the riders in town, and organizing events around here. So we work very closely with all the City departments, police, tourism, urban development, and the youth workers and schools as well. We feel very lucky as the downhill scene is fully a part of it.

What’s the association called?
La Fièvre”. We’ll have our 20th birthday next year.

Who else is involved?
About 600 members, several employees, many partners (shops, clubs, etc) and other side projects as well (street art, parkour, music festivals).

When did you join the gang?
About twenty years ago! At first DESCENTE! was to be held in Lausanne city. Until 10 years ago, we had a huge inline skating scene and downhill contests – including stand-up and luge –  from the top of the City every year. But it’s getting hard to get a slot to close roads during the summer time. We are in the Olympic Capital, and once you drop your place, there’ll quickly be another big sporting event filling it.

What caused the loss of momentum?
As with many big structures starting from scratch, there comes a time when the founding people get tired. Some non-riders took over the place, with very poor results. It’s mostly the fault of the riders for not having been involved earlier. But now, things are back on track! A good idea when you’re running a structure is to prepare the next generation of “leaders”, and to acknowledge the fact that they may view and do things differently.

What was your role in the beginning?
I was 14, so my role was to help a little, get some free wheels and ride with the big guys! Since then I’ve been involved in many projects, whether I was living in Lausanne or not.

How has your role evolved in the last 2 decades?
As in any club or structure, one’s role is usually defined by how much energy one puts in it. In my case, I came back 3 years ago to Lausanne, and “La Fièvre” was in a terrible shape. It took two years and some painful management to make it work again. We doubled the income, we have four times more kids at the indoor skatepark, and the scene is getting together again – freeborders, inliners, bmx, longboarders. It’s all about energy in order to make it happen , and a little shouting from time to time. It comes quite handy when you’re running a downhill race too!

Where had you been skating prior to those 3 years?
Not very far away, precisely in the area where DESCENTE! will take place this summer. Around Montreux, one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is located between the lake and mountains. But on a swiss scale, it’s another country, even if it’s only 30 km away from Lausanne! A very different state of mind too, and yet people are as nice and friendly.
During the 90s, I was touring quite a lot for the competitions, mainly in inline skating and streeluge.

When did you start competiting?
Around 1994-95, because at first I was doing a lot of athletics and speedskating, so I was way fitter than the average riders at that time. Technically I improved a lot as well during those years, as I was lucky enough to travel, discover plenty of spots. But mainly, riding down the city every night and escaping the city to the mountain passes on weekends helped me most.

Have you done any stand up skating races?
Streetluging and inlineskating in competition. I sometimes commute a little with various boards, but never competed.

Has it been easy to get the longboarders, inliners, bmx all to get together and stay together?
With the aggressive scene, it was and will always be complicated sometimes. When it comes to downhill, yes and no. In the early 00s, the inline scene was just crumbling down because all the brands were collapsing, and because of a very bad spirit among the racers. So in order to put up some new kind of events, we had to rejoin the longboarders, who were emerging more or less at the same time. So we started, as in France, to organize freerides. For Switzerland it was a big novelty and at first over 80% of the riders were coming from abroad. But it helped to regroup the scene – standup, inliners, lugers, etc.

Were you involved in the organisation of any of these events?
Yeah, we’ve created the BUKOLIK Freeride. The track is used during winter for luging and is a former bobsleigh and luge World Cup track. And there’s a funicular to go up the hill, so it’s almost non-stop riding. And the spirit of the place is just unbelievable. Last year, we hosted the 100th anniversary of the Swiss Bobsleigh and Skeleton federation during the event. It was very moving to see old bob Olympic champions from the 50s and 60s watching and appreciating the show (and getting heavily drunk). On a personal note, it was two of my passions joining together for one weekend, a very special time. As was my wedding party at the same place a few years ago! And I created the SPEEDSPOT sessions, somewhat more technical and extreme than your regular family event.

How did the longboard community benefit from the freerides?
Still nowadays, freerides attract a wider audience than the competitions. The level of riding has increased as much as it has in racing. It’s the best way to get into proper downhill: safe track, closed roads, riders of every level and disciplines, fine atmosphere. And you’re sure to take part in the next pool, so you don’t care if you fuck up your run while trying to pass your closest friend! In Lausanne we have also a permanent downhill place with an official status, allowing you to go fast, learn, put some slalom cones, etc. Next year we’ll add a slope style area to this place.

What are the advantages of banding together?
We practice some very individual disciplines. Nonetheless, I guess it’s human at some point to share the passion, learn from others. And overtake them. That’s why I like freerides: it’s as competitive as racing can be, except when you’re in front, there are not 3 but at least 10 to 15 guys chasing you. Great sensations.

Do you have any events coming up?
DESCENTE! of course, a European IGSA leg and IIDA World Cup, on the 17th-19th August. And then I have three more events after (BMX, inline slalom and a cruiser board snakerun contest at the bowl). With my job and side projects, I’m running or taking part in more than 30 events per year. But the downhill ones are my favorites, for sure!

Is this the first IGSA event in Switzerland?
Some years ago, Sami Cantienni organized a fine event on the Eastern part of Switzerland: Chill on a Swiss Hill. And in 200something there were a few races around the German part as well. But since then, though we’ve had among the best riders in the WorldCup scene, there were no events in Switzerland. On my side, I wanted to recreate something around Lausanne before moving to something else, so it was a good opportunity. 2012 was meant to be the “alpha version” year, but the IGSA and IIDA were kind enough to give us a very high ranking in their calendar. Quite an honor, and a lot of pressure too!

Who’s idea was it?
Mine, quite frankly. No one truly believed in the project outside of Lausanne. We were informed that there would be some roadwork and that the police were not very keen on closing half of the city for the sixth time in a month! But this year, the BUKOLIK had to be canceled because the funicular is in full revision, so we’ve merged both teams. We’ll have a new funicular and our tenth anniversary next year. And the track will be as hairy as it used to be.

Why did you want to put this race on?
To show to the many riders around here that there are some great riding and a good spirit in racing as well, that the challenge is different but still it’s riding at its best, not just athletics and expensive materials. And to show the politicians something is happening, especially with the standup scene: those guys are true sportsmen. The level has gone through the roof this last couple of years. And I needed a good track to reveal this to the public.

What is the spirit you referred to?
My feeling is that this place is very “swiss” actually. The place is not large enough to have the downhillers on one side, skaters on another, etc. So you have to deal with it. And you have to learn to go downhill if you want to go to the bowl or the skatepark, so being versatile is a good point too when it comes to riding skills.

How do you hope the race will change things there?
The locals will maybe take part or just watch, but they will be able to observe, meet, discuss, and get a few bruises to the ego if they expect to already be a world champion. After that, the magic happens or not: it’s a very personal decision to dress up in leather with a paragliding helmet on a skateboard, after all.

Haha Samy would fight you for suggesting someone skates with a paragliding helmet!
Yeah I know. I mean, I’m very happy when a young guy asks me for a paragliding helmet instead of the regular salad bowl they’re using. If something really kills me these days, it’s videos of guys sponsored by major wheel and board brands, bombing hills shirtless and with absolutely no protections.

How has the planning been going?
It was very intense, as the City of Lausanne only dropped the bad news late in April. So we had to restart everything, change some guys within the committee, get some new financial and human resources. It’s totally different to make something happen in a city or in the mountains. But thanks to the long relationship we’ve developed with the people in Montreux, it  was finally much easier than expected. Now it’s a matter of attracting the riders again. Many of them were disappointed about the race not being held in the city center.

What can the world look forward to about this new addition to the Euro tour?
A Swiss experience! I really love this place and I’m always proud to have riders making the effort and spending money to travel and register for our events. I don’t know if there’ll be a huge difference to other events in Europe. I’d be very happy if we even come close in terms of quality! We’ve managed to keep the entry fee as low as possible, which is not easy in one of the most expensive places on Earth. But it may help people to enjoy the trip a little more: at the bar, hopefully!

What’s a Swiss experience?
This place is used to welcoming tourists from the world over for more than two centuries. People may seem calm and sometimes a little distant, but if you share the love for nature, adrenaline sports and fine wine, you will swiftly feel at home. There’s a great culture around skiing, bobsleighing and anything fast and dangerous around here. There’s a common ground to many of us!

Where is the race happening?
Above Montreux, which is called the “Swiss Riviera”. The city looks like Monaco, but a ten minutes drive will lead you to a completely different world, with cows, chalets and some very fine mountain roads.

What is the track like?
Fast, narrow, rough. The best way to get it is to have a long track walk, to take your time. There are two large U-turns, so it’s not a bad spot at all for some 4cross competition. But it will require maybe a little more patience and reflexion than other places. I hope so.

Who are the people blowing your mind?
The young guns are unbelievably talented, and the overall level is far more greater than 4 or 5 years ago. Now there’s a proper World Cup with riders all year long. We just are missing true entry and middle level events network to be fully effective. But my favourites are old school guys like Yvon Labarthe, because he can ride almost anything! Lately I was organizing a Big Air demo for a car show in Geneva. Yvon is the only rider I knew who was able attempting to land a backflip on a longboard with a 10 meter gap. He did so as expected, so he tried the double backflip. Of course, it failed. But now I know he’s the only guy able to do the double backflip, it’s just up to me to provide him the right setup.

I don’t know many of the younger guys nowadays. I was taking part in the XGames, I went all over the world during the 90’s with the inline skates or the streetluge, and if we can feel confident about the current growth of our sports, I guess we still have a long way to go before reaching that craze again. In fact, we simply keep missing events like the Xgames to be put on the map of alternative sports again.

What was it like competing in the X-Games?
Awful. But if the ousting of inline, stand up and finally streetluge did occur, it was mainly on some political and economic basis, but not exclusively. Lack of a strong industry, no real sanctioning body to promote the sport, except a bunch of old suntanned Californians arguing all year long, each of them launching its own “EDI”, “STFU” or “NCDA” and other weird acronymous organizations. A bunch of selfish egomaniacs were certainly not going to help the sport survive for long into such a competitive environment as the TV show that the Xgames have become. It may be staged, it may be “jumping the shark” (double looping with some real size ”hot wheels” cars replicas, c’mon!), but it’s still what draws the sponsors and the audience nowadays.

Would you like a feature that features downhill skateboarding in the X-Games?
In the way the IGSA is pushing the racing scene, definitely! That would be a great opportunity. Or to find a nice energy drink company who’d be able to put up an event with all the media coverage they are used to providing for other “regular sports”, except they really sex up the thing a very clever way. Working with that kind of company showed me the plus and minus of such a strategy. But it may also hurt the scene, and its image. It’s a matter of knowing what product you want to double the sale of without losing half of your regular customers.

There are two ways to go in fact: snowboarding, where a bunch of riders creates a parallel tour – with a large and progressive range of qualificative events and finals – and are joined by the other riders. In the end, they are at the Olympics too, in the FIS, but still the spirit lives on.

Or you become BMX, and you break the scene in half. BMX racing has nothing to do with the freestyle scene anymore, and it really is a shame, because it’s possibly the “alternative discipline” where the most skilled – and crazy – athletes are.

Any advice for anyone reading this thinking of starting an association in their city?
Talk to people, welcome their ideas, fly below the radar of any state-run structure for as long as you’re not strong enough to beat a system where no one wants to take any responsibility. You have to be in a position where they can’t say no, because they have to know you’ll do it anyway!

Make things happen, don’t wait for the subvention. And don’t wait for others. It’s a lonely path at first to create or change things. Forget regular events, try to do some “happenings”, don’t try to imitate what the companies and sponsors are doing, because though you can make great things, it will never look as *cool* as theirs. Be open, because that way, you’ll discover that there are other people struggling to make new things, and you’ll need them as much as they need you. The rest of the guys are just waiting for you to finish the work and pretend they did it!

What do you do when you’re not skating?
Music. Writing. And trying to stay in shape. I’m 33, I work in a place where most of the guys are around 16 – 20. I have fond memories of the time when I was able to eat junk food all day long, do some sport without feeling ill and stay fit all at the same time!

Pick 3 numbers between 1-39.
7 – 11 – 13

7 – What is your favourite meal?
Cheese fondue, white wine, dried meat and a glass of abricot liquor in the end with some close friends. In fact, anyone eating a fondue with you becomes a close friend, usually.

11 – What’s your favourite website?
hypem.com. Definitely. And www.fievre.ch!

13 – Do you have a pet?
It’s too big of a responsibility for me to even keep a pet.

Nicolas! It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you this afternoon. I wish you all the best for Descente!
Thanks again for the work done. Your site is great, it helps me to get updated and not feel completely lost with all those new faces in August!

Any thank yous?
To Koma for the support, to Alex from the IIDA for his patience with me – and with the Italian federation, all my committee and the people in Montreux for the amount of work – and first of all for working with me. And thanks to all the people I’ve met along the years – Stéphane Barroz, Mouldi Ben Fadila, David Lenoir, Manu Antuna, Gerhard Lanz – who gave me the envy of creating events. I hope that one day, someone will take the time to write the story of standup and streetluge racing in Europe, since the early days in the 70s until now. History repeating, y’know!

Links
www.descente2012.ch
And a project of mine with various routes within Lausanne:
http://ridinglausanne.wordpress.com/

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