In his calm and peaceful hometown of Figeac in southwestern France, Paul Couderc is fighting a war. But not against anyone or anything else. This is a personal conflict against his own inhibitions and the barriers that try to hold him back. And it has returned for a third time in film format with My War III.
“I spent three days up on the wood before I attempted the downhill flip drop,” says Couderc of one of the most difficult tricks in the film. “It was way too scary. I took a big slam trying that trick and I was almost knocked out. It was a huge battle to come back the next day and land it.”
Perseverance is a common theme in the My War series. In the original video from 2019, Couderc landed the first half cab flair on a dirt landing after 37 attempts during the spring and fall seasons of that year. In My War III, many of the battles were shorter but not necessarily easier. The foot plant flip—where Couderc starts balanced high in the air atop a one-foot square platform before backflipping onto the landing below—was as scary as it looks.
“The foot plant flip is so difficult, especially with the freeride bike,” Couderc explains. “You have to stay balanced on top of the pole and then swing the bike so hard in order to have enough rotation to get the flip all the way around. With a heavier bike, it’s very, very hard. I’m glad I landed this one first try.”
When to back away
Part of any successful war strategy is knowing when to advance and when to retreat. Couderc shows a tenacity that rivals some of the best freeride mountain bikers in the world, but when does he make the decision to pull back from the goal?
“I decide the sacrifice is enough when I get hurt,” say Couderc. “For example, in My War II, I destroyed my knee trying the front-flip ninja drop. I was out for four months and I decided I couldn’t land the trick any better without adding even more risk. I had no regrets because I gave it all. That’s the limit for me.”
Crashes are very much a part of freeride mountain biking and are especially prevalent in slopestyle where aerial tricks continue to evolve. While many freeride films will reserve the crash footage for a reel at the end as the credits roll, the My War series features some of Couderc’s biggest crashes front and center.
“For me , including the crash footage in the main edit is important to show people that failures are part of the game when you want to push the limits,” he says.
Running the right gear, the right way (for Paul Couderc)
In My War III, Couderc rode his Commencal Absolut dirt jump bike and his Commencal Clash on the freeride lines and bigger hits. His Absolut features a 26” Bomber DJ fork for landing precise slopestyle tricks with all the support needed for big impacts. The Clash is fitted with a 180mm Bomber Z1 up front and Bomber Air in the back, both which he runs with fast rebound for more pop. Couderc loves the fact he can crank the pressure in the rear shock to 350 PSI, perfect for the massive airs he lands in My War III.
The battle plan for 2023
With Crankworx Rotorua fast approaching, Couderc is in full training mode to prepare for competition against the world’s best. Never one to rest for too long, he has a few more projects up his sleeve for 2023, including some more never-before-seen tricks.
The battle rages on.
Photos by JB Liautard