Gautier Paulin shocked the industry to its core less than a week ago, when he announced that he would step away from professional racing at the end of the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship. Paulin is still capable of achieving superb results, as proven at recent Grands Prix, but that is not the reason for his decision. It seems that lockdown was an eye-opening experience and one that really made his mind start to tick, as he realised that there’s life outside of the paddock. Paulin goes in-depth in this MX Vice interview from the Grand Prix of Trentino. There is more to come, as we will be conducting a lengthy podcast about his career in the coming months.
MX Vice: Firstly, the race today. 4-3 on the day with two solid motos and good speed. You should’ve been on the overall podium, really. A 4-3 will get you up there most of the times, but the most important thing is your speed was good enough to be there. It was a good day.
Gautier Paulin: Yes. It was a good day, definitely, from the lap times this morning to moto one and moto two. I had a good start in moto one, but was going backwards on the rear fender on the start line. I wheelied and I clutched it again, so that took me back a few spots. It took me a bit, like half the moto, to fix mistakes in two corners where I was feeling slow. I came back, but I was too late to pass and was in the wheels of Jeremy [Seewer]. Great riding. I had a good start in the second moto, was pushing until the end and fighting with the guys up front. It was great! 4-3 with no podium, but sometimes you have good podiums like this and sometimes not. When you are around 40 points there is always a good gift at the end. I’m really happy right now. Physically, I’m feeling good and looking forward to Pietramurata 2. The bike was great too, so we’ll see.
I said the same to Clement [Desalle] after he made his retirement announcement. I think a lot of fans see that a rider is retiring and think it’s because he is in fifteenth and just cannot do it anymore. Today proves that you could continue for another one, two or three years and still be battling for podiums. It’s not that, huh? That isn’t why you have come to your decision. It’s other factors, I guess.
For sure. There are other factors. It’s all a balance. Since the beginning, I told myself that I would go at the top until 30-years-old. It might have been sooner than this, because you don’t control it. It might have been later than this. I’ve had that in my mind… It was not a target, but it was on my mind to get to Ernee for the 2020 Motocross of Nations and just tell to the crowd that I will stop racing. It was not a target, like something I will do, but it was definitely big in my mind. Everything comes to an end this year and I’m really, really happy.
I have my wife and family. There are so many things going in a positive way. I love racing. It’s in my blood. I love adrenaline. There are so many things telling me that I should stop and right now. I decided myself that I prefer to stop at the top where I belong. I won a moto at Lommel, going back on the podium after everything what happened in the beginning of the year with the crash. I didn’t get on the podium today, but I’m still there. You can stop for many reasons. My reason is that I want to stop being at the top.
People will say he was finishing fifteenth and cannot do it anymore, but no. I’m there fighting to be up front, to be on the podium and winning motos. I did that with a ten-second lead at Lommel. Physically, I’m in the best shape of my life. Sometimes you need to have character. Thirty is old. I’ve spent more than half my life getting prepped in the wintertime and doing everything to be the best I could be. Right now, I’m stopping in the best way and I’m really proud. I’m at the top in each level, so I will give some more time to my family now.
At the start of the year, way back at Matterley Basin, did you know that this was definitely going to happen? I’m guessing it was on your mind a bit. When did the decision get made and you thought that there would be no more thinking about it?
You know, until it’s signed you cannot… It’s like buying something. You cannot say that until you sign. It was exactly the same like you mentioned. Mentally, I would say that I felt the stress was really low in quarantine and that I have never had that in my whole life. It felt great! Tasting that much freedom. I did everything for my target of being the best. Putting the running shoes on, going mountain climbing and just not caring about tomorrow. Just doing one, two, three or four hours. I was visiting and searching for new terrain. Again, with the road bike and stuff. With the family too! Still, I was on the good foot and everything. I was really doing things with no pressure. From that time, I tasted something new. When I came back, having that crash and injury was definitely bad. Then from that, depending on what the doctors would say, I would say that I would stop.
Finally, it was a crack and I was also knocked out. I came back from it and wanted to be back at my best level, with the bike I love and the family who I love. I’m on a good contract, winning and everything. I’m thirty-years-old. Everything that happened, I decided obviously when I was back at the top in Mantova that right now I’m there. It was 95% already decided in Mantova. When you did the interview with me, behind this same microphone, I already knew that I would stop. You can do one more, but until when? What can stop you? I feel in the best shape ever right now. Again, it looks like I’m going to go forever. It’s like we are forever young [laughs]! Still, that’s the decision. From the decision I’ve taken, I’ve been so happy. I’ve never been so free. It’s extraordinary.
What did the results at Lommel do to your mind? I imagine being up on the box and winning the moto could have made you go, “Brilliant! This is a nice way for me to end my career. I’ve won another moto. I’ve definitely been on the podium again.” It also could have made you go, “I know I can still do this. I’ve just done it. Maybe I do need to continue?” Where did your mind go after that?
I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m not happy until I do 1-1. If I do not make it every weekend, I’m not happy until I do the 1-1. Lommel was definitely great, and so was telling the world my story about what happened and stuff. I know when I won I felt I carried that backpack with that injury and keeping it inside of me. Going to the GP then, for sure, you have that much stress and you do not know what is going to happen. Finally, you podium or win the moto. You come back and are like, “Whoa, that was a great GP.” It’s always a before and after.
It’s like a team. They are so motivated when you win, and when you are behind then it’s tough. No, the win did not make me feel that I should continue. I’m going to tell you right now that I still want to win. Like today in Arco, I feel I can win. I did not. I finished with a fourth and a third. I’m battling with [Tim] Gajser, who won the first moto, and he never passed me. We battled until the end of a 20-lap moto, so I feel that I can do it. There is no “ifs” with my decision. Winning or not winning, it’s the decision. That’s what I want to do.
There are two things that make me feel a bit sorry for you. You love the fans, first of all, and have a lot of them. It’s a shame you can’t go out with them. You are known as a Motocross of Nations king, so it is a shame that you haven’t got a chance to do one more of those as well. You could have said, “I want those two things so I’ll continue for another year.” Like you said though, when do you finally say stop? How many times can you go for one more? I think that shows a lot of strength that, despite all of that stuff, you have said it’s the right time for you.
People will try to understand, like you try to understand and I appreciate it. I appreciate all the love you guys give me. I’m so surprised. I’m feeling really blessed. It’s unbelievable the wave of love I’m on right now. I really want to thank everyone. You have asked me so many questions and I definitely appreciate it. I’ve always been giving that extra one percent, as a sportsman. You come climbing with me and I’m doing interval training. I’m ready to give everything to go to the limit. Every little key and every little block that I have, I try to unblock it. Sometimes, as a professional sportsman, you know that session will be hard and you are scared to do it, because it’s so hard. You know you are going to give it your all and it’s still going to be tough.
All those sessions, I unblocked them. I’m not scared of anything. The time you think about retiring, there is no question. When I started to open my mind to this, that’s it. I stop. It’s one of the rules I’ve had. I respect this. It’s not that I start thinking and then go… Those are people that don’t make the decision. In my whole career, I’m making the decisions. That’s my character. That is who I am today. From the moment I started to open the window then you know what? That’s it. In quarantine I was feeling it. I opened the window for the Motocross of Nations, then at Mantova and with the crash. The performance doesn’t make me shake. I’ve been winning. It’s great, but the decision is made. I’m retiring and on the best spot. It’s feeling so much better.
Looking back on your career, you did a lot. We’re going to have to save the full career chat for another day, because we don’t have two hours. There is one thing I want to talk to you about now, because Ive had a lot of questions about it, and that is America. You are one of the few riders who has that skillset to do supercross and motocross. Just last night, I was telling someone about the fact that you actually did the first three rounds of Monster Energy Supercross in 2010 and were sixth in a main behind [Trey] Canard, [Jake] Weimer and [Cole] Seely. The best supercross riders in the world at that time! Do you look back now and think, “Maybe I should have given the American thing a try?”
There were so many times I wanted to go and race Monster Cup, because Monster has been supporting me and because I want to do supercross. I went to USA [in 2010] and did all the main events without that much training, because I was concentrating. I was under contract for the MX2 series. It was great though! I was close to making a podium, but I crashed behind Josh Hansen with two laps to go. I was thinking of going to the USA, but the negotiations on the contract side do not always go the same way in the same moment. I never do things halfway. If you need to get ready, it never turns out really well.
Going there and into MX1 class… I wanted to go to MX1 already here and I was told I’m 80 kilos, so I took the decision to stay here. It was great. I love the USA. I love supercross. I love the dirt out there. The lifestyle that makes everything easier to train. It’s why I went there many times to train in the wintertime. No regrets though. It was also a decision I took at once. I mentioned that I wanted to go to the USA as a kid, but from the moment I talked about doing MXGP I knew I would make my career in MXGP. That was a decision early, around ten years ago. Really happy about it.
Let’s end on this note then for today…
Still, actually, talking about the Monster Cup. I wanted to go to the Monster Cup. It was well-organised, but the target was always MXGP. When I was at HRC, and finished vice world champion in 2015, I injured my knee. I was going to give it a go, then have my preparation for 2016 later or I was going to have surgery, so everything was ready for me to go there and I did not. When I changed to another brand, it was better to be testing and doing everything right to get ready for the first round. I’ve been always someone who has trained hard and arrived at the first round ready. I’ve never been someone who has not gotten ready, because the GPs were on and they make you in shape when push with other riders. No. I always came to the first round ready and I know how to train.
I’ve been training with the best trainers in the world. Ive been come to the first GP at the highest level, so that was the decision. I’ve had a private supercross track and stuff, but no regrets. It was a good time, but you cannot do everything. The GPs are 18 or 20 rounds all over the world. When I went to the USA for supercross, MXGP was starting April 22. I know the date. Right now, we start at the end of February. It is totally different. I started to train on those times around Christmas. Right now, I start on the first of November. It’s a totally different ball game. You cannot do half. This is what I do in life. I do it 100% or I don’t. Half and half never sounds good. This is what I’ve done in my career.
Let’s end on this note. Look back at your career with countless wins, countless podiums and multiple factory teams. When you think about the BMX talent that you were back in 2005, is it hard to believe what you have done with your career? It’s not like you were this motocross kid through and through growing up… You were a BMX guy who made it in a completely different world.
I started in BMX I was six and ended at twelve-years-old. I was at the very top. I wanted to not have pressure anymore and change. It was tough. It cost money to buy a motorcycle, and my dad accepted because they built a track close to my house. I had the gift of a motorcycle and started to ride from zero. I was on a BMX as a kid and growing up fast, fast, fast – I was always really strong. In 2002 I got on a motorcycle and I was 12. I learned how to use a clutch and started from zero. It was tough for me. Quite quickly I started to go and then I did my first race, won it and I was going until the fuel tank was empty.
I never believed that I would have a career this strong, with this many fans, knowing so many people, having so much emotion and getting so good at business too. I’ve stayed with Monster Energy, 100% and all of those guys since forever. It’s been great. Yamaha for that long. I’ve been with Alpinestars on the boots, then later with the gear, but I really gave a lot. I could really express to the world the person who I am by doing what I love, pushing my limits in training and showing my love for design. I had all of my helmets and limited clothes – I brought back the white gear in the paddock.
I turned the other way and brought the dark grey in and the journalists were like, “We don’t see you! It’s really hard to take pictures of you, because it’s so dark.” All of the gear companies are making it right now [laughs]! I’ve met so many great people on my road. It’s time to just close that chapter and open up for something new. If it will be in motocross or totally away from everything, I do not know. I’m still going to train hard – I love training and it’s in my blood. To answer your question, no. I did not know I would make this career. I think if I knew, I would not have done it. Confidence makes you push forever.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer