Belgium has no mountains – but one of the best mountain bikers

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A Red Bull helmet, means you know what you are doing, in mountain biking (Photo: Orbea)
A Red Bull helmet, means you know what you are doing, in mountain biking (Photo: Orbea)

After nearly a decade, one of the world’s fastest mountain bikers is switching teams.

Martin Maes announced his departure from the GT a few weeks ago and has confirmed that his new home is with Orbea.

The Spanish cycling brand has a long history, and with Maes, they have signed a proven race winner.

Despite only being 24, the Belgian has been an elite enduro mountain bike racer since his teens. Maes debuted at the original Enduro World Series event in Punta Ala (Italy), back in 2013. He was only 16.

Since then, he has won numerous EWS races and tallied many podiums. Impressively, Maes also races pure downhill events and won a silver medal in the 2018 UCI downhill World Championships in Lenzerheide (Switzerland).

enduro rider
Young and already one of the most successful enduro riders in history (Photo: Orbea)

No home trails - but all the talent

In 2019, Maes won an incredible hat trick of EWS events in Tasmania, New Zealand and Madeira, showing terrific versatility. Two things make him a remarkable rider.

The first is his ability to be a regular podium contender in both of mountain biking’s gravity disciplines: enduro and downhill. The second is that he is Belgian.

It is true that the greatest road cyclist of all time is unquestionably Eddy Merck. A Belgian. And the Flemish have a deep regard for cycling, hosting some of the world’s most celebrated races.

But Belgium is flat, lacking any semblance of mountain biking terrain. The highest point in Belgium is Botrange, at all of 694m – the summit of a gradually peaking plateau. Again, not ideal mountain biking terrain.

Maes has uncanny balance and finds speed, where other are glazing the brakes (Photo: Orbea)

'Thanks, dad'

Although there are some trails in parts of the Ardenne forest, Belgium lacks proper riding terrain. Not that it matters to Martin Maes, who inherited the mountain biking gene from his father, Patric, a pro rider for GT, in the 1990s.

The Liège native is simply one of those freakishly talented riders, born to speed down steep, rocky, technical trails on a mountain bike.

And at only 24, with a new team and bike for the 2022 season, the Belgian’s presence in elite enduro and downhill mountain biking, will only grow.


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