NEWS

Rémi Bonnet: "I feel more powerful than in 2022!"

A few days before the start of the season at Zegama, we went to meet Rémi Bonnet, winner of the 2022 Golden Trail World Series. He shared his goals for 2023 and one thing is certain: the odds are on the title!

How was 2022 for you?

It was a dream come true. I had two major seasons, both winter and summer – even if the summer season didn’t start out how I would’ve liked it to. It’s so rewarding to see how all the recent years’ hard work has paid off.

How were you feeling at the start of the season?

I was coming out of a massive ski season, which rounded off with the Patrouille des Glaciers. I couldn’t get that much R&R before kicking off the trail -running season. I knew it would be tough and Zegama proved it. My race wasn’t that bad, but I didn’t do what I hoped to. After that the main goal was Sierre-Zinal, and there, it was a disaster. I really felt capable of winning it in 2022 and I would’ve loved to have clinched the Patrouille des Glaciers and Sierre-Zinal in the same year; being Swiss it’s obviously the Grail to win these two monumental races in the same year. But it motivated me to pull my finger out!

Were you satisfied with your result in Zegama?

I was expecting to do better even if I knew that it would be complicated with the preparation. Despite everything, I always start a race to go out to win it, so it is always a disappointment if I’m not on the podium. But that’s the name of the game and you should never think that just because it goes badly now that it won’t go better later.

What happened at Mont-Blanc?

That was also disappointing because I had to stop due to gastric issues. That’s also part and parcel of the sport, you have to accept what’s thrown at you and get on with it. It was pretty weird, I’ve never really had that happen to me before, I think it was just a one-off because the day before and after the race I was fine. Could it have been caused by stress because of my bad performance in Zegama?

Zinal was also a sadly unexpected result…

We did everything to be on tip-top form, completed all the training schedule so, that was definitely the biggest let down of the season because I didn’t do what I’d planned to do and I was ready to do it; that really hit hard. Sometimes it’s good though, it acts as a wake-up call to get up and go. I knew that all the training would pay back once I was in the USA. They were two pretty fast races and you just needed energy in your legs to run at high speed. I didn’t dwell on it and told myself I’d snag Sierre-Zinal another day. I hope it’ll be this year; it would be a dream to be up to speed on race day and really run the race I want to.

Then there’s the perfect race for you in the USA: Pikes Peak, it’s an uphill only race course at altitude. You smash the Incline record a few days before the race and prove you are in great shape, did you doubt you would be victorious?

I always had a tinge of doubt because my season started out so badly. But I tried to convince myself that this race was really made just for me, and all I had to do was what I knew best: run fast uphill. Also, the fact that I beaten the Fully VK record before leaving, then the Incline, made me realise I was ready to win and it had my name on it. Usually, once I feel confident, nothing can stop me and that was the trigger I needed to round off the season.

You hadn’t won since 2018, what did this victory mean to you?

It was time to win because people were starting to murmur, saying I’d won quite a lot of races in the past but not in the last few years and was starting to wane, so I wanted to prove to everyone I was still very much here. What I’d done in the past was just the beginning and now I was ready to write a new chapter.

Was beating Kilian’s record on the Fully VK the trigger?

I think it played a part in all that because psychologically when you do something of that magnitude it obviously does you some good! Performance is not just about the legs, 50% is your mental strength.

Since then, excluding the time-trial in Madeira, you were unbeaten on the Golden Trail Series races. What’s more, you won them all with a massive advance over the world’s best trail runners, how did you explain that?

It brought back memories of 2015 when I would pull away from the start really fast and quickly create a gap between the chasing pack on all the races. But the following years I stopped taking that risk. I wanted to hold back thinking that the others were always much stronger than me, and then at the end of last season I was running like I did in 2015: I didn’t take any notice of what the others were doing and I gave it maximum speed right from the outset. I think I should always run like this now. I did it again this winter and it worked like dream.

We get the feeling you are invincible! Do you feel the same way?

Now, when I start a race I feel much more confident than I used to. It might sound pretentious, but even before a race I feel like I’ve almost already won the race, and I think it’s a great strength to have, even when you know that anything can happen in a race and it’s never over till it’s over. Although, having complete confidence in your mind and body makes all the difference.

In Madeira, you said you could beat Kilian Jornet fair and square in a race that would suit both of you. Is this still the case? Do you still think you can beat Kilian Jornet?

We’ll see this summer in Sierre-Zinal but I think it’s the year I could beat him due to my motivation. I also think it’ll be one of the last chances to try and challenge him. It’s a dream for me to run with him and if I can beat him, even just once, it would be one of my biggest achievements.

You met your partner Lise more than two years ago, has she played an important role in keeping you balanced and controlling your stress?

It’s obvious that before I was with Lise I had the impression I never performed at my full potential. She has really helped me realise that it is just a race and that there’s more to life than that. She helped me to put things into perspective and reconnect with myself. She made me realise that I started the sport for myself and suddenly I was doing it for others, sponsors, and no longer for myself. She helped me rediscover the pleasure of running and to train hard for my own dreams.

Do you have a scientific approach to training by following coaching plans or do you have a more natural approach by listening to your body?

I try to listen to my body, even though I’ve had a new coach for the last two years, Simon Gosselin, and I’m sure that has had an effect on my results. Simon respects the athlete and lets me do what I want while providing a structure when he sees that I am going a bit astray. I think we’ve found a good balance between intense training and pleasure.

What are your plans for 2023?

It will be at the Golden Trail Series with a major aim to win Sierre-Zinal. It’s more or less the last race missing for me in these race formats, so that will be this summer’s main goal.

Are you afraid of anyone today? Someone you’d particularly like to go up against?

Last year, there were many athletes who proved their toughness. There’s one person I haven’t competed against, except at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc where I had to stop and that’s Jonathan Albon; he’s one of the best on these distances. Then there’s guys like Stian Angermund, he hasn’t been on the Golden for a while but who will be back. Obviously, Kilian at Sierre-Zinal, is the one I’d really like to go up against. But I’m not afraid of them! You mustn’t be afraid of your opponents; you need to see them as those who are capable of pushing you to your limits and that’s what makes the sport magical.

Do you feel as strong as in 2022?

I feel more powerful than in 2022! And the winter season I had has proven to me that I’ve made even more progress.

How did the GTS victory change you?

Psychologically it’s a weight off my mind, because it was a goal that I’d laid out these last 4 years, so now that’s ticked the pressure’s off, and now we know I can win it we’ll just try and reaffirm it!

What do you dream of doing in trail running?

I still want to win the Golden Trail World Series to prove to myself that it wasn’t just a fluke that I won it. I also want to win individual races, such as Zegama and of course SIerre-Zinal for the first time. I have other more personal projects, but I think I’m going to stay on these particular races for now as there’s still a lot left to do.

What’s your opinion of the Series, what do you think it brings to trail running? What do you think about it being broadcast on Eurosport?

I think it’s a giant leap forward for the Golden and for the sport in general. The fact that it will be on TV makes us credible, even for us athletes, when we need to talk to sponsors for example. It’s a real bonus for all the athletes who participate in the Series. The Golden Trail Series is brilliant because you know that it’s the world’s best athletes who are racing and you are one of them, personally it is immensely satisfying.

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