2023 sees a BIG-ish change for the winner of an amazing 27 World Cups. Laura Smulders bids farewell to TVE Sport, her home since 2014, the team her father has run, the team she rode for with her sister … but now the age of Commencal has come! ‘This wasn’t an easy decision,’ Laura told us, ‘It’s been very nice and ‘normal’ for me to be in my dad’s team, with my sister, and have this nice little family around us at all times. We created this team around us during the years and I’m very proud of that. I call myself ‘reserve team manager’ sometimes because I care a lot for the team, and I help Dad with everything. So, to kind of leave this safe space is a bit of a step for me, but a very exciting one. I think it’s good to change something every now and then, it gives new energy, new perspective, new input, and new challenges, just a little boost again. To have the opportunity to work with such an iconic brand as Commencal, is just awesome. And I think it’s very big for our ‘little’ sport, to have such a big brand step in and be involved. I couldn’t say no to this opportunity.’
Laura’s courtship with Commencal began last year, she had been travelling with Sylvain, ‘we both love to race’, and so there were obviously Commencal ‘people around’. In Rock Hill, Sylvain and Commencal were shooting a video and Laura was there. She got talking to Pierrick from Commencal Marketing & Communication. ‘We were joking about, if I could split myself in two, my other half would be racing downhill for sure, I think it’s just such a sick sport, and would be so awesome to be able to do it. Then I went to Les Gets for the World Champs downhill and saw them again there. But I never thought they were interested in someone else on the BMX project, I thought it was just going to be Sylvain. So, at the end of the year when I congratulated them on their amazing DH season, we came in contact and they asked if I would be interested in working with them, it was a bit of a surprise to me to be honest, but a very good and exciting surprise.’ Laura’s time around the Commencal people in 2022 cemented her decision, ‘they are also a brand that shows they like to have good times, but work hard, and get results. And I’m all for that too. Deeply involved and passionate about the sport and their riders. I love that.’ But it wasn’t just 2022, Laura has been a fan of the mountain bike brand for a long time, ‘I think it’s funny and kind of cool story how I used to be a big fan of Anne Caro Chausson back in ’07-’08 when she came back from downhill to race BMX and won Gold in Beijing. Now I’m on the same bike as her!’
As well as leaving the TVE Sport team, well kinda (more on that in a moment), Laura will have a big bike change coming. Laura and Meybo have been synonymous with each other forever, well since since 2007 … with the exception of one year on a Redline, 2012, and one on a Free Agent, 2015, it’s all been Meybo. While Commencal, don’t as of yet, have a BMX frame in their catalogue, it’s inconceivable that with the two most consistent BMX Racers on the planet now in the camp, that they don’t have big plans a foot.
When Sylvain signed up in early 2022, there was an indication that a frame was coming, and with the addition of Laura we believe that design will be coming sooner rather than later. ‘The Commencal BMX Project started with Sylvain, just developing and making a frame for him, not particularly for the market.’ Laura expanded when we asked about the rumored frame, ‘As time went on, and they’ve seen very positive things with Sylvain, and with him doing so good last year, they got more excited, they do want to go on the market with the BMX frame in the future. Also, because enduro and downhill isn’t on the Olympic program, and we are, it’s very exciting for them to have a possibility to go to the Olympics as a brand. So, for now I think they just want to develop a top-level BMX frame and see us do well on it and start selling it in the future.’ And the timeframe? ‘They are pushing to have it ready very soon, so stay tuned.’ We think there is zero chance of Commencal sending two athletes to Paris 2024 on another brands frame, so that ‘very soon’, could be very, very soon. They will want plenty of time for testing and dialling … plus it will have to be at least available for the masses to order prior to the Games … expect Laura’s new frame soon!
Despite the new logos, and soon to be, new bike, Laura’s immediate surroundings won’t be changed too drastically, and that probably made the decision to move much easier. ‘I’ll still be travelling with the Team TVE Sport team everywhere, like previous years.’ Laura explained, ‘They will support me with all the facilities at racing for example, I will still work with Coach Klavs of course, but also the mechanic, Jan Segers, so I won’t be sitting on my own somewhere under a tent. All that will kind of stay the same, which is very nice, I’ll still travel with the team, train with the team, but I’ll just be looking a bit different, riding a different bike. But I’ll still proudly wear the team logo and JEE-O on my Commencal kit because they are still a part of my journey too! Alongside some more personal partnerships.’
The move won’t change much when it comes to the Dutch National Team either, ‘I was already ‘outside’ (outside was our term, not Laura’s) the National Team with our Team TVE Sport. So not much will change in this perspective. I’ll just have a different kit and different main sponsor. Merel and I train and work together with the National Team where we can. It’s of great value to have training partners and such a team to train with as well as dads’ team, and I think working together will make us all stronger. It’s still an individual sport, so doesn’t matter in what colour, or brand kit I race, I still earn points for the Nations ranking when I do good, and I still need to qualify myself as an individual. During World Cups Merel and I travel together with the National Team, and we race in an orange version of our own kit to be recognizable for the public, and to show we’re a team (as a country). I’m happy that this move won’t change anything in that sense. It doesn’t need to be more complicated …’
We suspect Laura may have future ambitions on bigger wheels too, she’s spent a lot of time in the mountains lately for off season fun, and she’s hinted at a Crankworx appearance, and Commencal obviously would be beneficial in that regard. ‘I spent a few days in Morzine, France and Leogang to ride the bike parks last year, and I just LOVED it, like a little kid it got me so excited and thrilled. Watching World Champs in Les Gets was just insane and made me want to ride that track. It’s impossible to combine, so for now it will probably only be a few times a year, but definitely keen to ride some more big bikes when I can. One of my dreams was to have all possible bikes in my garage, I just love riding bikes, so this little dream is closer to be a reality, I will definitely add a few bikes to the collection. We did a little BMX camp with some of Commencal’s Enduro & DH team riders, Camille Balanche, Benoit Coulanges, Monika Hrastnik, Baptiste Pierron from Commencal Dorval, earlier this week, you must’ve seen it on Sylvain’s page. I was there too, but of course a bit ‘secret’ still. It was really cool getting to know them a bit and to share some knowledge and give some tips to them on the BMX track. So now we’ve done this BMX camp, I can’t wait to do a similar thing but then learn from them on the DH bike! It’s very cool to be a part of the Commencal family now.’
Despite all that, the immediate goals remain the same for Laura … Paris 2024. ‘For the moment focus is on the upcoming two years of course, not going to lie about that. I still have my goals and they align with Commencal‘. There is of course some unfinished business in the US, but that box will have to wait to be ticked, ‘I’m still a bit sad I couldn’t bring it home, but it’s such a different kind of racing at Grands, and I think I did pretty good for my first time trying. But also, still feel like that season was so big and long, that I’m still recovering from it haha. I really enjoyed racing in the USA last year, and I will definitely do a few of those weekends this year starting with Oldsmar in a few weeks, but I won’t go for the title this year, that will be too much leading into 2024. My focus will be on the World Cups and Worlds, and just racing lots and hard and having fun throughout the year.’
We suspect Commencal, Laura and Sylvain are leaning into a very successful couple of years, it’s impossible to imagine it unfolding any other way …
Photos Nicolas Brizin / Commencal
Video Leon Perrin / Leo Lunel / Commencal