A Day in the (Sporting) Life of Étienne Hubert

It’s 6:27 am as we approach Étienne Hubert’s front door on the eastern edge of Paris. The professional kayaker and Caravan athlete resides a stone’s throw from Bois de Vincennes, the city’s largest public park. It’s fitting that the 35-year-old is close to this man-made sanctuary of lakes and trees, open fields and recreational facilities. His passion for nature and the outdoors, made growing up in the countryside of the Ardennes, is what makes him so at home out in the water, or when riding his bike.

Étienne welcomes us into his abode, a little breakfast and good strong coffee before the first training session of the day. Currently, he is preparing for selection for the French national team and the opportunity to represent the country at the 2024 Olympic Games, in Paris.

Today, we are here to follow him around as he trains and observe the life of sportsman who will not stop, despite his advanced age. His coach Philippe describes him as a hardworking athlete with a tremendous ‘engine’, a competitor who takes it to the bitter end, physically and mentally.

What transcends and still drives him, is the thirst for competition, to push the limits of his body. But Philippe also describes Étienne’s good-humoured and positive nature, another quality that not only helps him but also his team-mates. ‘His joie de vivre that he brings to the group and in everyday life, it helps a lot.’

Étienne may technically be at home right now, but although he has adapted to life in Paris over the last five years living here, he is much more comfortable out in nature. Luckily, the sun is out today, the temperatures are good, which is rare at this time of year in Paris and the Île-de-France region.

We ride out eastwards with the three-time World Championship gold medallist to the Stade Nautique Olympique in Vaires-sur-Marne, the training centre and the place which will host the rowing and canoeing events during the Games in 2024. In annual volume, Étienne does 800 hours of sport. In addition to the kayaking sessions which take up 50% of his time, the rest is devoted to conditioning with cross-country skiing, swimming, running, and of course cycling. Étienne is a great gravel enthusiast and will often take a detour on way home from training.

After greeting his team, he leaves to change for session number one.
This is in a single-seater kayak (K1) with a warm-up session to awaken the requisite muscles, repeating the range of gestures with accelerations and recovery. Etienne is soon in full flow, perfecting the basics of the single-seater technique. He then performs a cardio warm-up to finish. Going hard but saving a little for session two.

This is in a two-seater kayak (K2) with his teammate Steven. This is a more considered task, with time taken to prepare the boat, and work in tandem. This requires a collective dynamic, working on performance and amplitude, and allows you to make the final adjustments, and check the boat before the selections in the coming weeks. A debrief of the two sessions with Philippe will close this beautiful day.

The entire Café du Cycliste team wishes Étienne good luck.

Further riding