Pauline returns to cyclo-cross
“I didn’t enjoy not racing at all. But I needed the break. I needed to have time away from the bike after the Olympics and last winter was a good time to do that. Normally I would have liked to race. But that time away was important and so now it’s been two years since I raced cyclo-cross,” said Ferrand-Prévot last week.
The 25-year old Frenchwoman made a return to racing road and MTB with her new team CANYON//SRAM Racing in February this year. Step by step she gained confidence, in herself and in her team, and her passion for cycling was rekindled. By the end of the season she had notched podiums at MTB World Cup and Road Women’s World Tour, and took home a bronze medal at the MTB World Championships in Cairns, despite a puncture that cost her almost a minute.
Then she started to talk about cyclo-cross.
“After the MTB season I took a small break. And I decided I wanted to start again with cyclocross. I really love this discipline. It’s also great preparation for MTB and road and since I want to do well in the spring classics, Strade Bianche already, cyclocross in the winter fits well to this.”
Ferrand-Prévot raced (and won) a few small races in France during November but was hesitant to set unrealistic goals for the winter.
“It’s been two years without racing cyclo-cross and even if I was at the top in 2015, I cannot know what my level will be like against the new competition of women that is racing now. I know that I don’t want to go to an international race to finish 25th position. But it’s hard to know what to expect after such a long time from racing at that level. I am using cyclo-cross now as my motivation to be good for the spring.”
Ferrand-Prévot set a five-race program with her team CANYON//SRAM Racing in December, starting with back to back races in Belgium last weekend, two upcoming World Cups at Namur and Zolder, and the Super Prestige in Diegem, all as a lead up to French national championships mid January.
On Thursday last week Ferrand-Prévot said “This weekend I’ll race Saturday and Sunday in Belgium. I will start in the last row. It was the same when I started at the MTB World Cups after not earning any points in 2016. The races are bigger than what I started with last month in France so I know it will be hard from start to finish. I don’t mind to start last this weekend and try to catch everyone. I just want to go full gas for the whole 40 minutes, enjoy doing it, and then finish the best I possibly can.”
Finish the best she possibly can.
On Saturday, starting at the back of the grid, Ferrand-Prévot finished in fourth place, 42 seconds behind the winner and current world champion Sanne Cant at DVV Verzekeringen Trofee Cyclo-cross in Essen. On Sunday she lined up again, starting at the back of the grid once more in snow, muddy and freezing conditions at Vlaamse Druivencross Overijse. She won.
“I’m super happy with my weekend,” said Ferrand-Prévot after the podium ceremony in Overijse. Not just for the win today but also because of Saturday’s race in Essen. I didn’t know what would happen, what my form was like, what to expect in that race. I started last line and fought hard all race to finish fourth. I was happy because I didn’t feel great, but more so because it gave me confidence for the rest of the season.”
“When you are there on the start line and you’ve been former world champion, it doesn’t matter if you start last line or first line, you know everybody is expecting something from you. Even if it’s the first time in two years that you’re racing people are still expecting something. I just tried to push away that pressure.”
“Today in Overijse I had better legs. I started last but quickly made it to the front of the field. I felt confident in the technical parts and I was strong on the sections that needed power. I didn’t expect to win. I came here to start the international season and to have fun,” said Ferrand-Prévot.
After a win in her second race back at the international stage will the CANYON//SRAM rider change her goals?
“No, I will keep to my plan. Just because I won today it doesn’t mean that I need to win every cyclo-cross race. My goal is still the same. I use the 40 minutes full gas racing as preparation for road and MTB, to enjoy doing it, and to finish the best I can. I will keep my program and focus the same and aim to be in good shape for the French national championships on 14 January.”
Ferrand-Prévot will next race the Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Namur on 17 December.