Mountain biking: “I still have to win the Olympic Games,” says Pauline Ferrand-Prévot

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She enjoys it but she is used to it. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot retained her title of world cross-country champion on Saturday in Austria and won her third rainbow jersey in the discipline after 2015 and 2019. The 28-year-old Rémoise also won her ninth title of world champion, all disciplines combined. She tells us about her feat.

How do you feel 24 hours after your title?

PAULINE FERRAND-PRÉVOT. I am tired but happy. This season, everything has been linked with the World Cup and as because of the Covid, all the races have been concentrated in time, it was quite busy lately. When you’re in the business, you don’t realize it, but it’s not easy to manage.

Do you understand that you are still world champion?

I am starting to realize that I have achieved a small feat and that I have achieved what I wanted.

It’s a feat compared to what: the particular year, your operation in January, the third title…?

A bit of all that. There was this new operation in January (Editor’s note: for iliac endofibrosis in the left leg) which was not planned. It was a bad surprise. Then when I started to come back to my level, there was the start of the pandemic with containment.

How did you get through it?

By respecting everything to the letter, by remaining to train myself inside what has upset my daily life. After that, there were a lot of canceled races including the Olympics which was the big goal of the year. It was such a special year. I managed to stay motivated all the time, but I had to adapt to a lot of things with a lot of uncertainties.

The race seemed almost easy …

This is not the word. When I arrived in Austria earlier this week, the track was dry and not too technical. But it started to rain in the middle of the week which made the ground slippery and even sometimes dangerous on the descents. My goal was to get a good start so as not to be embarrassed in these descents. I saw after the first descent that I had made the hole and I wanted to run alone.

Do you still have room in your wardrobes for all your rainbow swimsuits?

In fact, the one from Saturday, I gave it to my trainer Barry Austin. He is South African and this time he managed to come. He took the first plane when he heard that South Africa was opening its borders. Last year he was behind his TV and I wanted to thank him. He has always been there for me and this victory is also his. So I gave him my medal and the jersey.

Has being a world champion become a routine?

Obviously no. Putting your title back on the line is never easy. It gives extra pressure but I didn’t feel stressed and this title, it’s beautiful, because everything went as I had imagined. The emotion was also strong even if I won with 3 minutes in advance.

This pain that comes back to the leg, does it still scare you?

I am not afraid that she will come back because I now know that I can be taken care of right away. In January, when I was in pain again, I called my surgeon on Sunday evening, he gave me an appointment on Monday morning and on Thursday I had surgery. I have a great doctor who was great the first time around and even more so this time. Above all, I identified this pain that has so plagued my life. Now I know her and I can tame her.

How do you explain the triumph of the Blues who won three titles with you, Jordan Sarrou and Loana Lecomte?

We arrived in a good dynamic. We knew that Loana had a great chance of winning because this year, she is really on top even if you can’t predict anything in a one-day race.

Is she your relief?

Yep, she’s super strong. I hope so for her. She has great potential, I’ve been saying this for a long time. She was lacking a bit of her mind and now that she has it, she is going to hurt in future years.

And Jordan Sarrou, is it a surprise for you?

Yes and no because he had never won a World Cup but he is still placed. He’s a very good runner. He tried his luck, succeeded and it’s really good.

Do you personally feel like you are making your sport history?

The number of world titles is not the most important and I never thought about it or focused on it. What I want is to please myself. With a day like Saturday, I know why I suffer in training every day.

The next goal is Tokyo and the Olympics?

The Olympics are THE big goal of my career, the only title I don’t have. Now I have to win the Games. You will have to make the appointment in a lighter way. I am the world champion but that does not guarantee that I will win in a one day race. I already want to arrive at the Olympics being in top form without having anything to regret in the preparation without being able to do anything better. It will already be a first victory.

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