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Evita Muzic goes back to her roots with return to cyclocross

Frenchwoman contemplating a tilt at the French national championships and world championships in January.

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Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope) is rolling back the years this winter as she races cyclocross for the first time in three years.

Muzic last raced cyclocross in October 2019 at the La Maziere round of the Coupe de France, her only event that season. Indeed, you have to go back another year to find a fuller CX campaign when she was just 19.

Now 23, Muzic felt the pull of the cyclocross circuit again and has already notched up a few events this winter with the Nommay double-header and Bulle in Switzerland at the weekend. It’s a way to extend her season, which was delayed by a knee injury, and also spend some time with her boyfriend, fellow WorldTour pro Eddy Finé (Cofidis).

“Because I miss it,” Muzic told VeloNews when asked why she made her return. “I started with cyclocross when I was young. I wanted to race at the same time as my boyfriend and also the first part of the cyclocross season it’s more dry, so it’s more easy for the technical part. I will just do a few races, but I will break [this] week normally.

“Restarting after two and a half years, the feeling was good. It was hard but it was fun.”

Also read: French climbing sensation Evita Muzic poised for bigger things in 2021

Muzic is planning to race the C2 event in Dijon on Tuesday before finally calling time on her racing in 2022.

A growing number of riders are adding a winter calendar to their racing program in recent years. Marianne Vos has long shown that it’s possible to do both, while Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert helped fly that flag on the men’s side of the sport.

Muzic initially discarded her cyclocross racing in an effort to focus on long rides to improve herself on the road, where she is a quickly developing talent in hilly races. She had hoped to make get back in the CX saddle last season, but a heavy crash at the Women’s Tour in early October left her with a lingering knee injury that had to be operated on.

“I would like to do it last year but with my problem with my knee have to do an operation, so finally, I can do it,” she said. “The two first years when I was in the team, I preferred to do a big block of long distance on the road to be prepared for a long season, but now I think I have enough.

“I miss it and now the team is more agreeable to let me do cyclocross. We can see Van der Poel, Van Aert, and lots of good riders who can do both, so now it’s more easy to do.”

Dijon may not be the final race of Muzic’s return cyclocross season and she is contemplating racing the national championships in mid-January. The world championships in Hoogerheide a couple of weeks later is also a tantalizing possibility, though it will depend on what her road calendar and how good she feels at the time.

“I don’t really know for the moment because I don’t know when I would start my road season with the team,” she said. “But I normally I will not go through Australia. But the worlds in cyclocross. The beginning of February, so maybe too late. But why not? I will see my level because maybe it’s not enough to do the worlds.”

Muzic is not the only Frenchwoman making a return to cyclocross this winter with former world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot making her debut this season at the Koppenbergcross. Ferrand-Prévot has made a real splash in 2022 with four world titles in mountain bike and gravel and is getting back into cyclocross after penning a two-year deal with Ineos Grenadiers.

Despite the two-year absence for Ferrand-Prévot, Muzic is expecting good things from her.

“I think he’s very strong, and she can also be strong in cyclocross. She was world champion before and now she is world champion in cross country and also gravel,” Muzic said. “I think she wants more; she always wants more. Maybe after she also wants to come back on the road, but I think it’s more difficult because you need a team and it’s a different strategy and everything on the road.”