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Pauline Ferrand-Prévot has won a lot in her career, but there’s one thing missing from her medal cabinet, an Olympic gold medal.
The 30-year-old, who has just signed a two-year deal with Ineos Grenadiers, recently won four world titles in a matter of weeks. Despite being one of the most prolific racers of her generation, with world titles across four separate disciplines, the Olympic Games have been an unlucky hunting ground for the French woman.
In the build-up to the 2016 competition in Rio, she was one of the favorites for the mountain bike title, but a season of injuries conspired against her. Roll forward to 2021 and Ferrand-Prévot appeared to be hitting form at the right time just weeks before Tokyo, but she struggled to a disappointing 10th.
With the Olympics heading to her home turf of France for 2024, Ferrand-Prévot is keen to rectify that and add a gold medal to her enviable collection.
“My main goal will be to try to be Olympic champion in Paris in 2024, it’s the only title that I missed so I really want that one. The next two years will be mainly focused on MTB to try to be Olympic champion at home,” Ferrand-Prévot said in a small media gathering Monday.
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Ferrand-Prévot is not letting any distractions get in her way, with just under two years to Paris 2024. Following her recent domination of mountain bike and an added gravel world title for good measure, there has been plenty of talk about whether she might branch out again into other disciplines.
She was once the poster star for multi-discipline racing as the only rider to hold the world mountain bike, cyclocross, and road race titles at the same time, but she’s not raced road since 2019 and cyclocross since early 2020.
The 30-year-old said that the recent developments over in the world of road racing, with new races like the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, have made her interested in making a return, but not until after the Olympic Games.
“Why not come back to road racing, but not for now, for sure. When I look to the Tour de France, and these big races. For sure, I maybe want to be part of that later. And I just want to focus now on my dream, and with this Olympic at home, I think it’s a good chance.”
Though a potential return to the road has been pushed back for at least two years, cyclocross is back on the menu for Ferrand-Prévot. The chance to get back into winter racing has been made possible by her recent two-year deal with Ineos Grenadiers.
Injuries and a lack of the right equipment have prevented Ferrand-Prévot from racing cyclocross in recent years. In 2019 and 2020 she underwent surgery to treat an iliac artery endofibrosis, cutting short her winter racing.
For the past two seasons, she has raced for the Absolute Absalon–BMC mountain bike team. With no cyclocross offering in BMC’s bike collection, it complicated matters for Ferrand-Prévot. Ineos’ bike sponsor Pinarello does make one and she believes that the discipline will dovetail well with her mountain bike racing.
“It’s 50 minutes of racing, and I know that I can be good. It’s perfect for me, like between a cross-country race and a short race. I like this type of effort, and also, I really like the Belgian fans and the French fries. I’m joking,” she laughed. “I will be really happy to be back in Belgium and cyclocross, but we also started the MTB season in May now with the World Cup. So, it’s also a good way to don’t spend winter like without doing anything.”
Ferrand-Prévot is looking forward to racing against Marianne Vos again when she does start her cyclocross season in the coming months. However, after two years away from the discipline and only limited racing for a few years before that, she doesn’t know how she’ll shape up against her rivals.
“I don’t expect anything because it’s like we said it’s a long time without cyclocross for me. So yeah, just want to see where I can be,” she said. “I really don’t know where I can be in. I’m feeling good. But cyclocross is another discipline, so I think I would need more time to be at my top shape.”
Though Pinarello does make a cyclocross bike, it does not yet make a mountain bike. Ferrand-Prévot does not yet know what she will race next season. The Frenchwoman has said she would also like to add some more gravel races to her program, though that will depend on the calendar.
As good as ever and happy racing
Despite her dominating performances in cycling, Ferrand-Prévot’s relationship with the sport has been tumultuous. She announced herself as one of the most talented riders in the pack with her victories at the 2014 road worlds, and 2015 cyclocross and mountain bike worlds.
However, she soon found herself struggling with the mental fatigue fo racing and was contemplating retirement by the end of 2016. She decided to refocus her racing schedule the following year and rediscovered her passion for racing, but difficulties with iliac artery endofibrosis prevented her from hitting her best.
Free of persistent injury and in a place where she can pick and choose her path, Ferrand-Prévot is once again in love with the bike. It has shown late this season as she racked up four separate mountain bike world titles in the short track, cross-country, and marathon disciplines, as well as becoming the first-ever UCI gravel world champion.
“I’m super happy,” she said. “After we find out that I need the surgery for this iliac injury, I felt that, now I can give my best. I wasn’t at my best over the past years, but now I could find that, my best shape ever. It’s good to feel that you can win races and you feel motivated to go to training.
“I think I didn’t really realize what I did this season. The last title was already one week ago go, so it was not done much time, I will say. But, yeah, I’m feeling good and happy. And also super happy to finally be able to say that I will race for Ineos Grenadiers for next season. I can’t wait to start this journey.”
Throughout her career, Ferrand-Prévot has had to deal with the pressure of expectation. However, she has never let this expectation dictate how she handles her own career and she has always carved her own path, something that has helped her find her own happiness.
“We all have dreams and goals and for sure, we all know what is good for us or not. I am really confident to know what I want to know what I don’t want. I like to decide what I will do and where I want to go and which way I have to take,” she said.
“For sure, when I was a junior, and even after, they asked me to choose between a road and MTB, but I did not want. Finally, a few years later, I was world champion in three disciplines and so I was very happy to keep pushing the way I wanted and to have made this decision. It’s also why I wanted to do cyclocross. I know I still can be good on MTB and to do everything is also a big motivation for me. It’s also why I’m happy with the bike and I want to go training every day. I think I need to change bikes so I don’t get bored.”