"I'm ready to defend the rainbow jersey."
Going into last week’s four MTB world cups in succession at Nové Město, the goal of XCO world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was clear: use the block of racing to get her race speed back. The CANYON//SRAM Racing rider said the world cups themselves weren’t a big goal. Instead, they were simply a part of her final preparations ahead of one of her season highlights, the UCI MTB world championships in Austria.
Pauline came away from Nové Město with a third place, two second places and a win from her four starts. The Frenchwoman goes into the world championship week in Leogang with another clear goal: do everything she can to defend her jersey on Saturday 10 October.
“I’ve been feeling better and better after each race as the season has gone on. The races in Nové Město have given me a lot of confidence and were good for me physically. Now, it’s about focusing on recovering and being ready to give it all on Saturday,” explained Pauline.
The course in Leogang is a 3.6km circuit with 210m elevation each lap and will be broadcast live on Red Bull TV to fans globally.
“I did a recon of the lap yesterday and it was good. The conditions made the ground sticky so you could feel that the uphill sections were hard. It has three main uphills but nothing really technical on the lap at all.”
“Last night it rained a lot and the lap became muddy and very slippery. It was actually quite funny in training this morning for everyone because you couldn’t really control the bike. We just have to wait and see how the conditions are for the weekend.”
It’s not the first time the 28 year old goes into world championships defending the rainbow jersey, after winning the XCO title for the first time in 2015.
“It’s different this time going into worlds defending the rainbow jersey. I have five years more of life and sport experiences and I’m more mature. Before 2016 worlds, I was nervous and I wasn’t physically ready to defend the title either.”
“This time, I feel less pressure. It’s been a strange year for everyone, also for me with the second surgery I had at the start of the year. I knew I wasn’t ready for the national champs and the smaller races that I was doing, but at the same time you want to be already winning. I was actually quite unfair on myself,” laughed Pauline.
“In the end, I’m happy to be here and to have the opportunity to defend the jersey. The worlds have been in doubt for a long time. Finally, we have them and I believe it’s good for our sport. Of course it’s also good for me to try to defend the jersey and earn the right to wear it again if I’m good enough, rather than just keeping it because the world championships couldn’t be held.”
Pauline added, “It’s a nice feeling to be in race week and to be ready for your highlight. I’m proud of myself getting through the hard year, of all the work I did, and that I didn’t give up. Now it’s cool to be feeling in good shape and to be in a position to defend the jersey. I can’t wait for Saturday.”