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Back 2.1.2018

Zipp at CX Worlds: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, A Champion for All Seasons

At one point in 2015, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was the reigning road, CX, and XC MTB World Champion. However, a tibial plateau fracture in the winter, and its after effects, led to a lost season in 2016—one that had her questioning her place in the sport. In 2017, Ferrand-Prévot joined CANYON//SRAM Racing, and with a light racing schedule, took the time to fall in love with the bike again. When we caught up with her at training camp in December, she was already slicing her way through fields and fighting for podium spots at major CX races. Since our interview, she won her 3rd French National CX Championship and will line up as an outside favorite at the World Championships this weekend.

In 2017 you were more dedicated to mountain biking than to road. In 2018 where is your focus?
So, in 2017 there was more mountain biking because in 2016 I had a complicated season and I wanted to enjoy myself again on the mountain bike. At the beginning of the year it was more difficult to find my marks in competition, but since the French championships in July, it was better and better. I gained momentum with my second place at the World Cup in Mont St Anne and my third place at the World Championships. So, it's a rather promising end of the season. For next year I will be more focused on the road. I will always have mountain bike races, but more road. I will target the Belgian Classics and the Giro. It's another program and that's how I find my motivation.

And cyclocross?
Yes, there is also cyclocross. We decided with Ronny [Lauke, CANYON//SRAM directeur sportif] to do cyclocross this season with some international races in December and to go to the French championships in the second week of January. Depending on my form, I’ll go for the World Championships [Ferrand-Prévot has since confirmed she will race the World Championships].

Is it important to return to this discipline with full motivation?
I had stopped in 2016 because of an injury and I could not race with my world champion jersey. It remains one of the biggest regrets of my career. I cannot wait to come back and try to race against the World Champion at the international level.

When you think of 2017, everyone thinks about your joy during your bronze medal ride at the MTB World Championships. Are there any other moments from 2017 that made you happy?
When I joined the team, with the meeting in Mallorca! After 5 years at Rabobank, I really needed to see something else and discover another team. But also riding on new brands, discovering a new bike with new components.

Now that you’ve been on CANYON//SRAM Racing for a year, how would you describe the culture within the team?
PFP: It's a strong partnership between the team, the sponsors, and the staff. Everyone works together to get the best result possible. This is the aspect that I like about the team. We are a big family. Everyone tries to give the best of oneself to succeed in order to have the best result possible. It's this aspect of union, if you like, that really pleased me.

This year you have a former Rabobank teammate who is joining the team. How do you feel about it and what do you think it will bring to the team?
Kasia [Niewiadoma] is one of my best friends so I'm really happy. Now we'll be able to play an even bigger role in really tough races like the Classics and Giro. Although she is young, she is very promising. With her, we will be able to play an even bigger role as a team and I am sure that we will find ourselves at the front of important races. She is also someone who is very serious in training and in everyday life, and she will bring this to the team. She enjoys life and smiles the whole time. She is going to be a good element for sure.

You spend a lot of time training. What do you think about when you're on the bike?
It's why I race several disciplines, for example, cyclocross: I need to stay motivated, ‘to have a carrot at the end.’ If I go to training I know why I do it. I always need to have a race, an objective to be able to give the best of myself. While riding I think of the objective and try to be as serious as possible.

If we look at a typical week, how do you manage the 3 disciplines?
Six days out of 7 are dedicated to training on the bike, usually 4 sessions on the road and 3 mountain biking. In winter I add cyclocross. That’s also why I like this time of the year: I can do a little bit of everything. It is also according to my mood and desires. This is also what I like in the different disciplines. It's changing and I feel I am rediscovering a new bike every time. This helps me to keep a mental freshness.

As we look at your 2018 goals, is there a climb in particular where you cannot wait to be?
I already know the Belgian Classics very well, having won the Flèche Wallonne in 2014—super nervous races where you have to remain super vigilant. These are also difficult races where the choice of components is super important, that's what I particularly like this aspect of the Classics. For the Giro, we do not know the course yet, so I cannot say which climb I will love or not, but with the evolution of the equipment and the addition of disc brakes it will really help us on the downhills, for faster and more precise braking. I think that components play a bigger role in races now.

Since you come from mountain biking, are you excited to finally have disc brakes for road, with CANYON//SRAM racing disc brakes exclusively throughout 2018?
At the moment, I'm riding a lot my cyclocross bike with disc brakes, and the day before yesterday I went to my new road bike [with SRAM RED eTap HRD disc brakes] and I was so happy. Disc brakes seem to me to be obvious. Braking is amazing as it is much more precise and the braking distance is much shorter. It's really night and day. In a year or two, disc brakes will become commonplace on the road.

You said that the choice of components is important for you, how involved are you?
With MTB, I learned to be interested in components I rode, what I had, and what we could do better. This goes through the choice of tubular tires, the pressure of the tires, the wheels that will be used, the gearing—full of technical details that make the difference. With cyclocross, nobody else can choose my tire pressures; I have a good feeling for this. This is all the more important for me compared to others.

For you, what are the key benefits of the eTap groupset?
By switching from the competition to SRAM, I really saw the difference in the precision of shifting. This is the first thing I felt. Even in mountain biking, cyclocross, when I change gears it's accurate. Between last year and this year, the transition to disc brakes will be decisive. The mechanics will have to manage at the wheel level, but for sure it's a nice evolution.

What’s your favorite Zipp wheel?
The Zipp 303. It's the right blend between speed and stiffness.
How important is a power meter for you in racing and training?
PFP: Before with power meters, they were not reliable. For the first time, I have a system that is easy to use [CANYON//SRAM Racing uses Quarq power meters]. The important thing is to have something with which you do not waste time. You calibrate it and then you roll. I have never been bothered with it. It's an everyday tool, that's why it has to be easy. I use it all the time even in cyclocross and mountain biking. What was a burden before became my daily life and I'm more and more interested in my data.

All photos by Balint Hamvas Cyclephotos