Jonnier ready to defend downhill World Cup title for fourth time

International season begins in Maribor, Slovenia this weekend

Few have been as dominant in downhill mountain bike racing as French rider Sabrina Jonnier, who will begin her 2010 World Cup campaign at a rain-soaked Maribor course at the weekend. Jonnier, of Hyères, has been on the podium since 2001 - making 2010 her 10th year at the top of the sport's elite women, but despite holding the UCI World Cup title four times, she has never successfully defended her title.

She is adamant that she has one goal for 2010, "I want to win all the World Cups."

"Last year was pretty good for me, I won six World Cups out of eight and took the overall. When I am in the gate, I just want to win. The person winning is the one who wants it the most and I am that person," Jonnier said.

Winter training in France, followed by some summer races in New Zealand and an enduro race in Nepal in March have given Jonnier a solid preparation heading into the race at the weekend and she has also found some time to ride in the wet.

"I'm a sunny person, but I have been riding the last month in the mud and the wet in America - in the snow in Boulder and then in Switzerland and Italy as well. This year is a more technical race season, and I have kept a similar programme to other years, but with more technical riding such as BMX, downhill and motocross in New Zealand."

The Maxxis-Rocky Mountain team has changed a little this year with Cameron Cole, of Christchurch, New Zealand, as her only teammate and a new mechanic and new soigneur joining the ranks.

"I have a good teammate, and I am looking forward to a good season," Jonnier explained.

"We have different styles of getting prepared for a race and so we do ask questions of each other, but I do ride with other guys, too. It may be different this year with it being only the two of us on the team. I like to ride practice all day and then walk the track with another guy at the end and that way I get to talk with someone else and discuss lines."

Of the six rounds in the UCI World Cup this season Fort William, Scotland, is the one Jonnier is most looking forward to.

"It's my kind of track, fast, long and physical. I like every track because it is another possibility to ride my bike. Champery will be the most challenging and also Vale di Sole - they are very special tracks very steep and very technical and I quite like those tracks, too."

"Every round is going to be challenging. This first one in Maribor will be interesting as nobody has been racing against each other yet."

Jonnier said there would be a handful of top riders vying for the podium this season and some new faces, too.

"Tracey [Moseley] is always really strong at the start and through the season; Rachel [Atherton] will definitely be challenging as well, and I have no doubt that she is coming back even faster than 2008; the new World Champion Emmeline Ragot will be there as well and two young French girls are coming up really fast: Floriane Pugin and Myriam Nicole," Jonnier said.

When asked if the fact it would be her 10th season racing for the podium at this level, Jonnier replied that the records were not a high priority in her mind.

"I always ride for myself not for the glory - I like to win because it's a good feeling and I hate to lose because then I feel crappy. I ride my bike because I have fun riding it. I never think about the records and I never know how many races I have won."

Like her teammate, Cameron Cole, Jonnier used psychology to prepare for her racing in her younger days, but now finds stability in yoga.

"When I was younger - because I messed up when it came to racing because I stressed a lot, I studied psychology. I have been doing a lot of yoga for the last four years, and that has helped me a lot. It helps me to slow down in my head. I usually do a tiny bit of yoga in the morning to stretch before a race and then at the end of the day - I try to do an hour a day. I am learning a lot with yoga and it has definitely improved my racing."

Once she has the World Cup season out of the way Jonnier plans to reclaim the World Championship title, which will be contested in Quebec, Canada, in September.

"In the World Cup you have to be consistent all year and the World Championship is one day - last year I got a flat and finished last, but I really like the track at Mont-Sainte-Anne."

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