French woman Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabobank-Giant) turned some heads with her fourth place finish at the Houffalize World Cup last month. Finishing as the second French woman after runner-up Julie Bresset, Ferrand Prevot put in a performance that was a huge first step toward qualification for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Ferrand Prevot, who also excels in road competitions, is racing the mountain bike World Cups in the elite category, even though the 20-year-old is technically an under 23 rider. She is one of just five U23 women doing so this season.
The 2009 and 2010 junior cross country world champion stepped up her training this winter by working with Simon Rogier, who has focused on improving her technical riding according to universalbikeracing.com. She is also getting advice on descending from former Spanish pro Oscar Saiz and on her physical form from Gerard Brocks.
The technical work seems to be paying off. "Fourth place in Houffalize... it's not a surprise, I knew she was capable of that," said Rogier to universalbikeracing.com. "I followed the race live, and I could see that she had nothing to envy about the techniques of the three girls in front."
In addition to Bresset, the other French women vying for Olympic team spots are Sabrina Enaux and Cecile Ravanel. Were Ferrand Prevot to be selected to the French Olympic team, she would be the youngest French rider selected since mountain biking became an Olympic sport in Atlanta in 1996.
Ferrand Prevot will race the next two World Cups in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic and La Bresse, France. Both play an important role in Olympic qualifications for nations and individuals. The UCI will determine how many racers each nation can send to the Olympics after the La Bresse World Cup, and the French Olympic team will be decided in early June.