Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon-SRAM) made a winning comeback on Sunday at the MTB World Cup in Val di Sole after undergoing surgery to correct iliac artery endofibrosis in both legs in February. The former mutli-discipline world champion, who took four months off to recover, said it was an 'emotional' victory after a difficult three years.
"For sure I'm emotional. It's my first international victory since 2015 and a lot has happened in the last three years," Ferrand-Prévot said. "It hasn't been easy but it also hasn't been easy for the people that support me, my sponsors and my family."
Ferrand-Prévot was at the top of her sporting career as the triple world champion – road (2014), cyclo-cross (2015) and mountain bike (2015) – when she began having problems with circulation in her legs. But it wasn’t until last November that she revealed the extent of her suffering.
She said she had been experiencing 'inexplicable pain' in her left leg for four years, first discovered in June of 2015. She announced in December of 2018 that she would have to sit out of competition for four months after discovering she would need surgery to treat iliac artery endofibrosis in both her left and right legs.
She was forced to skip the 2018-2019 cyclo-cross season and the start of the 2019 road season with Canyon-Sram. Doctors performed the double surgeries in February and then gave her the green light to resume training at the end of April.
Ferrand-Prévot won the French national title earlier this summer. Her victory at the Val di Sole World Cup, however, marks a significant improvement heading into her major goals of the season at the World Championships in Mont Saint-Anne, Canada, in August.
"Plenty of people are around you when you're winning, but in the tough moments, it's different," Ferrand-Prévot said after her win in Val di Sole. "This is a reward for me and my hard work, but also for those that have continued to support and believe in me. This is what has made me emotional. Later tonight, when I get my moment alone to take this in, I'm quite sure there will be some happy tears."
Ferrand-Prévot will next race at the MTB World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, as part of her final preparation for the World Championships.
"I'll race in Lenzerheide and then after one short week at home, I will go to Canada to prepare for the world championships in Mont Saint-Anne," she said.
"Now comes the biggest goal of the year. I'm feeling good; I'm better and better each week. I'm in good shape physically but also mentally. I'm calm and relaxed. I want go to Mont Saint-Anne with the same mentality and then I'll be able to do my best."