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Ferrand-Prévot: Disappointed but not dejected after Tokyo Olympics

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in the women's cross-country race at the Tokyo Olympic Games
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot in the women's cross-country race at the Tokyo Olympic Games (Image credit: Getty Images)

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot has opened up about her performance in the women’s cross-country mountain bike race at the Tokyo Olympic Games, where she finished 10th. The reigning world champion felt that she was unfairly criticised in the media for her mishaps during the race and the rider from France stated that she was proud of finishing in the top 10, which she felt was a respectable and honourable result.

"Disappointed but not dejected. Since the media takes such pleasure in knocking athletes down, and since there are a fair few ’Mr know-it-alls’, I want to speak about my race yesterday," Ferrand-Prévot wrote in a post on Instagram on Wednesday.

"I’m proud to have come to these Games at 100% and that’s my primary personal satisfaction. I’ve never been in such form in my career as this week. I’ve never felt as happy to be at such an event, surrounded by a top team and staff. But yes, elite sport is thankless, and the reward is not always what we’d like. If it were, that’d be too easy."

Ferrand-Prévot changed teams from Canyon-SRAM, where she also competed on the road and in cyclo-cross, to Absolute-Absalon-BMC at the start of this year as her focus turned toward the women’s cross-country event at the Tokyo Olympic Games.  

She competed in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, both on the road and mountain bike, which she told Cyclingnews was "horrible", also stating that the mountain bike race "offered me no forgiveness: I was a 'DNF'."

France started the women’s cross-country event in Tokyo with two contenders for the medals. Alongside Ferrand-Prévot was her compatriot Loana Lecomte who was unbeaten for the season on the World Cup circuit coming into the Games. Lecomte finished sixth in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Tropical storm Nepartak caused heavy rainfall on the course overnight, leading to a one-lap shortening of the race, from six to five, and some last-minute changes to the course. A rock garden was re-routed and a ramp installed on the drop.  The circuit length was reduced to 3.85 kilometres from 4.1 kilometres.

Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff and Ferrand-Prévot led the race from the starting lap. Neff, who won the gold medal in an outstanding performance by the Swiss team which took all three podium spots, criticised Ferrand-Prévot for what she felt was a dangerous move down a ramp. Ferrand-Prévot then crashed on an uphill rock garden, all inside the opening lap.

Ferrand-Prévot also stated that while she was able to make up ground on the second and third-placed Swiss riders on course – Sina Frei took silver and Linda Indergand earned bronze – she had a flat tyre, which effectively took her out of the medals.

"Yesterday, after a good start, I felt capable of competing for the title. Unfortunately, I made an error towards the start of the race, I slipped on the rocks and lost a lot of time. After that, I re-set myself to target a medal, and the moment I moved back up to second, my rear wheel punctured. No excuses – I made an error in my line,"  Ferrand-Prévot wrote.

"Still, I fight to finish the race in 10th place – not the position I wanted at the start, but the best I could do after those errors which cost me dearly. I think it’s a respectable and honourable result."

Ferrand-Prévot said that she was proud of her result and that she will continue to dream of one-day winning a gold medal, which would perhaps be at the next summer Olympic Games in 2024 in Paris.

"In any case, that’s how I feel about it deep down. So I’m proud of myself, I’m still smiling, I keep my dream of being Olympic champion in a corner of my head for a bit longer, and I’m going to fight to defend my titles as world and European champion – because I don’t want to experience the ‘after-Rio’ episode again, when simply thinking about cycling made me cry," Ferrand-Prévot wrote.

"I want to live happily, doing what makes me happy. Today, what makes me happy is having found the strength to smile after the worst racing scenario I could have imagined… to smile with my 21-year-old teammate, the new star of mountain biking who takes 6th place in her first Olympics… to smile about all the good moments that there are to experience… to smile for this day that has been given to us."

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.