Pauline Ferrand-Prevot's coach Gérard Brocks has agreed with her assertion that winning world championships in three different disciplines had done her more harm than good, but backed the French rider to return to her best in 2017.
Ferrand-Prevot claimed three rainbow jerseys in the space of twelve months when she won the Worlds road race in Ponferrada in 2014, and then added the cyclo-cross and mountain bike world titles in 2015.
The Frenchwoman lined out in both the road race and mountain bike event at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but could only place 26th in the former and abandoned the latter. In a lengthy statement on social media this week, Ferrand-Prevot said that cycling had "become a nightmare" after a year plagued by injury and illness.
"Her season was littered with setbacks, and that's difficult to manage for an athlete like her," Brocks told L'Equipe. Brocks returned as Ferrand-Prevot's coach this spring after they had parted company following the 2012 campaign.
"Above all, there was her stress fracture [of the knee] over the winter, then in May she came back to having me as her coach. We tried to set off on healthy foundations, but it was very complicated because every time we made plans, there were problems.
"There was a clear improvement in the weeks before she left for Rio. She was training well and putting out almost as many watts as before her stress fracture. But psychologically, there were highs and lows, and her doubts persisted."
Ferrand-Prevot wrote this week that she did not know when she would get back on a bike again, though Brocks was not alarmed by the statement. Still only 24 years of age, Ferrand-Prevot has been linked with a move to the Canyon-SRAM team for 2017. She currently rides for Rabo-Liv.
"She'll come through this, but she needs to place her trust in the good people in her entourage," Brocks said. "Her three world titles have done her more harm than good. A lot of people approached here wanting to give advice, and then they were the first to criticise her. When I coached her the first time around, we had planned for those three titles. But not like that, not so quickly."
Indeed, Brocks said that he and Ferrand-Prevot parted company after the 2012 Worlds in Valkenburg because he felt she was spreading herself too thinly at the time by competing in three disciplines. "It stopped because I told her she couldn't continue to compete on the road and in mountain bike and cyclo-cross at the highest level," he said.
"Now, I think she's going to take a break of six or eight weeks. She needs to make use of that to have a complete medical check, but also to analyse her last few seasons. I'm not saying that she has to drop one of the disciplines, but she needs to do things differently. That's why I stopped coaching her [in 2012] and in the end, even if I'd prefer it wasn't the case, I was right."
Brocks backed Ferrand-Prevot to return to a high level next year, but warned that it was not feasible to expect a repeat of her sequence of world titles in 2014 and 2015. "She'll get back to the top, like in 2015, but not immediately," he said. "She needs to accept that what she experienced for a year and a half won't be reproduced."