Pauline Ferrand-Prévot confirmed Wednesday that she will line up for the elite women's UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Valkenburg, Netherlands, on Saturday, despite a heavy fall in last weekend’s World Cup in Hoogerheide. The former world champion, who took a two-year hiatus from cyclo-cross, says that she feels no pressure heading into the race.
"Even if I had broken my ribs I think that I still would have tried to race on Saturday," Ferrand-Prévot said.
Ferrand-Prévot crashed with Jolanda Neff last Sunday and was taken to hospital. She was later cleared and released with no major injuries. Neff sustained a broken elbow and collarbone, and has been forced to sit out of the championship event.
Ferrand-Prévot is one of the favourites to win the world title again, even though this is her first season racing cyclo-cross since taking a two-year break from the discipline, citing injury and burn-out.
"I don't want to speak about results. On Saturday I have nothing to lose. I don't have the rainbow jersey to defend. Like I said, I’ve had a nice season so far. I want to do my best, go full gas, not forget anything important, or make any mistakes. I’m in good shape, I have the best support around me and I want to do the maximum race I can do with all of those things."
Before she took time off, Ferrand-Prévot won back-to-back national titles in 2014 and 2015. She went on to win the world title in 2015, and together with her road race world title and the mountain bike world title, she held three rainbow jerseys within 12 months of each other.
Recently, she enjoyed successes at DVV Verzekeringen Trofee in Essen (fourth), Telenet Superprestige Diegem (second) and won Vlaamse Druivencross. In the World Cup, she was fifth in Namur, fourth in Heusden-Zolder and third in Nommay. She won the French national title and made the late decision, along with Canyon-SRAM, to compete in Valkenburg.
"I started the cyclo-cross season focusing only up until the national titles in mid-January, and with the aim of using cyclo-cross as a base for my goals in the MTB and road seasons," Ferrand-Prévot said.
"After I won the French championship I knew I was in good shape, I had already sneaked a look at the circuit in Valkenburg and I became motivated for the World Championships."
Ferrand-Prévot said that she is pleased with her training and performances so far, and has a lot of support from Canyon-SRAM in her cyclo-cross schedule.
"I’m feeling really happy on the bike at the moment. I have a lot of support from my team so I am lucky for this. It’s an advantage to have great equipment and staff. For me it’s been a tremendous cyclo-cross season so it made sense to continue to World Championships."
Ferrand-Prévot has previewed the course in Valkenburg and said that it suits her but she is expecting a challenge from the top women in cyclo-cross for the world title. Her competitors include defending champion Sanne Cant, seven-time former champion Marianne Vos, Katie Compton, Kaitlin Keough, Eva Lechner, Helen Wyman and Nikki Brammeier, to name only a few.
"it's a hilly, hard and technical lap. I like it a lot. Our race will be exciting and unpredictable. The World Cup podiums during the season have always been different. There’s not only one rider that can win, there’s probably ten different women that can win. It's creating a lot of interest and I think fans are going to see a really cool race."
She insisted that the remainder of her cyclo-cross season is still geared toward preparing for mountain bike and road seasons that are quickly approaching, where she will begin with the spring Classics in April.
"I maintain that it's good preparation for my road and MTB seasons. At the same time I've seen that it's possible I can step onto the podium at the highest level again," she said.
"I'm motivated and serious for Saturday. But I also know that all the work that I'm doing now will pay for the classic races in April that are my big goals.
"I'm happy with the decision to race cyclo-cross this winter, I have the French title, I’ve had some nice World Cup results and as well I'm continuing to World Championships. After the crash last weekend, I've come out with no injuries so I'm also pleased that I can start fully fit."