French women's downhill sensation Emmeline Ragot is fed up with playing second fiddle at the Cascades MTB Park and after another second place finish at the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships is hoping that she can go one better and claim the first title of the season when the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup arrives in Pietermaritzburg on April 11-13.
The veteran of 50 World Cup podiums has always had to work harder on the Cascades layout due to the tough nature of the course and the reliance on strength which Ragot feels is not a strong part of her technique but going into the World Cup this year, Ragot feels she has what it takes to win.
"I am a small girl, so the course doesn't really suit my style of riding because of the long flat sections," the former World Champion said. "I much prefer the steeper, more technical tracks but I have been working hard and feel that I will be fit enough to take on the physical track when I get to Pietermaritzburg."
It has been a busy winter for the 27-year-old who has been working hard on her strength training and heads into the 2014 season with a clean bill of health and having won the 2013 European Continental Championships after the world champs she will be confident see can take that form into the new season.
"I have had a busy off season with a lot of studying and training taking up my time, so I haven't had too much time off, but it means that I will be ready to go when I get to Pietermaritzburg. I haven't had any problems with injuries so I will be fully fit for the tough track at Cascades.
"I ended the year well last year which is encouraging going into the first leg of the World Cup this year," the Lapierre Gravity Republic team rider said.
Two runners-up medals are all that Ragot has to show from her three World Cup and one world champs showings at Cascades and with her sights firmly set on the overall World Cup title a good start is vital in her quest.
In her last outing in Pietermaritzburg, Ragot finished in second eight seconds behind eventual world champion Rachel Atherton, who decimated the course but Ragot is confident that she has done enough hard work in the offseason to turn that deficit around and is wary of the threat that her fellow riders are going to pose.
"It is quite frustrating that I only have two second place finishes at Cascades, and I really want to get that win this year because a win there will be a good start to my campaign to win the World Cup.
"It is a tough place to start the season for me but my goal is to win and that is what I am going out there to do. The competition is always going to be tough and there are some great riders out there and I think Manon Carpenter is going to be one of the toughest competitors to beat in Pietermaritzburg," the number two women's downhill rider said.
The Cascades MTB Park and South Africa provides a different challenge for riders when they come out of their winter into some tricky conditions but the riders seem to embrace the conditions and enjoy returning to "Africa's Bike City" on a regular basis.
"I have been to South Africa a few times and really enjoy coming back because the place is different to everything else that we see during the season so it is good to experience something different.
"The people and awesome and the place is beautiful so I love coming back to South Africa, I just hope that this year I can finally win there!" Ragot said light-heartedly.
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