Feature

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot: The star cyclist with many facets

The 28-year-old Frenchwoman is a six-time world champion in three cycling disciplines, and continues to be at the top of her sport.

By ZK Goh ·

In the world of cycling, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is a special talent in multiple arenas.

A six-time individual world champion across four events in three different cycling disciplines, the Frenchwoman is hot property and one to watch at Tokyo 2020.

Bursting onto the senior international circuit in 2012, Ferrand-Prévot was the youngest female cyclist in the road race at London 2012.

A number of injury setbacks left her doubting her future in the sport, but she proved her fitness at October's UCI MTB World Championships in emphatic style, crossing the line three minutes clear of her rivals to retain her cross-country title.

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot celebrates her cyclocross World Championship win in 2015. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Young star

Aged just 20 years old, a fresh-faced Ferrand-Prévot made her Olympic debut in London, taking part in both the road race and the mountain bike cross-country event.

She finished eighth on the streets of the British capital, in her first major international championship road race, and 26th in the mountain bike competition.

Four years later, she was back at it, although at Rio 2016 the French star could only record a 24th-place finish in the road race, while she did not finish the cross-country event.

Now 28, she clearly knows what she wants.

Olympic gold is "the title that is missing from my record," she told Eurosport. "It is also the supreme title – every four years. It has a special flavour to it and so it is the one I want."

She'll be aiming to do that on a mountain bike, with MTB her focus for Tokyo 2020.

Even without Olympic gold, Ferrand-Prévot has an extensive palmarès behind her.

She won the road race world title in 2014, before adding cyclo-cross and mountain bike cross-country world crowns in 2015.

Last year, she won her second mountain bike cross-country title before going one better and winning the mountain bike marathon world title, which involved a 70-km course with an elevation gain of nearly 3,500 metres.

What keeps Ferrand-Prévot motivated?

"Cycling must remain fun.

"For me, this is how it works best: pleasure, training, competition. Pleasure is the basis of everything."

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (right) was the youngest cyclist in the women's road race at London 2012. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Bouncing back from injury setbacks

Like many endurance cyclists, Ferrand-Prévot has had to deal with iliac artery endofibrosis – a condition which sees the artery, located in the pelvis, thicken.

In November 2018, she said she had been diagnosed with the condition in both legs, having experienced pain and blood circulation issues in her legs since three years prior when she had been world champion in three different disciplines.

After surgery in February 2019, the 28-year-old bounced back with her two mountain bike world titles. But then came another bombshell in January 2020: she had suffered repeated symptoms and needed a second surgery.

She has come back stronger than ever, retaining her cross-country world title in October with a display of complete dominance.

Ferrand-Prévot rode clear of her rivals on the first of five laps and just kept extending her advantage despite a couple of minor falls.

With a lead of two minutes after three laps, the Frenchwoman never looked like being caught and eventually won by 3:01 from Italy's Eva Lechner.

Home life

Ferrand-Prévot does not need to look too far to find inspiration to keep going.

Her partner is Julien Absalon, two-time mountain bike Olympic champion for France.

"His experience is helping me," she said to Tokyo 2020. "I remember watching Julien won the Olympic title with my brother so many times. He really gave me the motivation to get out and train.

"He often joins me on my training sessions, although my coach handles them."

She also helps look after Absalon's young children when they visit, and says she wants children of her own in the future.

But first, Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 await.

Speaking to Eurosport, she said: "I can see myself going as far as the Paris Games in any case. We are lucky to have the Games at home. I will still be relatively young so I would like to be in Paris.

"Afterwards, I haven't told myself at what age I'm going to stop. I've no idea. I would like to start a family, have children, but I don't have specific dates."