“The bike was what I loved to do the most, but it became my biggest nightmare”: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot uncertain when she will return to cycling

by Anne-Marije Rook


French mountain bike and road cycling Olympian Pauline Ferrand-Prévot today announced that she has decided to end her season and that she is unsure when she will return to cycling.

In a heart-rending Facebook post, the former multi-discipline world champion explained her reasons behind abandoning the Olympic mountain bike race last Saturday, revealing that her whole year has been plagued with injuries and allergies.

“I am extremely disappointed, there are no words to express it. I left the race crying, and I did not think to go into the mixed zone to explain my abandonment to the reporters. That’s the last thing you think about in those moments,” she states.

But Saturday’s disappointment was merely the culmination of a year of struggle, which started with a stress fracture last winter.

“The Olympics were the dream of a lifetime, but also my biggest fear as I started this winter with stress fracture in the knee,” she explains.

The knee problems started a vicious circle of training too much too soon, followed by forced recovery times and a series of failed treatments.

“I felt that I was not myself, that the pedal stroke was not mine,” she says.

Training in the south of France, she developed a severe allergy. When three weeks of anti-biotics did nothing, steroids were administered, taking her out of competition for at least 10 days, as dictated by anti-doping regulations.

Once again making up for lost time, Ferrand-Prevot started training too hard and her sciatica pain re-appeared, making it impossible to push beyond 200 watts.

“Every workout was an ordeal. I couldn’t not follow my plan, the intensity zones,” the 24-year-old writes.

Another series of treatments and steroids ensued but with no results.

Ferrand-Prévot made history when in 2015, she simultaneously held the world championship jersey across three disciplines: road, cyclocross and mountain bike. Her most celebrated achievement, is now a bitter memory.

“Being world champion in three disciplines in one year may have been the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Ferrand-Prévot states. “Even injured I was working harder every day without giving up. I abandoned race after race, saying that fate would eventually stop.”

A light appeared at the end of the tunnel when in July, she found an effective treatment for her sciatica at the University Hospital of Besancon.

“I could now train the way I want. But I had accumulated a lot of delay and the race against time began,” she says.

Winning the French cross-country mountain bike championships and making the French Olympic selection was a glimmer of hope she says.

“Every week I saw that I grew a little more. There was very little time but I had hope,” she says. “But in the end, I never got caught up. These Olympics were the result of a year of struggling.”

“‘Abandoning is losing’ — That’s the sentence that concludes [my Olympic race]. I wanted to finish this race but my body could not,” Ferrand-Prévot writes. “I end my season on abandonment. I do not know when I will get back on a bike. The bike was what I loved to do the most, but it became my biggest nightmare.”

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