The first cyclist to simultaneously hold world titles in road, cyclocross and mountain biking, Frenchwoman Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is one of those rare talents able to dominate in any discipline. There is arguably no other bike racer - male or female - that can equal her ability to win on all terrains, and as she joins CANYON//SRAM Racing, Rapha is delighted to welcome ‘PFP’ to the family.
There are two stories from Pauline Ferrand-Prévot’s childhood that go some way to explaining her brilliance on two wheels. Firstly, as a talented young figure skater, Pauline decided to give up the sport after a competition at which she placed second to last. It wasn’t the position that bothered her, it was the fact that one of the trainer’s daughters had been given a higher placing despite performing no better. “It disgusted me,” she said of the subjective judging scores. Bicycle racing and the absolution of its finish line, it seems, was the only way that Pauline could guarantee results without the uncertainty of opinion. So she rode her bike.
Secondly, an insight into her competitive nature: Pauline once told the newspaper Le Monde that when the Ferrand-Prévot family would go on bike rides together, “as soon as anyone passed me I would start yelling. I always wanted to be that little bit ahead, even just a half wheel in front.” Her parents didn’t mind, even encouraging her passion for the sport – Pauline’s mother used to make skittles for her daughter to endlessly slalom her bike around in the back garden.
The truth is, how could they try and stop her? PFP has always set the pace for everyone else to follow. In a barnstorming four month period over the summer of 2010, a 17-year-old Pauline won junior titles at the European Championships Time Trial and Road Race, the Chrono des Nations, the European Championships XC and then the Worlds XC. She won a silver medal at the Worlds Time Trial too.
This multi-discipline domination drew obvious comparisons with the great Marianne Vos, so it was apt that Ferrand-Prevot joined the Dutchwoman’s team Rabo-Liv in her second season as a pro in 2012. The two raced together for five years, during which time Ferrand-Prévot achieved her grand slam of world titles in 2014/15 at the age of just 23. It is no surprise that many consider her the natural heir of Vos.
She joins CANYON//SRAM at a crossroads in her career following a year in which injuries and overtraining hampered her performances, eventually resulting in a DNF at the Rio 2016 mountain bike race and a subsequent Facebook post saying that “the bike was what I liked to do most, but it became my biggest nightmare.”
For a natural born winner like PFP, the past twelve months can only have been a huge challenge, and it will take some steel to write her next chapter. CANYON//SRAM’s Team Manager Ronny Lauke for one is convinced that she has the character to reach the top again:
“Looking at when Pauline won her world champion road title, she had been dropped on the climb but she fought back and didn’t give up until the finish line. It shows some personality, a huge character to fight, and we like to have this in our team. We also like a lot that Pauline is so versatile with racing in various disciplines. She is just riding her bike, enjoying the freedom that a bicycle can offer. She is the perfect match for our team, when we want to be the best ambassadors to show the pleasure of doing this beautiful sport on every terrain.”
This week, Pauline has been back on the bike and smiling, something that many thought wouldn’t happen so quickly – if ever again. Rapha has no doubt that this young racer, whom the French press have dubbed ‘La petite reine’ (The little queen), will reclaim her throne(s) before long.