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Reigning world champions, the French Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Jordan Sarrou defend their crown on Saturday, a month after the mixed Tokyo Olympics.

No time to think about it. Almost a month after the Olympic Games in Tokyo, concluded without any medals, the French mountain biking team is once again reunited for the world championships (from August 24 to 29), in Val di Sole (Italy). The opportunity for Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Jordan Sarrou to quickly dive back into the deep end, Saturday, August 28, to defend their respective world crowns in the premier event, the cross-country. The third nugget of tricolor mountain biking, Loana Lecomte, ill, will not be able to defend his title among the hopes.

Three-time cross-country mountain biking world champion (2015, 2019 and 2020), Pauline Ferrand-Prévot arrives with confidence on an event she knows and or she could equal the record of the Norwegian Gunn-Rita Dahle. His bronze medal on the short-track (a new short-distance event) played on Thursday and his victory at the European Championships in Novi Sad (Serbia) on August 15 proved that the legs are turning well. “I’m in good spirits after my European title,” she admits. I am quite serene. It’s true that there is a little pressure to defend my title for the third year, but it is positive. “” I feel good, the form is present. I am really motivated to defend my title ”, assures his side Jordan Sarrou, who will find neither Mathieu van der Poel nor the Olympic champion, Thomas Pidcock, on his way.

However, the two French mountain bikers are emerging from a zone of turbulence. The Olympic Games did not live up to expectations at all, whether theirs, those of the public, observers or the federation. World first and second respectively before the Games, Loana Lecomte and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot could not do better than 6th and 10th.

“I wasn’t too lucky when I was feeling great, I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted. It kind of broke down the day before the race because it started to rain, she says. They changed the circuit, the conditions were really different. I got it into my head that it was hot and dry, and that unsettled me a bit. In the race, nothing went as planned: Ferrand-Prévot fell on a rocky slope as she struggled with future Swiss Olympic champion Jolanda Neff, then suffered a puncture as she climbed the standings. “It bothers me, because I had this in mind for five years,” says the Rémoise. I am not disappointed. It wasn’t what I came for, but it’s not a poor performance. “

Unlike his compatriot, who was living his third Olympic Games, Jordan Sarrou, 29, discovered the high mass of sport. He was not spared either. A fall during the reconnaissance of the course two days before the race particularly weakened him. The knee swollen, an arm he can no longer lift: the conditions are not optimal, and the native of Saint-Etienne has to be content with a 9th place, behind the other Frenchman, Victor Koretzky, in 5th. “I have fond memories of it despite the result, where I hoped for better,” says Sarrou. There is bound to be disappointment, but no regrets. ”

It was therefore necessary to deal with the post-Games and the comments surrounding the disappointment of the France team, which came back without charm. On an Instagram post, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot did not hide her anger on the evening of her second European title. “Always prove to some journalists who write / speak without knowing that they are big asses! She wrote. A few days later, PFP said, “I didn’t like the articles from some journalists I trusted. They disappointed me, that it’s still sport, it’s still a one-day race. There is no point in burying ourselves with words that can hurt. “

The French Cycling Federation was also in the sights of tricolor mountain bikers when the national technical director (DTN), Christophe Manin, spoke of a “failure”. “When he said that, I told him ‘you can’t knock the athletes down like that,’ recounts the 2014 world road champion. I’m not necessarily happy with the attitude they had towards us. . “I found it a shame of him to have this speech,” Sarrou continues. The DTN is more there to support us than to bring us down. “

Especially since the post-Olympic period is never easy to digest. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot knows this better than anyone, she who wanted to stop everything in 2016 after her abandonment in Rio. “I know the post-Games are always a bit tough, if you don’t get back to it quickly, you never get back to it. After Tokyo, she quickly turned to Novi Sad, where she brilliantly retained her European title. Jordan Sarrou, for his part, preferred to ignore it, before returning to the competition path in Basel (Switzerland) on Sunday, signing a 3rd place. “After the Games, I took a few days off. I needed to recover physically and mentally. It was important to do something other than cycling. “

With body and mind regenerated, French mountain bikers can now look to the second half of the year. “The Games are behind me,” assures Jordan Sarrou. “A season does not end at the Olympic Games,” continues Pauline Ferrand-Prévot. The world championships in Val di Sole are timely for the France team to demonstrate that it remains a great mountain biking nation. With three titles already obtained since the beginning of the week, including a double in the junior women, France has started the Worlds perfectly. But two results will really count, those of the elites, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Jordan Sarrou, who will fight to keep their rainbow jersey.

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