Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was unable to drop Laura Stigger
© Bartek Wolinski/@wolisphoto
MTB

The secrets behind the training regime of Pauline Ferrand-Prévot

A drive to improve is firing Frenchwoman Pauline Ferrand-Prévot's training approach as she challenges for UCI World Cup honors this 2022 season.
By Vincent Girard
7 min readPublished on
It's a refreshed and refocused Pauline Ferrand-Prévot that we're currently seeing at the Mercedes-Benz UCI Cross-country Mountain Bike World Cup. The French athlete looks to be a far happier soul than the person we saw at races in the 2021 season, which her compatriot Loana Lecomte dominated, and where Ferrand-Prévot often cut a frustrated figure.
By no means was 2021 a bad season for the BMC MTB Racing rider. Ferrand-Prévot won the European Championship and had two Short Track (XCC) World Cup wins to her name in Albstadt and Les Gets. However, Ferrand-Prévot felt her body was showing signs of fatigue as the season went on, and she wasn't able to perform as she liked.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot as seen at the UCI XCC race at the MTB World Cup in Petropolis, Brazil.
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot has found new motivation going into 2022
Once she decided to call an early halt to her 2021 season in Lenzerheide with still two World Cup races to go, it was all about resting up and then planning on how she could improve her fitness and race performance going into 2022. Her long time South African-based trainer Barry Austin has had more input on her training plans than ever before over the winter. Ferrand-Prévot is also working on her technical riding skills with women's Enduro World Series Champion Cécile Ravanel. These new partnerships seem to have given her new motivation in her approach to training and racing.
We caught up with her recently to hear about her approach to training going into this 2022 season.

Once a season is over, what do you do in terms of planning your training for the next year?

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot: At the end of a season, I take stock of my year, what went well and what went less well. In 2021, the Summer Games were the ultimate goal, which completed five years of work. But I didn't perform as hoped and I took the positives from it and instead looked at what I needed to improve to project myself towards Paris 2024. This year [2022] is more of a year of transition. It is an opportunity to test out new training methodologies.

I love working on my weak points. It's a real challenge for me to always be better

Tell us more about what you did this winter?

I really focused on my riding technique and my ability to go faster downhill. In cross-country, the circuits have evolved a lot in recent years. Before, we had courses that lasted anything from one hour thirty minutes but today we're at one hour fifteen minutes or one hour twenty maximum. You have to know how to evolve with your sport, so I decided this winter to work with [three-time overall Enduro World Series winner] Cécile Ravanel to improve my technique in order to see if it would help me gain precious seconds going downhill.

This year, I also plan to take part in two events of the Enduro World Series. I've already taken part in an enduro-style event, the Mégavalanche in La Réunion. Racing Enduro can be good downhill training for my cross-country season.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot winning the the UCI XCC race at the MTB World Cup in Petropolis, Brazil.
2022 has already proved fruitful – An XCC World Cup win in Petrópolis

How do you find the motivation to progress your career each season?

I love working on my weak points. It's a real challenge for me to always be better. And when I manage to work with friends - as I can do with Cécile - it's always easier, because I learn while having fun.

In what other areas are you still looking to improve?

I am also focused on working on improving my intensity during a race. I've worked a lot on intensity before, but mainly doing this with a road bike on the road. I am now combining this intensity training with riding technical descents. The objective is to simulate a cross-country World Cup course. Going downhill when your heart is beating at 130 or 180 beats per minute is totally different. I tried to reproduce that this winter. I put a power meter on my enduro bike to help me in this regard.

21 min

Rob Meets Pauline Ferrand-Prévot

Rob Warner travels to the French Riviera to meet with cross-discipline champ Pauline Ferrand-Prévot.

How about gym work, and do you use gentler workouts like Pilates and yoga play in your training?

I started a muscle-building program this winter to strengthen my body and also to have more explosiveness in my legs when I race. This work will also allow me to recover better. The descents on the World Cup course today have more and more rock gardens and are also punctuated with jumps. The body has to be able to take all that in. I also do yoga and meditation, but that's more in-season than out.

Is road cycling part of your training routine?

The last few seasons, I did a lot of road biking during the winter. During this off-season, I have changed my approach, and I hardly made it out onto the road. That's also why I went to South Africa for Cape Epic in March of this year. The seven-day stage race allowed me to do the basics in terms of endurance that I didn't do this winter. My goals come late in the season, so I have time to get in shape.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot at the end of the 2021 UCI XCC MTB World Cup race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Fatigue saw Ferrand-Prevot call an early close to her 2021 season

How many kilometers and elevation gain do you do on a typical training ride?

It's hard to say because it depends on where I am in my training period. The figures are not necessarily telling, but in general, my outings last between one hour and thirty minutes to five hours.

Are you afraid of overtraining?

I must admit that I find it difficult to stop sometimes. But I wouldn't say I'm overtrained either. I love progressing, I know I'm a hard worker and I'm not afraid of hurting myself. I rarely do a day without any sport. Even if I've got days off, I still go out to ride for an hour or go on a short outing. At the very least, I have to get some fresh air. By staying home or being on the couch all day, I feel like I'm ruining my day. And it affects my morale.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot performs at the UCI XCO MTB World Cup race in Petropolis, Brazil.
Training in the off-season has focussed on improving power and technique
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot competing at the UCI MTB World Championships in Val di Sole in 2021.
Descending technique has been an area to improve

Where do you like to train?

With Cécile, we trained a lot in Italy this winter in San Remo in particular this past off-season. I also rode downhill with Valentina Höll there, and I also often go to Creps de Boulouris in Saint-Raphaël in France, where they have completed a cross-country course similar to that of the Tokyo Games. It's a bit like my back garden because I live right next to it. There's really plenty to work on, especially with the presence of a pump track. It's great to have a playground like that close to home.

How do you manage your training during the season?

This is done according to the objectives that I have over a year. This season, my goal is, for example, to be at my best condition for the end of the summer with the World Championships in Les Gets. When I have reached the peak of my form, the objective will be to keep it there as long as possible.

Pauline Ferrand Prevot racing at the 2021 UCI XCC World Cup in Les Gets, France.
Becoming World Champion for the fourth time is a major goal this season

Your trainer Barry Austin is based in South Africa. How do you manage this long-distance relationship?

Barry plans my training and collaborates with Cécile, who adapts her sessions. I think it's an asset to work with these two coaches, and it isn't a problem that Barry isn't physically present. Feedback from him on what I do is regular, and we've been operating like this for five years now.

Do you also work with a mental coach?

No, I manage myself on that side, in particular, by reading a lot and informing myself. I like to ask myself the right questions, like what I need to feel good. Today with experience, I've learned to know how I feel better. My training group with Cécile and Cédric Ravanel is really great. We work without taking ourselves seriously, and that's something I love.