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On Sunday, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot joined Norway’s Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja as the only women to have won four Elite XCO world titles. She did in front of an appreciative home crowd in Les Gets, France, with a dominant performance at the 2022 the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) took the silver, 1:35 back, while Haley Batten (USA) finished another 38 seconds later and secured the bronze.
Ferrand-Prévot made no secret of the fact that winning the world title in France was her number one priority for the season, skipping the two North American rounds of the World Cup to focus on training.
It paid off, with the French rider, who recently won the European title, riding away from the rest of the field on the first lap. She had 30 seconds on a chase group by the end of the opening circuit, 1:35 over second place by the finish and 10th place was more than five minutes down at the end. Less than half the field finished the race on the same lap; rarely is such dominance seen at the world championships.
The race was behind for second, with Batten, Loana Lecomte (France) and Alessandra Keller (Switzerland) initially battling for the remaining medals. Lecomte was dropped after the second lap, with Batten and Keller left in the chasing positions.
However, Olympic Champion Neff surged mid-race to join the duo by lap 4, and then attacked a lap later. Batten was able to follow initially before dropping back to third. Neff made little headway on Ferrand-Prévot, but was able to hold on to second for the silver medal, with Batten taking third.
“Right now I feel exhausted, but it is incredible,” said Ferrand-Prévot. “I made the choice to go with a hardtail bike because I knew that I could go faster on the climbs. It was a bit risky, but I wanted to go straight from the start, to go full gas and try to make a gap, and I did it. After that, I just had to be soft and clean on the downhills.
“Right now it feels like a dream and I can’t believe it. But I want to see my parents and my friends. After that, I think I will know.”
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