Pauline Ferrand-Prevot’s cyclocross season is over just as quickly as it started.
The multi-discipline world champion began the new year with her first cyclocross appearances of the season, landing fourth at her local UCI race, Troyes Cyclocross International. While the French cycling star initially said she was struggling with a post-holiday sickness, it appears the problem could be much larger.
Endofibrosis: A rare injury returns
In a social media post Ferrand-Prevot shared with her fans that, after consulting with doctors regarding an unfamiliar sensation while training, she will be undergoing a second surgery on Friday, January 10, 2020. The surgery is again to correct a iliac endofibrosis in her left leg. This second endofibrosis is less serious than the one that took her out of competition for four months at the start of 2019, though the reigning mountain bike XCO world champion has not said how long she expects to be off the bike for this time.
It is more than likely the end of Ferrand-Prevot’s cyclocross campaign, though. The French rider recently announced she would step back from road racing, another discipline where she is a past world champion, to focus on cross country mountain biking and cyclocross. While missing the cyclocross season is unfortunate, catching this most recent endofibrosis early should mean Ferrand-Prevot will have a clean run into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this July.
A long-awaited cure and a second comeback?
While Ferrand-Prevot’s 2019 season started under the shadow of surgery and an uncertain recovery, it ended in a double rainbow. The French rider recovered from her procedure to deliver her best mountain bike season in years.
At Mont-Sainte-Anne XCO world championships, Ferrand-Prevot delivered an emotional victory to recapture a title she last held in 2015. Another win at World Cup final’s in Snowshoe, W.Va. a week later, propelled Ferrand-Prevot to third overall in the series standings. Then, at XC Marathon world championships, the French rider captured a second rainbow jersey and her first ever XCM title.
The successful season appeared to be the resolution of years of struggle. Ferrand-Prevot fell from holding concurrent world championships in cyclocross, road and mountain biking to heartbreak at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, where she struggled in the women’s XCO event. Her troubles continued in 2017 and 2018, until iliac endofibrosis was diagnosed as the cause of her mysterious leg pain and inability to produce consistent power.
While iliac endofibrosis is a rare condition, it is more common among young athletes, particularly high performance cyclists. Several professional riders have suffered from the condition, including American pro road racer Joe Dombrowski.
An unpredictable field of XCO favorites in Tokyo
Ferrand-Prevot’s surgery adds another layer to the increasingly complex lead up to the women’s Olympic XCO race at the Tokyo 2020 games. Kate Courtney, the 2018 world champion, only recently returned to training after an injury sustained at the Olympic test event in October. 2016 Olympic champion Jenny Rissveds also hurt her knee at the Tokyo test event during training. Ferrand-Prevot added to the list of wounded at that race, though her crash was caused by a competitor.
Then, at the end of December, Jolanda Neff was seriously injured during a training ride in North Carolina. Add less than spectacular 2019 seasons from Emily Batty and an injury-plagued Annika Langvad, two of 2018’s top riders, and there’s few Tokyo favorites that will have had a clean run in to this summer’s Olympic games.