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Fabien Monnier, on his way to defend his European Championship title in Evolene

Fabien Monnier, who won the title in Norway in 2019, has had the opportunity to wear his European champion’s jersey on all the roads of Switzerland and elsewhere for almost two years! The rider of the Team Papival Scott Grand Raid BCVs knows that he will have a lot of work to do to defend his title on the slopes of the Raid Evolénard, but he is already looking forward to rubbing shoulders with the best masters in Europe. He tells us about his victorious race in Norway and about the great opportunity that the European Championships represent for amateur runners, who can take the start without having to go through selections, unlike the World Championships!

You are the current European Master Champion after your victory in Norway two years ago. Can you come back for us on the course of this day?

The trip to Norway was not the most convenient, in the middle of a heat wave in Switzerland we arrived with temperatures barely above 0.
My wife and I were staying in the hotel right next to the start, which was great to get into the mood. By talking with the organizers I was able to get some information on the difficult parts of the course and on the runners to watch out for.
On the morning of the race, the elites were the first to start 30min before all the masters. I remember that it was snowing at the start (in the middle of July, nothing more normal in Norway surely).
The course of about 75km had 2 big climbs with a lot of single on the first half. We had to be in the right group from the beginning.
Once the gaps were made, the last 30 km were done in a time trial format with a small crash at 7km from the finish and the fear of going the wrong way or dying. It was only once I crossed the finish line that I really dared to believe it.
The ceremony with the national anthem so far from home was also a highlight of the day.
I remember not talking too much about the race beforehand in order to reduce the pressure and not to jinx myself.

What was the atmosphere on the start line of these European championships in the master category?

Cold! With 3 degrees I even saw some competitors leaving with an overhelmet. There was not much exchange with the runners, the language barrier and the fact of not knowing anyone did not help. The atmosphere was more one of watching the thighs to get the right wheel.

What are the selection criteria for participating in the European Championships in the master category?

Apart from a license, a bike and a helmet none and that’s what’s great, it really allows everyone to take the start and enjoy a perfect organization and a course prepared to the smallest detail.
In 2021, the access to the world championships will be more complicated with the new UCI rules, the UEC’s allow everyone to participate in a great event of the calendar.
To ride in the master category you need to have the right license. In marathon it is common to see riders over 30 years old in the elite category, usually the top riders. The master category allows everyone to compete according to their age.
A good master runner will often run as well as an elite runner but beyond a certain age the difference will be too great and the different master categories are a plus for motivation.

You know the course of the Raid Evolénard well. Do you think you can defend your title on this type of route?

It’s going to be complicated, mainly because of the steep slopes of the course, especially on the second hill, which will give an advantage to the lighter riders. But no matter, I hope to have a lot of fun on this new course and in a majestic setting.
I haven’t decided yet if I’ll ride a full or a half mountain bike, as the new downhill sections will use less 4×4 roads.

Can you tell us how you train to be at the top in this category?

Normally I start my preparation at the end of November with outdoor training and strengthening as well as specific training in the gym. This particular year we had to be innovative with the closing of the fitness centers. My coach Bernard Maréchal prepares my plans every week, the intensities start in January.
Specifically for the UEC’s and especially for the foreign runners, the recognition of the course remains a delicate point. Not everyone can come and scout the course before the race. I advise runners to get information via YouTube (many onboard filmed passages are available) and to analyze the Strava segments which remain a good indicator on the slope and the terrain (analysis of the average speed, cardio, …).

Apart from these championships, what will be the big objectives of the season for you?

Apart from the UEC, the big goal for me is the Grand Raid BCVs. Living in the region and being a rider in the “Papival Scott GR BCVs” team of the event, it is not possible to miss this end of summer event.
I also want to enjoy myself more and more and discover more and more new places by bike, this sport allows you to get away and travel with such freedom.

Thanks for your answers

I wish everyone a good preparation for the next UEC and that this Covid-19 does not disrupt our lives and schedule to allow us to fully enjoy our sport and life.

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Forchini, the new MTB Marathon queen hopes to be at the start in Evolène

Ramona Forchini became last October the fourth Swiss woman to win a marathon MTB World Championship title, after Petra Henzi, Esther Süss and Jolanda Neff. A big surprise for the St. Gallen champion who was just recovering from health problems but who demonstrates her exceptional potential in the discipline. If her XCO calendar allows her to take the start, she will undoubtedly be among the favourites for a European medal in Evolène.

The season ended beautifully with this world championship title, but things didn’t start so well. Can you tell us more about this infection that disrupted your season and prevented you from racing until September?

The year 2020 has been difficult. Not only did the corona change our race schedule, but a forced two-month break also thwarted my plans. I got the new season off to a perfect start in the spring with another victory in the Mediterranean epic overall standings. This was directly followed by the confinement. I was able to use this period to work on my basic form. But just before the racing season resumed in July, I suffered a swelling of the lymph nodes accompanied by an abscess in my thigh. After much reflection, I refused the recommended surgery. I knew it was a risky decision, but it didn’t seem like a good solution. The surgery would have ended my season anyway, so why not try something else?

After an alternative treatment of the lymphatic system, things actually improved. And I was allowed to do a couple of training sessions as a test phase. The whole situation has remained stable.

last year you participated in your first Swiss Mountain Bike Marathon Championship in Scuol. What was your experience in this discipline so far?

I have proven several times that I am able to achieve good results over long distances with little specific preparation.But for this Swiss championship, I had another objective. It should be the “new entry into the season” so that I could get back into the rhythm of the races and see how I was doing after this forced break.

After a rather successful European XC Championship, you went to Turkey to participate in the Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships. What was your goal at the start?

The selection for the European Championships at home surprised me. And my result, with a 12th place, was even more surprising. There I realized that I could weigh on the race again. And then I was selected for the world championships in Turkey. To tell the truth, I didn’t have a real goal. I just wanted to do another race, because I missed it so much. And I wanted to experience something new.

You then had a great race and finally won the sprint in front of Maja Włoszczowska, former XCO and marathon world champion. How did you handle the end of the race against such an experienced rider?

As the race progressed, the leading group became smaller and smaller. Until it was just Maja and me. Of course, you feel tiny next to a multiple world champion and Olympic medallist. But that was no reason not to try everything!

You had already won the U23 XCO World Championship in 2015. Can you compare these two titles?

For me, the two world titles have the same value. At a world championship, there are always all the athletes who think they have a chance of winning a medal – in other words, the best in the world are present. It doesn’t matter what age group or discipline. It is therefore not possible to make a comparison.

Between the XCO and the marathon, the 2021 season is going to be busy… Will the European Mountain Bike Marathon Championships in Evolène find a place in your calendar?

I am very excited to see how the 2021 season will unfold. At the moment, it is still difficult to know when the saion will start. So I have to stay flexible and take race after race. Of course I would like to participate to these European Championships which will take place on home soil. It remains to be seen to what extent I will be able to reconcile this with the XCO calendar.