In about four weeks, Veloine rider Axelle Dubau-Prevot – former pro cyclist, ultra trail runner, certified nutrition coach and yoga teacher – will be on the starting line of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series Race ‘66 Degrés Sud - La Cyclo’ in South France. We spoke with her about her goals and training plan, what makes this race so special, and why getting more women into cycling is a mission close to her heart.
Axelle, what are your goals for this year 2023?
2023 is going to be a very busy year. Between trail running and cycling, my calendar is very packed. I just recently finished a 100 km ultra trail run as female winner, which is a distance I particularly like. When it comes to cycling, the most important race for me will be the ‘66 Degrés Sud - La Cyclo’ in South France, which is part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, taking place between April 27-29 in my home area, the beautiful Perpignan.
How do you feel about racing on home soil?
To me, it's an exceptional opportunity to share my beautiful territory with my community and many other cyclists. The Perpignan and its surrondings are one of the sunniest places in France and in Europe, placed just between the sea and the mountains. An exceptional area, with its own culture and wide range of beautiful landscapes. It's amazing to have such a big event kind of happening in my backyard. Being the local hero also puts some more pressure on me, I must admit. But overall, I am just very proud to be participating in such an exceptional race and supporting the sport here in my home region.
The event is a qualification race for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship in August. What is your goal for the race – are you in it to win it?
Actually, I have two goals. First, I want to empower many women to join us during this special event. The development of women's cycling, and getting more women into this sport, has been a mission close to my heart for many years. That’s also why I am hosting ‘home stays’ for female cyclists throughout the year, which have turned into mini cycling camps for women. I will also be hosting a ‘home stay’ during the UCI Gran Fondo, welcoming four fearless and passionate female cyclists whom I wish to put in the best conditions to participate in this event. An opportunity for some to gain confidence, for others to have all the conditions in place to perform at their best.
Second, I want to perform well during the race. It's a challenging track that suits me very well. I will also participate in the time trial, 12 kilometers of pure climb. I am very competitive and train hard every day because I have a desire to win – even more when I’m racing on my home ground.
So, how do you train for this race?
I trained all winter more than 20 hours a week. I don't have any specific training plan for this race, it is part of an entire season that I prepare for. I will continue spending some hours in the mountains since the course is rather difficult, and I will also increase intensities to get used to the effort again. Six training sessions per week, one day of rest. That’s a good balance for me.
Looking at the number of women participating in the race – 12% of all starters - it looks like there’s way to go. What are your thoughts on this?
Although we can see that women's cycling has been progressing a lot over the last years, it is very disappointing to see the lack of women competing in this kind of event. I guess many women are not aware what they are capable of, and I wish more women would dare to participate in such races. It’s not about the race result and proofing anyone what you can do – it is about doing it for yourself and being proud of yourself. In 2019, I was 23 years old and I dreamed of participating in a Gran Fondo event. I simply booked a flight and went to Morocco alone. It's not the result I'm most proud of, but I am proud of my approach and my courage. All my greatest successes are in those moments. I can only encourage and push women and athletes to embark on this adventure. Dare to make yourself proud.
In your opinion, what is the reason for the rather small number of women competing? How can we change this?
Cycling is a sport pretty much dominated by men. Even more when it comes to professional or competitive cycling. But it does not have to be like that. At events like the UCI Gran Fondo, everybody can give it a try. The UCI Gran Fondo World Series allows riders of any sex and level to work together by combining all fields into one mass-start event, where it's 'first come, first serve' at the start line. Moreover, Medio and Gran Fondo are endurance races with 135 and 165 km, so it requires more skill and focus than physical strength.
The gap between men and women is less intimidating. So I think we need much more events like these and make it much more attractive for women to attend.
About UCI Gran Fondo World Series: 66 Degrés Sud - La Cyclo
The race is part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, offering riders three races in a stunning landscape in South France. The event is a qualification race for the UCI Grand Fondo World Championship Finals in Glasgow in August 2023. The competitions at a glance:
April 29th at 08.30am
164 km // 1767 D+
April 29th at 08.30am
135 km // 1322 D+
April 27th from 02.00pm to 04.00pm
12,5 km // 575 D+
April 29th at 08.35am
Route #1: 50 km // 93 D+
Route #2: 100 km // 590 D+