Sabrina Jonnier crowned French downhill champion

I met Sabrina at Interbike one year, and she’s as polite and gracious as she is competitive. So I wasn’t at all surprised when this press release showed up in my inbox:

After two years of derailed national championship campaigns, Downhill World Cup Champion Sabrina Jonnier regained the French title on a dusty course at Val d’Isé¨re, France, at the weekend. The current UCI World Cup downhill women’s leader, Sabrina Jonnier, of Hyé¨res, France, said it was not an easy task on the dusty, rocky and changeable course.

“It felt more like a small World Cup race with five of the top girls from the World Cups competing for the title,” she said.

Jonnier, of the Maxxis-Rocky Mountain team, won the title with a time of 3:12 -Florian Pugin finished second with a time of 3:14 and World Champion Emmeline Ragot took third.

Also vying for the title was defending French champion Cé©line Gros and Myriam Nicole.

“I am very happy because this wasn’t my kind of track and I had to work very hard. It wasn’t technically challenging, but the track kept changing with the dust and the rocks were coming up and every run was different,” she explains.

The track featured high-speed sections that terminated in flat square turns, which Jonnier found difficult to hold speed through.

“I had a terrible qualifier as usual,” she explains. “I don’t know what is wrong with me -I messed it up. I qualified third and was three seconds behind Florian Pugin, so I was pissed off,” she laughs.

When asked whether qualifying first was better or not strategically, Jonnier laughed and said she didn’t like waiting at the top or the bottom of the hill.

While Jonnier took some time to find her speed on the track at Val d’Isé¨re, it came together for her race run, despite strong sidewind conditons in the jumps at the top of the course.

“I could finally find some speed, but it was still not the way I normally ride. I was missing something -I wasn’t feeling comfy on the track. I was very worried at the finish because I had done a 3:12 and I wanted to do a 3:08 -that was the time that I thought would be the winning time. So when I crossed the line and saw my time I thought it would be hard to win. I knew the two girls behind me were pretty fast as well,” she smiles.

The French National Championship title has been an elusive one for Jonnier even though she has been performing well in World Cups and World Championships.

“I won the national championship in 2007, but in 2008 and 2009 I didn’t do very well, so I really wanted to win it this year -if you are one of the best at the World Cups then you should be at the top of the national champs as well,” she explains.

“It was a challenge to myself. It’s weird because I get tuned into the World Cups and then when I come to a race like this I don’t have my team with me and I am more relaxed and maybe a bit too much,” she laughs.

“I am very happy to win this race -last night I had to put my cat, Spy, down because he was sick. It was very sad -he was eight years old and so I wasn’t really focused much last night or this morning and so an hour before the start I said, ‘right I am going to get it all out and just go out and forget about everyting and have some fun on my bike’.”

Even with the work that has been done on the Champé¨ry track in Switzerland for next weekend’s World Cup round, Jonnier anticipates the toughest race of the season.

“Champery is definitely going to be one of the hardest races of the season,” she admits.

Jonnier’s mid-season break has been far from restful, but she says she feels it will bode well for Champé¨ry.

“I have done some fun races and it was good to put my mind on something else. Last year I focused on the World Championship for six months and then got a front flat and crashed in the final so after that I decided just to ride my bike for fun whenever I could. The Mega Avalanche definitely made me very tired and I can still feel the affects, but it was a lot of fun so it’s okay.”

But there is not much rest for Jonnier before Champé¨ry.

“I leave at 5am on Monday morning to go on a photo shoot for Bollé© and then I get a day and a half rest before the race,” she smiles.

The World Cup season resumes at Champé¨ry, Switzerland on Saturday, July 24.

Sabrina’s 2010 Race Schedule

2010 UCI World Cup DH1 Events (6)
May 15/16: Maribor, Slovenia [Second]
June 05/06: Fort Wiliam, Scotland [First]
June 19/20: Leogang, Austria [First]
July 24/25: Champé©ry, Switzerland
July 31/August 1: Val di Sole, Italy
August 28/29: Windham, USA

2010 Enduro de Nations
June 25-27: Val d’Allos, France [First Women]

2010 Mega Avalanche
July 10-11: Alpe d’Huez, France [Eighth]

2010 UCI World Championships
August 31-September 05: Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada

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