When you’re talking about the history of mountain biking in Europe, it’s hard not to mention the Ravanel couple: Cécile and Cédric, sporting partners who’ve been married to each other for several years, have been around since when the frames were made of steel and the "fat wheels" were not yet recognized as a professional discipline. An amazing couple that has achieved a lot: Cédric was vice-champion at the 2004 XC World Championships, ending up in the top 3 for five different times at the World Cup, and winning many other times. His wife Cécile was, among many other victories, world champion in 1998, French elite champion XCO 2007/2008 and French national champion; but in addition to these results, for the Ravanel couple, bikes mean fun, wheelies, smiles, good music and teaching everything they know to young athletes (at their "Pulse Session" MTB school). We caught up with them just before one of their trips to Italy.
Cécile and Cédric, you’re one of the most famous couple of bikers out there… how did you meet each other? Cécile: “Basically long long time ago, at a European Cross Country Olympic championship, we were called together by the French team. It was 1998 and, from that day on, we’ve never lost sight of each other...
You have been part of the French MTB team for several years: Cécile for 13 years and Cédric for 12... Cécile: “So many years have passed, we are very different today! But I’m actually not the type of person who loves looking back to the past…” Cédric: “It was a great experience, that has allowed us to share our cycling philosophy... also, we still have incredible memories from that time”.
In short, you are always together, both on the bike and in life… Cécile: “We share everything: opinions, cycling tips, we teach each other everything we know. Now we are working on reprogramming the season, training camps and competitions. Unfortunately, at the moment, we’re spending more time on the computer than on the bike! But we train a lot, we do two workouts a week with weights, 3 or 4 mountain bike rides and some with racing bike rides.” Cédric: “Then we also have to think about our MTB academy named "Pulse Sessions". We are satisfied because we are following Elite athletes of international caliber and, in partnership with the Fréjus club, we are training young talents with really high potential”.
Let’s play a game: Cécile, can you tell us about Cédric's greatest quality and about his worst weakness, when it comes to riding the bike? Cédric, you can do the same thing with Cécile... Cécile: “Cédric's best quality is also his weakness: he does his best in everything, he is able to jump really high, and to do very technical and demanding things, which many others would struggle to do. This is a great quality that makes him a champion, but it becomes a weakness when the chosen trajectory is not only difficult, but impossible”. Cédric: “Cécile is a very determined person, and if she decides something, such as winning a race, that’s exactly what happens. Her greatest quality, therefore, is mental strength... that's why she can support me. I cannot find any weakness in her!”
You’ve started with the MTB in the early 90s, when the bicycle culture and the bikes themselves were very different... how has the world of "fat wheels" changed over the years (not only technically)? Cécile: “We have followed the evolution of the MTB completely. We practically grew up on the bicycle, and we have evolved with it. I wish Endurance had become a professional sport much earlier... I could have run a lot more around the world thanks to Cross country! I still do many cross country and downhill races (winning several ones; EN) but, without a doubt, as a discipline, I prefer doing downhill, because cross country is very difficult. The technique, though, during the past twenty years, has evolved in an impressive way: the Tyreinvaders, by Effetto Mariposa, for example, have changed the way we ride the bike. Thanks to these, I can easily cross even the most rocky paths... I love this product because, together with Caffélatex, it has made the tires safer and more stable: their pressure has improved, and they are much more resistant.
Did it ever happen that an Effetto Mariposa product has changed your result? Cécile: “Yes, at the Enduro World series in Chile, in 2018: I had already damaged the rear wheel during the first part of the second lap, and all the air was coming out, but thanks to the Tyreinvader, I’ve managed to reach my mechanic in a short time. During the pit stop, the mechanic fixed my wheel with Caffèlatex, and I’ve managed to finish the race in good conditions”.
Who takes care of the bike maintenance between you two? Cédric: “Usually I take care of that, but Cécile does too, sometimes…” Cécile: “Yes, he does it more than I do, but I can assemble and disassemble my bike myself without any problem.”
Cécile, in 2019 you had a very bad accident, with several vertebral fractures and a head injury. We hope that you are now able to ride again without any problem! Cécile: “Yes, slowly I'm going back to riding as I was doing before. I haven't lost much in terms of technique and speed, although I still have a few problems with my left arm, it lacks a bit of sensitivity; moreover, I still have to work hard to strengthen the whole upper part of my body.” Cédric: “I have fallen many times too, during my career… On the other hand, I'm a biker, I love adrenaline and pushing myself beyond the limits ... the problem of being too close to the limit is that everything can become extremely dangerous in a moment, but these risks are part of the game.”
Cécile, we saw many videos on the internet where you wheel up for miles, you're a big fan of wheelies! Do you have any special secret to share? Cécile: “I don’t know! To be honest, near home there’s not a lot of plain, nor many useful straight paths for training, but if the ground allows it I can often do quite long wheelies…”
When the Covid-19 emergency is over, what is the first thing you’re going to do? "There is no doubt: first we will go to Italy, to San Romolo, where there are wonderful paths, then to France, to Les Orres, and finally… to raid around the world!"