Catching Up With Cecile Ravanel, the Reigning Queen of Enduro Racing

Mar 22, 2018
by Matt Wragg  

Cecile Ravanel is the reigning queen of enduro racing. In the last two years she has won 14 of the 16 EWS races she has entered. Dominant barely does her justice. Yet coming into the 2018 season, in her own inimitable style, she discretely announced that she may not contest the whole season. As she prepared to head south to Chile for the opening rounds of the series, we caught up with her to find out more about her decision, how she came to be racing enduro and what she thinks of the the current direction of women's enduro racing.

Interview with Cecile Ravanel - photo Matthieu Ruffray

I think most of our readers won't really know much about your career before the EWS, where and what did you start racing and how did you find yourself racing enduro?

Before enduro, it was another life for me… I raced XCO for 13 years with the French National Team. My best result in Elite World Cups and World Champs was 7th. Then I got tired of going around 5km circles for an hour and a half. Our team partners, Seb Raymond and Guillaume Koch, wanted to continue working with us, so we decided to focus on enduro instead (thank you guys!).

You're one of the few riders who has barely missed a round of the EWS since 2013, how has the sport evolved in that time and what have you had to do to keep yourself at the front?

The first year of the EWS, I discovered a new sport, a new type of riding… At the same time, enduro started to become more professional, the rules changed, the bikes as well. At every single race, I learned something new. In fact, I always give it all I can when I'm racing, I race like it is the last one, because you never know what could happen tomorrow. Even after all these years, I still really like to progress, maybe not really the physical side anymore, because I trained so much when I was racing XCO hahaha, but I mean technically. Riding my bike really makes me happy.

Interview with Cecile Ravanel - photo Matthieu Ruffray

Can you explain your decision to maybe miss some rounds this year? You've been so dominant for the last two years, do you feel the need for a new challenge?

I know that I‘m in my last few years as a professional athlete and I feel I like there are still some competitions and races that I want to have a go at, and I won't be able to do them later. I said I didn't want to race all the EWS rounds this year because I wanted to be honest with my partners and I wanted to let them know I would like to race the first DH World Cup of this year. After that, I don't know what I'm going to do... I'll decide in April!

At World Cup DH level, do you have an idea of what level you think you could realistically reach?

I have no idea! I don't even know if I'll get down in one piece after the first run of practice, hahaha.

Do you ever feel that you're still racing in the shadow of Tracy and Anne-Caro to some extent? They were so dominant, and even though you are the only woman to take a win from them during those first three years, it is hard to talk about your career out of context of those two?

Hahaha, no, not really and the thing is that I really liked being in that position, I had less stress! You know, it's better to chase rather than be chased! I really want to thank Tracy and ACC for these beautiful years, they really helped me to progress in this sport and sometimes I miss having those two racing with me.

Interview with Cecile Ravanel - photo Matthieu Ruffray

Do you think there is a problem for women to get support to compete at the EWS? Looking at the women's field, there are a lot of women who were in the top 10 who have stepped aside since 2013, Tracy, Anne-Caro, Pauline, Kellie, Rosara, etc and there don't seem to be enough new women coming through to fill those gaps.

The main thing is that our sport is very difficult, in both the physical and technical aspects. Every single race is an adventure. We always have to push harder, commit more and this is what I like (except when you have more than 2 hours for a liaison, haha). I think the EWS series puts a lot of value in women's categories - we have very good coverage in their press releases and in the media too. We have the same prize money as the guys, which is still not done in some other sports. Maybe the problem comes from the team managers or big sponsors which don't want to invest in women?! I don't know, but there are some new good riders like Noga and Camille and I'm sure we'll see more in the future.

There are accusations of a talent gap in the EWS women's field and the numbers would seem to support that interpretation - looking at some of the riders behind you, many still have the same size time gap to you in 2017 as they did in 2013, but with fewer riders in front of them they are getting a better result than they would have then. Do you think that's a fair assessment? And if you do, what can the series do to improve that situation?

Maybe they could open a new category, like U18 with one or two fewer stages to do? They could do that for the national races or continental races and it would make our sport more accessible to young people. What I'm sure of is that I really want that the races stay “difficult” with the same stages as the men. We have to do the same circuit. EWS is an international circuit, it's the hardest race of this discipline and this shouldn't be forgotten! Even if the EWS atmosphere is more relaxed than some other disciplines and looks sometimes less serious because we chat and joke during the liaisons, we can't forget it’s an “Elite” circuit. EWS should be a challenge for amateurs when they want to try one.

Interview with Cecile Ravanel - photo Matthieu Ruffray

How would you like to see the EWS evolve in the future?

I think the EWS series need to professionalize their regulations even more so we have consistent rules, they shouldn't change over the course of the season or from race-to-race. They need to set up an anti-doping control at every round for at least the top three. We should show the right values of the sport for the future generations.

More rounds is something that people often talk about, is the flipside to that, that the cost of competing in a full season would be even higher, which will make it even harder for emerging riders to get a break?

I don't see any interest in having more rounds. When you compare EWS to the XCO or DH circuit, we are totally on the same program. In enduro, we're pretty lucky because, over the last few years, we saw some beautiful races emerging, like Andes Pacifico, NZ Enduro, Transmadeira, so if you want to add some to your calendar, you just have to pick up one!



  • 42 3
 Props to Cecile for continuing to push her boundaries and really be an amazing rider. I am so worried that the UCI is actively trying to kill the Women's DH. I see the sport going in the direction of skiing where the men and women race separate series. I hope this doesn't happen, but maybe it would encourage more women to ride DH. I had to laugh at her "tired of riding around in circles five times"comment. She is so talented (have you seen her helmet art??) Go Cecile!!! I will definitely be cheering her on.
  • 11 2
 Why do you think the uci is trying to kill women's dh? It's pretty strong right now with at least five potential winners at every race- rach, tracey, tahnee, Miriam, Miranda, emmeline. That's as strong as i can remember it?
  • 8 1
 @russthedog: the little to no pay the women get, the little tv time compared to men, I am not here to complain and I totally agree with you the cream of the crop are rocking it like never before. It is just an observation from someone in the industry. If you want to race a bike and make a living it seems more and more EWS or XC are the only viable options if you are a woman. Not hating just sayin. Smile
  • 1 0
 @Mirks: xc I can understand but surely in ews they pretty much all get a rubbish deal...except maybe Cecile? Those top five women would be all better off than any women in ews though wouldn't they?
  • 1 0
 @russthedog: maybe it is just the same. I only know the non-pay pretty much in DH. I can't comment on EWS pay because I simply don't know. What I do know are there are more deals - not necessarily a better situation but because more teams are open to having women race there are more opportunities. I sponsor a few women who ride DH and it is a tough world out there.
  • 2 0
 @Mirks: ot seems that Cecile has to be trying to crack DH because there's more $$$ in it, right? She realizes she is nearing the end of her pro career, but she is trying to see if it's viable to switch to the discipline with the biggest consequences (ie the most chance of a career ending injury). Wouldn't Myriam, Rachel and Hannah all make more than her?
  • 5 0
 @Rubberelli: to be honest I have never gone up and asked a rider what she makes. Cecile probably wants to be challenged on a race front and pushed to get better at a bigger skill set. I don't think she is chasing a purse that doesn't exist. If she was out to make $$ Crankworkx would be the way to go. Eventhought the women's purses are far less than the mens there is financial reward for winning. No one is handing out cheques after a DH UCI race. You do get sprayed with prosecco though Smile
  • 30 0
 Totally read in Cecile's French accent. Wink
  • 3 5
 jajajajajajajaja XD you are the best Dropthedebt, I cant stop laugh....
  • 3 1
 HA I did the same thing, and didn't even realize it till I read your post lol
  • 10 0
 Besides she did not beat AC or TMo her style on the bike is absolutley oustanding and barely makes her to watch it in front of many top men...
I would say comming from XC she has progress a lot his techniche... (but having the natural talent and feeling from this discipline as a base...) so is a pitty she can´t compete again today with AC and TMo in full conditions cause I would say the battle between this 3 would be awesome.
  • 10 0
 So let's say she doesn't beat Rachel: what about the others? Tahnee, Myriam and Tracy? I think the big C could shake things up at the DH - top 5 for sure.
  • 6 1
 Interesting that not all the senior-aged EWS riders are coming from DH.
Some are from XC too.

Also interesting that the most commonly stated reason why either type of rider left XC/DH: because it got boring, not because they didn't have success.

I think EWS is learning from this. Chris Ball definitely keeps it fresh each year, but needs to not become complacent
  • 8 1
 Lack of success is boring for elite athletes...
  • 3 0
 Having talked to (ex) xc riders, including the Ravanel, what uses you is not so much what happens on track , but everything to happens before and after. The training for xc is in a different league from the one in enduro or DH. I remember Cedric telling me that just before the start of a season, when they must lose weight, he used to wake up at night due to hunger. Counting every single thing you eat, every thing you do, is what really crushes them. So if there is no result ( Cedric was doing well in National but there happened to be a guy named Absalon) they end up losing interest for it; especially when they can do something else.
  • 1 0
 @polarproton: yup had the same experience. Was in a queue in a local enduro race years ago. Some of the fast elite girls hanging out and a few of them were former XC national circuit riders. They all joked about the eating disorder you needed to compete in XC. Was eye opening
  • 7 0
 Cecile is a straight up beast on the bike!
  • 3 0
 She is class, kind of sad to hear she wont do a full series this time around, but understandable. The Ladies series will be less 1 sided though and is anyone's for the taking now though.
  • 1 0
 The single biggest drawback to caring about women's EWS is the talent gap. I have loved watching Tracy's domination, and prefer to watch any race she is in. ACC and Cecile both have had thier challenges and were able to advance in the standings without Tracy racing.
  • 4 0
 All The XC/CX ladies making moves into enduro seem to be slaying it.
  • 10 0
 Having fitness in this sport is huge. People seem to neglect it a bit because they think they can hang back on their bike handling. The problem is, your bike handling turns to shit once your muscles get tired and you can't breath.
  • 4 0
 Great read, great rider! Thanks PB, more EWS pro interviews please!
  • 2 0
 Cecile is strong and mega talented. I rode with her and Cedric in Laguna Beach a couple of years ago and she is very impressive.
  • 1 0
 10 at VDS last year. Id say if shes even done a modicum of dh specific training in the off season, she can improve on that. Really looking forward to watching her compete and hope she storm it a la Sam Hill in reverse
  • 6 5
 Sick of doing 5km “loops”: XC is tennis
  • 2 0
 I stopped going to XC races for the same reason. At the beginning, they are "in-line" races of 15km x2 maybe, but then they created those loops for supporters, or to have less maintenance, which can be understood. But from a rider perspective, it is a disaster.
  • 1 3
 when is commencal going to make a 29er? or have they?

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