The pressure was massive for Loic Bruni as the last rider to leave the start gate, but as he worked his way down the track, he was up at every split. It was a remarkable third World Championship title in a row for Super Bruni, and the fourth of his career. I caught up with the French rider after the race to find out more about why he is so dominant in the fight for the rainbow stripes, what he thinks his chances for the World Cup overall are, and how he works with a sports psychologist in a sport that requires physical and mental strength.
What is it about World Championships that is different to other races?
It's the only race with a title at the end. We do World Cups all year with a title at the end but an individual World Cup doesn't bring you any title or jersey or anything and this one is always special because you get to wear the jersey for the whole year. It's also a moment where all the riders go all out because there's the win and then there's the rest. On the World Cup, it's sick to do a podium, it's really good, but in the World Champs, everyone just wants to win. No one wants to get a podium. I think the pace is even higher and it makes for really good racing.
Why do you think you're so dominant at the World Championships?
I have no idea, honestly. I am super happy and I surprised myself again today, but I have no idea why I'm able to win World Champs three years in a row when I'm struggling to win World Cups, and especially doing full seasons and winning the overall. I think maybe it's the way the French team works with us. We have a lot of people on track. Everything around me is perfect I would say. Sometimes it's also hard to finish the job because you can have an average day or be a bit slow, choose bad lines. But the last three years I've been able to finish the really good job the people around me are doing. Obviously Amaury was going fast too. I think the Frenchies really like it I cannot explain it, but I am super happy to win again.
What do you think it is about that French team dynamic that's different at World Championships? Or is it different from the usual dynamic?
I don't think it's different at Worlds. We have the French crew that's working for us. Normally we will only have our teams which makes it hard to cover the whole track for lines and stuff, especially here since it's super long. Now we have four more people than our team. So pretty much the whole track was perfectly analyzed and we knew where to go. With Amaury, we rode one time together this week and we keep sharing, even if we do it less than before because obviously the tension is massive at the end of the season with the overall. We still do it a little bit and help each other. We push each other up. It's hard to explain but I think it's brotherhood and spirit.
Do you think you can win the overall now?
I don't know. I didn't know if I could win Worlds. Obviously you never know. It's too hard to predict. I was happy to be able to deliver today. Next week is a totally different situation. We don't know about the track, we've never been there. I'm pretty tired so I don't know if I'll be fresh. I made Amaury and Troy angry. Everyone is going to be really mad and go out really hard for the last one. So I cannot say. Coming into the last two races I had everything to lose or I can go home with everything. So I already have one good thing to bring home, so the rest is kind of bonus.
Going into this season did you prioritize one over the other? World Cup or World Championships?
It's always delicate. You don't really think about World Champs because it's kind of far away. The last two years I've been injured so I always changed my goals to World Champs because the overall was gone. But this year I've been able to do the whole season so far so it's different for me. It's been three years now that I didn't do a full season. Winning the first one was a really good start and I had a big crash in Fort William so you never really know what you're going to do. I was trying not to think about the overall so much and just race as well as I could each round.
Then when I got the lead mid-season and I was having some thoughts about the overall I started to race more conservatively. That was pissing me off the last few rounds because I was not riding as good as I could I think. I was a little bit with a stick in the ass and not so relaxed. From defensive, I really attacked the track today and put more commitment. So I'm happy I'm still able to do it and I'm happy it was enough to win. I hope I can bring that dynamic to next weekend and try hard because it's pretty much going to be all or nothing again. If Amaury wins and I’m fourth I lose it. So it’s going to be hard. And honestly I’m cooked, it’s been a long season even if it’s a good one. I’m super tired, mentally and physically. It’s not a lot of races if you think about it, but it’s still so much tension and so many things going on every week. I’m going to go all or nothing but I’m also kind of excited for the season to be done.
Do you work with a sport psychologist? What is that relationship like?
I work with the same guy I’ve been seeing for years now, since 2014. He actually works with Pompon too. We call him when we need and at the races I send him a summary of the day, how I feel. When I’m at home or when I’m in Europe for training, I can call him as well. We talk a lot about what’s going on in the moment and also the past races to build on that. He’s someone that makes me speak more than he is speaking so it makes me realize by myself the ways that I can optimize my level more than focusing on winning only. I come from far away because I’ve been super inconsistent before. A little bit too passionate let’s say, too emotional with some stuff. So I would be super good one race and total disaster the race after. So it’s been working well for me and I think it helped me a lot.
How does this World Championships win compare to the last ones?
It’s always different for sure. Last year I missed the first race of the year and I was focusing a bit more on that. It was super tight and I didn’t want to lose my stripes. But this time I really felt like I had nothing to lose with the season I’ve had. Even if I lost the jersey I was proud of the season. I just felt good in the gate. I was a little bit stressed for sure but I attacked a lot and I tried really hard. So when I crossed the line I knew I gave everything I had. All my energy was gone, my legs were burning and it felt amazing to deliver and that it was enough to win. I’m coming home with the jersey again. It just feels like the Specialized team has behind us the whole year and really supported us and I’m really happy to give them back the love.