Peloton Watch
  Mathilde Gros ready for step up to elite after claiming three junior world titles  
  October 18th 2017  
  Mathilde Gros on the podium at the 2017 Junior Track World Championships. Photo: VeloResults  
  With three world titles, five European titles and 11 French titles to her name Mathilde Gros will step up to elite competition at the European Championships this week.

The 18-year-old former basketball player burst on to the sprinting scene in 2016 winning junior European titles in the sprint and 500m time trial and posting some of the fastest flying 200 times ever seen from a junior.

After producing top 10 results at the Cali and Los Angeles World Cups in February, Gros continued to the World Championships in Hong Kong where still a junior she broke the junior world record in the flying 200 on her way to finishing fifth in the sprint.

With more experience in her legs against some of the best elite riders in the world Gros started her final season as a junior, winning three European titles, dominating the French Championships ahead of Junior Worlds. After missing out on a rainbow jersey she was determined to pull one on in 2017.

In sprint qualifying Gros became the first junior woman to go under 10.8 seconds posting a time of 10.709 seconds to smash her own World Record and now holds five of the six fastest times in history. Gros was too strong for the rest of the competition as she powered her way to gold.

Qualifying second in the 500 metre time trial put her on the back foot, however after discussing the situation with her coach the 18-year-old refocused to break her second World Record of the championships to claim her second gold. Before adding the keirin title on the final day to complete the sprint hat trick and confirm her status as a name to watch in the coming years. Gros was on hand to celebrate as Paris was awarded the 2024 Olympic Games, a time she should be entering some of her peak years.

Despite her success as a junior Gros is not getting ahead of herself and realises the step up to elite means starting over. "A chapter of the story is closed and I am proud to have been successful in the juniors, but now I must move on because the big goal is still far away and I still have a long way to go but I'm not afraid and I'm ready to work harder to get it."

After a strong first season as a junior you raced the Cali and Los Angeles World Cups in February where you finished top 10 in the sprint and keirin at both rounds what was the experience like? Did you take confidence from that to Elite Worlds?

That was a great experience last winter, which enabled me to be in top form for Junior Worlds this summer. I felt more confident for the junior races but I know for the elite level I still have a long way to go.

Qualified fourth fastest in Hong Kong in 10.826 seconds did you expect the time? What did it mean to set a new Junior World Record?

No, I really didn't expect to do this time. I was surprised and happy too. I realised I had improved and I was proud to write down my name in the junior records.

In the quarterfinals you were up against Simona Krupeckaite just missing out on advancing in two very close finishes. You said at the time you were hoping to have made the semifinal with some time to reflect what does finishing fifth at Elite Worlds mean to you now?

I think that it's already a great performance for a junior to finish fifth in an Elite World Championship. However, I always want more and it's true that I really hoped to reach the final four because I would have been able to sprint with great sprinters such as Kristina Vogel and Stephanie Morton. This fifth position is the start of my elite season.

Claimed the sprint, keirin and 500m time trial at Under 19 European Championships after winning the sprint and time trial in 2016 what did it mean to win all three this year?

I was relieved and it was a sort of confirmation of all the work done with my coach Herman Terryn was working. It also proved that it wasn't just luck last year and that I had improved in the juniors.

Between European and World Championships raced the French Championships where you won seven gold across under 19 and elite events. With a successful year so far how were you feeling ahead of Worlds? Did you feel any pressure on you?

I was overwhelmed because I didn't expect to win in the elite championship too. It was a rather successful French Championship but then I still had the World Championships on my mind, it was the only jersey that I still didn't have and that I had missed during my first year in the juniors.

The level is not as high in the French Championship and I had to stay focused on my main target, which was the World Championship. That competition in France was a very good training to prepare for the World Championship.

At Junior Worlds you broke your own World Record in qualifying nearly going below 10.7 seconds, a fast time for an elite rider must be have been very pleased with the time? Went on to dominate the sprint competition what did it mean to pull on your first rainbow jersey?

I was more than happy with the time I did in Montichiari I couldn't believe it! It was incredible but not as much as winning in front of my family who had come. It was something magic. When I was the first to cross the line and when I saw my family standing at the railings, crying, shouting I told myself "yes you did it, Mathilde, you have it". I'll never forget this moment in my whole life. It was an extremely moving moment with my coach. I kept telling him "we did it". He was crying and it felt good to see him so happy. It was teamwork. All the staff were so happy.

Qualified second fastest in the 500m time trial just behind Lea Friedrich how were you feeling ahead of the final? Came out flying in the final to win gold in another world record time how did the ride go for you?

Already during the qualification, I broke my own record of 34.6, I was satisfied then although I knew I was not the favourite but I hadn't said my last word. With my coach we thought things over and we tried new things in the final and I was so determined to win I wanted this second jersey so much that I did a start I had never done during my trainings and my whole family supported me during the 500m and so did my coach standing near the track.

I was relieved to get at least one jersey but I'm a fighter and I was so eager to win I told myself "I'll give everything when it's the time and we'll see what comes out of it".

With world titles in the sprint and 500m time trial did you feel a sense of pressure on you ahead of the keirin? Must have felt a great deal of satisfaction when you crossed the line first?

Of course, I was under pressure even if my coach kept telling me that my Championships were a real success that I had to take the keirin as a bonus. But I wanted the hat trick and I thought to myself that it might still be possible. When I crossed the line and I saw my coach with his arms in the air and my family crying I couldn't believe it, I didn't realize what I'd done in these Championships. All the pressure came off I collapsed in my coach's arms. That was such a powerful emotion! I don't have words to describe it; it was powerful and deep. I think this year will stay in my mind all my life and will be one of my best memories.

Move up to the elite ranks now with three world titles, five European titles, 11 French titles and world records in the flying 200 and 500m time trial what does your success as a junior mean to you?

I believe the elite level is very difficult and I have to turn a corner. A chapter of the story is closed and I am proud to have been successful in the juniors, but now I must move on because the big goal is still far away and I still have a long way to go but I'm not afraid and I'm ready to work harder to get it. I have to start over again, I must not think of the titles won in the juniors so as not to take a big slap in the face because I've moved up.

You have raced at the elite level a number of times this year what do you think the biggest challenge moving up to elite full time will be? Do you think racing World Cups and World Championships this year will help the transition?

My biggest challenge will be to achieve a podium position in one of the elite competitions and above all improve in race technique. I believe that experience from last season will be very useful having moved up now in to the elites.

What are you goals for the upcoming season? European Championships in October and World Cups? Still relatively new the sport getting more racing in important for the future?

A podium in the keirin and individual sprint events and above all gaining experience knowing that I'm only 18 I will have to improve in race technique.

Who would you like to thank?

I want to thank my coach Herman for such an amazing summer as well as my family who supported me, the mechanics Cyrille Perrin and Claude Cherrod, the physiotherapist Franck Liarssou but also Clara Sanchez and everyone in the French team staff.
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