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Portrait of a cycling legend

31 Oct 2007
Olympic News

Take a woman who succeeds in a sport dominated by men,
With an eye on the clock,
An ability to go round in ovals
And to cope with hilly terrain;
Known for her will to win,
Who has won the most titles in her sport;
A World Championship gold medallist,
Multiple world record holder,
Several times winner of the Tour de France,
Still in the loop
…. and an Olympic champion.
She is today celebrating her 49th birthday.
If you have not found the athlete hiding behind this portrait,
Then read on!
A strong character
No one can deny that this Frenchwoman from Annecy, not far from the well-known town of Albertville, is a tiny but fearless woman. Attracted first by Alpine skiing, she opted instead for cycling: road, track and MTB. Aged 21, she won her first national road title, and then began collecting victories in national races, French championships, the Tour de France and world championships, world records, and Olympic Games appearances. By the age of 25, she had won her fifth consecutive national track pursuit title; aged 31, she won her third consecutive Tour de France; at 34, she took part in her first MTB competition – and won it; aged 37, she won the world road and time trial championships; at 42, she beat the hour world record (45.094 km); and at the age of 48, she won various national road races and placed seventh in the World Cup rankings. Parallel to her sports career, her studies are no less impressive: a science baccalaureate, masters of business management and a higher diploma in law and sports economics. These have certainly helped her develop her array of natural products for body care. Small in height but big in terms of the energy and determination she puts them into all she does, she has never done anything by halves.
An iron will
Making her Olympic debut at the same time as women’s cycling in 1984 in Los Angeles, she decided to make a name for herself, finishing sixth in the individual road race. In  Seoul in 1988, hindered by an old injury, she placed 21st. At the 1992 Games in Barcelona, she reached the second step of the podium in the individual road competition. With the next Games in 1996 came Olympic glory: in Atlanta, her will to win and experience made her Olympic champion in the individual road race and a silver medallist in the individual time trial. In 2000 in Sydney, she again won a medal in the individual time trial, this time in bronze. For her sixth Olympic participation, in Athens in 2004, aged 46, she finished 14th in the individual time trial and 10th in the individual road race.
A heart of gold
A sports teacher since 1987 and a national technical adviser for cycling since 1991, she likes to share her vast experience with those younger than herself. As the patron of associations such as the humanitarian association Le secours populaire français, La ronde de l’espoir (a French anti-cancer society), and L’enfant a des droits [Children have rights], she supports people in difficulty. A lover of nature and the mountains, these are where she likes to unwind.

A strong character, iron will and heart of gold: yes, Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli has all of these!

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