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An interview with Catherine Marsal
By Chris Henry, Cyclingnews correspondent
French professional Catherine Marsal (Saturn) is perhaps one of the most experienced racers in the women's peloton. Marsal was crowned World Junior Road Race Champion in 1987, and in 1990 became World Road Race Champion. In addition to her two world titles, the thirty one year old has won the overall classification in the Giro d'Italia, Tour de l'Aude, and GP de la Mutualite stage races. In addition Marsal claimed the sprints competition in the 2001 HP Women's Challenge.
Forced to abandon the 2002 Grande Boucle Féminine after stage 9b, Marsal still has plenty of ambition for the remainder of the season. Cyclingnews caught up with Marsal for a brief interview to discuss the Grande Boucle, the Saturn team, and what the rest of the season holds for the French champion.
Cyclingnews: Riding the Grande Boucle with Saturn was something of a last minute decision. How did this come about?
Catherine Marsal: We were waiting to hear about selection for the Giro in June. The original program was to do Giro, but the race organization was not very clear. First we were confirmed, then we weren't... Eventually we decided not to take the risk of waiting until the last moment and chose to do the Tour.
CN: What were your personal ambitions coming into the Grande Boucle?
CM: My only ambition was to give everything for the team, to help Judith (Arndt) and Kimberly (Bruckner). That and maybe a stage win, but the goal was to help the team.
CN: How difficult has this year's Tour Féminin been?
CM: This Tour has been bloody hard! This year's Tour is made for pure climbers. Judith and Kimberly are very good in the mountains, but the climbers like Somarriba and Stahurskaia have something extra that we don't have.
CN: What was the most difficult moment for you during the first nine stages?
CM: The Alps. The two stages in the cold and rain... I went over the limit just to finish those stages. I've been racing for twenty years, but stages like that I'll remember all my life. That was hell.
CN: You withdrew from the Grande Boucle after Stage 9. What was the reason for abandoning?
CM: I was waiting to see how my body would recover. I did the split stages 9a and 9b, but after that it was more of a team decision, thinking about Plouay and the rest of the World Cup. I was following and struggling just to finish. My body was telling me it needed rest.
CN: What do you have planned for the rest of the season?
CM: The World Cup race in Plouay is on Sunday, August 24. Then there are the World Cups in Switzerland and Holland (Rotterdam Tour). It's a big schedule, so I need to rest.
CN: Do you expect to continue next year with Saturn?
CM: I'm very happy with Saturn. I've always said Saturn would be my last team. It's a great team, very well organized and very professional. Why change when you're so comfortable?
CN: Any predictions for the overall winner of the Grande Boucle?
CM: Ljungskog could do it, because she can ride for the bonifications. I spoke with Stahurskaia yesterday, and she said she's tired. Everybody is attacking and she has to respond. In the time trial I think she and Ljungskog are about equal, but I would give Stahurskaia a small advantage.