Close to the end of the year, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog takes a look on the future and calls a young athlete to the last interview of 2016. Constance Devillers is one of the greatest hopes of the French MTB Orienteering and brings us her story.
I would start by asking you to introduce yourself. Who is Constance Devillers?
Constance Devillers (C. D.) - I'm eighteen, I live in Besançon, France, and I'm in the first year of my studies in sports at University. I enjoy practising sport with my friends and find new passions, like juggling or slacklining, which require concentration and motivation. I like listening to music and watching TV series, like “Pretty Little Liars” or “The 100”.
How did you meet Orienteering?
C. D. - I discovered Foot Orienteering in high school. I was lucky to participate in the 2013 French School Foot O Championships. We were four girls in the team and they were all members of an Orienteering club in Besançon. I think it was this particular first victory, shared with my friends, which made me enjoy this sport. I wanted to keep practising orienteering and improve. When I was fifteen, I started going to that club, named “Balise 25”, where, a few weeks later, I learnt about something I didn't know existed, MTB orienteering.
When did you decide to take MTB Orienteering seriously?
C. D. – At first I mostly practised FootO, which I think it's part of the training for MTBO. The first step was to learn how to ride fast and read the map at the same time, anticipating the route choices. Soon I was able to take part in MTBO competitions, and I improved by attending all the French competitions. In 2014 I was invited to a training session with the French team but it was only in 2015 that I started to train with the aim of reaching international goals, trying to get a place in the French Team in order to attend the Youth European MTB Orienteering Championships, in Portugal, which were my first Championships. One month later I was lucky to join the Junior Team and go to the World MTB Orienteering Championships, in the Czech Republic, where I won the Relay along with Lou Denaix and Lou Garcin. I spent an unforgettable week there.
What do you see in MTBO that makes it so special?
C. D. - I find MTBO special because it has made the past three years unique to me. I’ve so many fond memories... I’ve become more self-confident. MTBO has made me discover the meaning of training hard and I like it. And the most important thing is that I love the people I met in MTBO since the very beginning, not only in my club, but in the French team and also in international teams. Everyone is friendly, gives advice, and it's motivating to see what other people are capable of.
What opportunities has Orienteering brought to you so far?
C. D. - Orienteering has given me the opportunity to travel to Portugal and to the Czech Republic (and maybe next season to Lithuania). Thanks to this sport I've also been able to improve my English.
Looking back on the Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships, are you happy with the results achieved in Portugal. Did you expect them?
C. D. - I'm very happy with my results that I see as a reward for the hard training. In 2015, the participation in the Junior World MTB orienteering Championships was totally unexpected, I didn't know what to look forward to and I was very surprised with what I did. On the contrary, this year I was expecting to be selected and it was more stressful, but very impressive nonetheless.
I would ask you to share some thoughts about the Sprint bronze and the silver in the Long Distance.
C. D. -The Sprint was the first race of the week and I knew I had to be fully focused on it, forgetting the stress and thinking only about the race. It was the first time I used the new SI-R which I think increased the difficulty level because it's a short and fast race, so the rhythm of the race never slows down. I was afraid of riding off the tracks because it’s forbidden in France. I didn't find the orienteering very difficult, but riding at the same time made it complicated; the terrain was flat, so very fast. I must say that I like the Sprint more and more; I find it hard to keep racing because orienteering always slows you.
I found the Long Distance interesting because of the route choices and the beautiful terrain. I didn't want to take risks, so I slowed down and tried not to make big mistakes. In the final part of the race I saw some girls who started before me and I knew that I had to forget about the others if I wanted to keep my self-confidence. I made some mistakes but I kept focused on the race. At the end I was really happy, and I think it was very important that I didn't give up.
Is Veronika Kubínová unbeatable at the junior level? What does she have that you don't (but you'd like to have)?
C. D. - Veronika is very strong. I remember her Sprint victory in the 2015 Junior World MTB Orienteering Championships, which impressed me. I followed what she did last September in the World Cup, in Lithuania, where she achieved great results in the Women Elite class. I’ve heard the step from junior to Elite is quite high, so she must be proud of herself. I think she has more experience than me. It's nice to meet other girls who are motivated and stronger than me; they are like role models.
What are your plans for the next season?
C. D. - I will go to 5 Days of Pilsen. It will be my second time in the Czech Republic and I remember I enjoyed it very much in 2015. My main goal is the World Championships in Lithuania, but we’ll have the European Championships in France before! It will be very exciting to take part in a Championship in my country...
What about your future? What's in store for you in the next five years?
C. D. - I want to have fun during my two years as a Junior but I must confess that I'm looking forward to riding in the Elite; I know the level is very demanding... but I think about it and maybe this is what keeps me motivated: having fun in MTBO and riding in the Elite.
Would you leave a message for those who always wanted to know about MTB Orienteering?
C. D. - If you have always wanted to know about MTBO, I have to say it's a wonderful sport which requires many qualities. The winner is the one who makes the least mistakes, is the most powerful on the bike but also in his mind, while fighting against the watch. In MTBO, you learn every day; every competition is a different one.