Audrey Cordon-Ragot finally bounced back quickly. Not paid by her Zaaf Cycling team since her arrival in January, she announced on April 2 her departure from the Spanish team. A few days from Paris-Roubaix, and yet with the best start to the season of her career according to her, the French champion found herself without a team. On Friday April 7, she finally announced that she had officially joined Human Powered Health, which plays in the world’s first division.
The former Trek-Segafredo runner will therefore be able to run Paris-Roubaix on Saturday, her first race with her new formation. The reigning French champion spoke exclusively to Tout Le Sport about this period, her change of team and her new life. (to be found Friday at 8:45 p.m. on France 3).
Franceinfo: sport: Why did you make this decision to leave the Zaaf Cycling team?
Audrey Cordon-Ragot: The galleys chained since September [she suffered a stroke and was part of the aborted B&B Hotels women’s team project] made me question myself about what I wanted and more desire in my life. The situation I was in did not suit me. All this made me grow and make my decision. I had to think about my mental well-being, and just respect myself as a woman and a runner.
How did you manage to bounce back so quickly?
We have two unions that surround cycling that have offered us solutions. I am lucky to know David Lappartient [president of the UCI] very well, who is Breton like me. When I saw that things weren’t progressing very quickly, I contacted him personally, explaining to him that the situation of the girls in the team was illogical in relation to the UCI rule, which is to only open the transfer window only on June 1. He quickly realized that this regulation was not adapted to our situation. Then it all came together pretty quickly.
Would you like to find a World Tour team as a priority?
My experience in Continental [second division] was short but intense, and I didn’t want to go through that again. I think there is real work to be done on the organization of the Continental women’s teams. In the World Tour, it’s safer, and there’s the fact of not having to fight to be invited to the big races, like the Tour de France, which is one of the objectives of my season.
How do you feel, after months of hardship and a few days from Paris-Roubaix?
A great relief. As soon as my departure was leaked, many teams offered me a contract. I was relieved to see that my profile was still interesting for certain teams and that I was going to be able to find a favorable outcome.
You had a very hard winter with the stroke, B&B which did not see the light of day, the departure of Zaaf… What do you get out of these complicated months?
All these struggles made me realize that I had character, not only on the bike but also in life: always getting up and seeing further, not stopping at the present moment which is painful.
My common thread is the Paris Olympics. If they weren’t there, it could have been more complicated to keep fighting. I said to my husband: It is only me who will decide when I will stop my career.
to All Sports
What kept you going?
The desire to go to the end of my project, to leave through the front door and not because I was forced to. There’s me, but there’s also all my teammates who are in the same situation, especially my teammate Lucie Jounier, who was hit by a motorist last summer and who was planning with me at B&B and also with Zaaf… We all this character in us, that’s why we’re still here.
Are you coming out stronger?
Everything that happens to us in life should serve as a lesson to us. The one I remember here is that I will be at the start of Paris-Roubaix on Saturday, with a team that trusts me, in which I already feel very good. It’s only happiness from now on.
With what ambitions do you come, because the situation is very special for you…
I’m not going there without ambition, but I’m going there without fixing anything. We will see what it gives. This is my favorite race, which suits me well. I will only have one week of training with my new bike, but in the end, what does that change? It’s Roubaix for everyone, it’s a race of warriors, you have to go there with the bit in your teeth, no matter the brand of bike or the shorts.
We will no doubt see you at the start of the next Tour de France…
Being in a World Tour team stabilizes the program. I love to plan, and there were a lot of question marks until July.I will be able to prepare for my real goals in the best possible way. The Tour is the stage race par excellence on which I will have ambitions, with a different role within this team. I can not wait to be there.
Interview by Nicolas Geay.