After a tumultuous and challenging few years which have seen Audrey Cordon-Ragot battle her way back from a stroke and suffer the collapse of two teams, the Frenchwoman begins her 2024 season at the Tour Down Under in good spirits, stable at Human Powered Health and looking ahead to the Paris Olympic Games in the summer.
Cordon Ragot is back at the race after six years away, with the 34-year-old starting her 17th season in the peloton with a view towards the big goal of her season at those home Olympics in August.
Speaking at the pre-race press conference, she contrasted her current status with that of a year ago, when she was “still doubting if I could come back on the bike or not” before going on to record a string of good results.
“One year ago, I was not so good. I was still doubting if I could come back on the bike or not, and how I will be,” Cordon Ragot said. “In the end, I had probably the best beginning of the season of my career.
“It’s been a big roller coaster in the last years. Obviously, I’m super happy to be here and I’m super proud. I just want now to focus on the Olympics.
“I think the Olympics have been what has motivated me to come back – I was just thinking about it like, that’s the goal. I’m going to come back because I want to be in Paris on the start line. So without that, I’m not sure I will be here.”
In recent years, Cordon Ragot has endured the collapse of the B&B Hotels project in late 2022 and then the same scenario with the Zaaf team a few months into the 2023 season.
She also suffered a career-threatening stroke on the eve of the World Championships in Australia in late 2022 before recovering to get back to racing last season.
In preparation for this trip to Australia, she has trained on the rollers in her bathroom with the heat turned up, she said, noting that the race for her is all about preparing for future goals.
“It’s my second time here. I’ve been in Australia before. I suffered a lot from the heat. It was very, very warm. It looks like this year will be better,” said Cordon-Ragot.
“So, obviously, I’m not coming here with the best shape, but it was planned. I’m coming here because I want to train in the heat as well. I’m already looking forward to the summer and the Olympics. It will be probably really warm in Paris.
“For me, it’s a very nice block of warm training, and then trying to go closer to the condition we’re going to get in the summer. It’s also very nice to be here. I like the atmosphere; I like the race.”
Cordon-Ragot indicated that Human Powered Health will be looking towards her US teammate Ruth Edwards for results at the three-day race, with the 30-year-old hoping to replicate her 2020 GC success.
“I was a bit surprised to be here today at the press conference because I’m not really targeting the GC or anything,” she said. “But we have Ruth Edwards in the team who has won this race. She is ready. She is coming back. She is really motivated. So, I’m going to be there for her trying to put her on the podium and just enjoy the festivities here.”
Cordon-Ragot also noted that, in addition to the race providing some good warm weather kilometres in the legs ahead of the European season, it means a good few days of racing away from the glare of the European media spotlight.
“To be completely honest, I don’t think the French are really looking for this race, because it’s so far from where we are,” she said. “At the moment, I think cycling in France is more about cyclocross. So that’s also good because then we come here with less pressure.
“We don’t have the pressure from the journalists in France trying to look how fit you are or what’s your shape. They are more waiting for the classics in Belgium, to be honest. But that’s also the reason why I came here – just to be calm, quiet, training in good conditions and coming back in Europe and starting my real season.”
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