Women’s Tour de France – Audrey Cordon-Ragot: “A three-week Tour would be physically unmanageable”

Vicky Carbonneau: What qualities do you need to be successful in this sport?

Audrey Cordon-Ragot: Today, women’s cycling is a very closed sport, with very few places to do it as a job. I always campaign for girls to continue to go to school and study, while also riding their bikes. We see pretty quickly if we have the skills to go to the next level.

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What is the most difficult thing about this sport?

AC-R: For me, it’s the distance from my family and my spouse. The older I get, the harder I find it. Cycling requires a lot of sacrifice and training. Physically, it’s tough. Cycling is a true career choice.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), during the 2nd stage of the 2022 Women’s Tour de France

Credit: Getty Images

Did you dream of being a professional cyclist?

AC-R: I couldn’t dream of being a professional cyclist, that didn’t exist! I built myself in the image of male cyclists, not imagining that one day I could be in their place. There were no female cyclists announced. So I studied real estate. Then things started to change, it was 2009. Things were put in place so that women could do high level cycling. And the federation helped me. I was able to find a part-time job, then a quarter-time job, which allowed me to train and go to the races. And that’s when I could start to project myself, and tell myself that I could go further. (…)

Many times, teams don’t appreciate female cyclists being pregnant and pressure these women to quit.

Tell us about your struggle.

AC-R: In 2021, not without difficulties, we got from the federation that the girls who race in World Tour teams get a professional license (like the men). But the ultimate goal is that, within the next five years, all these girls on the continental teams can have a professional license, as well as a management of women’s professional cycling, as the men have with the National Cycling League.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot at the start of the women’s Tour de France, July 24, 2022 in Paris

Credit: Getty Images

And as for motherhood, how is it going?

AC-R: The UCI recently introduced a rule that allows athletes to return after their pregnancy and the birth of their child. But the reality is quite different. Many times, teams don’t appreciate female cyclists being pregnant and pressure these women to quit. But there are teams like Trek-Segafredo that are avant-garde on the subject.

Lizzie Deignan had to leave her previous team when she announced her pregnancy, and Trek-Segafredo took the opportunity to ask her to join the team, first as a brand ambassador and then as cyclist She still won four monuments in her season when she returned from maternity leave. The bet was very successful!

I have in mind another cyclist who made a very good comeback after giving birth to her son: she is French Pascale Jeuland. But girls still think a lot before considering pregnancy. And they don’t dare to take risks, for fear of not finding the stability to raise a child.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot, August 30, 2021

Credit: Getty Images

What other struggle do you think is important to lead in women’s cycling?

AC-R: I think the Tour de France was the most important battle, in the sense that it is probably the most televised race in the world. I absolutely needed this world event, one of the most watched on television. It will bring sponsors, which will therefore allow women’s cycling to grow.

This is really good news. It is important to maintain the women’s races that have existed for years. They are part of women’s cycling history. It would be a shame if they put us in races that are currently men’s only, and that would conflict on the calendar with races that we have been used to running for years. I think particularly of the Alfredo Binda Trophy. I’m delighted to have new races like Paris-Roubaix, which don’t compete with other races that have been around for years, but I also don’t want it to detract from women’s cycling.

A three-week Tour would be physically unmanageable. The current level is not homogeneous enough

With the development of women’s cycling, how to increase the level of athletes and the number of riders in the teams?

AC-R: We need to work on the structure at the amateur level, allow the national divisions to run more for the girls to make their marks, and it’s that breeding ground that will then go to the next level.

Does it bother you that some races are gender specific and that women have fewer miles to run?

AC-R: We have to evolve with the times. Half of the current peloton could do a three-week Tour de France, but another part is still studying and/or doesn’t have the means to prepare for such a race. To prepare for a race like this, you have to give yourself a month of preparation, a month where you don’t run, where you just train and recognize the stages.

Today, in the women’s teams, we are thirteen riders, knowing that there are six per race, and that the calendar continues during the preparation of a Tour. This would mean that the other six girls would have to do all the other shopping during the month of preparation. It is complicated. We are not numerous enough in the teams.

We have to remain objective about what we are today, which is small teams that can prepare for a Giro or Tour de France in ten days, but three weeks would be physically unmanageable. The current level is not homogeneous enough for this. Men are more numerous in their teams.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot

Credit: Getty Images

How is running different between men and women?

AC-R: I would compare the way we run to the one we find in the first men’s amateur category, where the races are much shorter, between 120 and 160 km, and where you start at full speed, and roll at full speed. . all the time. We are not at all the same way of running, as they will go out at a more leisurely pace, knowing that they have 250 kilometers to go.

Find other testimonies of women whose voices count in the world of cycling in the book “En Danseuse” by Vicky Carbonneau (ed. Amphora).

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