Audrey Cordon-Ragot is becoming an even bigger leader in 2022, and hoping for her own Roubaix glory
The 2021 Trek-Segafredo women’s season was filled with unforgettable moments among its 23 victories, including Ellen Van Dijk’s world championship time trial and Lizzie Deignan’s historic performance at Paris-Roubaix.
But after the season ended, Audrey Cordon-Ragot still had a nagging feeling of unfinished business. The team had set a goal of standing atop the WorldTour team rankings for the second year in a row. They fell just short, taking second behind a formidable SD Worx squad.
“We had a good season, it’s true,” Cordon-Ragot says. “But the fact that we were not the first team in the world, that was something that was a goal and we didn’t reach it. I think for this year, it’s obviously a big goal for us again, to try to be more consistent.”
The team may have struggled to find the week-in, week-out consistency they enjoyed in 2020 for a number of reasons. Covid-19 impacted the roster at times, forcing strong riders to sit out big races. The stress of Olympics preparation was also hard on a team that is particularly multi-national.
On a personal level, Cordon-Ragot felt that she was spreading herself thin at times, trying to take on as many races as she could instead of focusing on a handful where she really wanted to succeed. She believes that she and her teammates will be able to play their hand better this year with a regular schedule and another year’s experience racing under a global pandemic.
“What brings the team up is when everyone has a chance to smash it. And for different reasons, it didn’t happen last year so much,” Cordon-Ragot says. “But still, we were really trying. So we want more consistency, and also to be more surprising during races, and have more cards than just focusing on one person.”
At last season’s training camp, the team emphasized that “cementing greatness is staying at the top.” As the team found out, one of the hardest tasks in any sport is repeating as a champion. This year, they’re going back to the more carefree, “all for one and one for all approach” that led them to so much success in 2020.
According to Cordon-Ragot, Trek-Segafredo team manager Luca Guercilena encouraged the team before this season by adding a twist to the Trek brand’s well-worn motto: “Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good,” he said. “And win.”
“For him, winning is very important,” Cordon-Ragot says. “But I think he’s also happy that everyone can express herself winning any kind of race during the road season. And that first year we had many riders winning one race at least, which is maybe what we missed a little bit last year.”
What represents the team is the honesty we have for each other.
Cordon-Ragot takes the team’s mindset very seriously. She has always been an outspoken leader, and this year she’s taken over as the team’s de facto captain after Trixi Worrack’s retirement.
Keeping the team upbeat and loose is part of Cordon-Ragot’s role. (To get a feel for how the team warms up, check out their pre-race Spotify playlist.) She also encourages honesty within the team so that any issues can be resolved quickly and openly. Cordon-Ragot wants every rider to feel comfortable and ready to attack every race with their full capacities.
“What represents the team is the honesty we have for each other,” Cordon-Ragot says. “And it’s been really encouraging to see everyone telling the truth, telling what she thinks, what she feels. You never go home feeling that something is wrong.
“It’s bringing everyone to the spot where she wants to be, and she feels comfortable.”
New Trek-Segafredo sports psychologist Elisabetta Borgia has been hugely beneficial to the team’s mentality entering the new season. According to Cordon-Ragot, Borgia provides the group with an impartial, outside perspective that can quickly distill any issues to their crux.
“We have some meetings where she steers the conversation in a way that you don’t really realize that she’s analyzing team spirit,” Cordon-Ragot says. “She brings up feelings in a way that you tell her without thinking, and then you have the truth. It’s her job, and she’s really good at it.”
One of Cordon-Ragot’s biggest lessons from the 2021 season was that she should be a little more greedy. She spent a lot of time, in her words, going “left and right too much,” and not focusing enough on the races that really suit her talents.
I’m allowed to believe in Roubaix, because it’s the race where everything happens.
So this year, her targets are clear. Cordon-Ragot wants to be at peak strength for Paris-Roubaix in April. Then she wants to take a stage at the first ever Tour de France Femmes in July, while supporting her teammates’ own stage bids. After that, she’ll take on the season as it comes, letting the schedule and her legs dictate her next moves.
“Last year’s schedule caused me a lot of stress and tiredness,” Cordon-Ragot says. “So I decided to focus more on races that really suit me, like the classics in Northern Europe, with the first goal as Roubaix, because this is the race I’ve wanted to win for a long time.”
Cordon-Ragot’s foremost priority is the team, of course. She plays a pivotal role setting expectations around attitude and performance, and also facilitating communication among the riders, all of which will be a big part of getting Trek-Segafredo back to the top of the women’s WorldTour standings.
But at a certain point, after team meetings have wrapped and feelings have been expressed, all that’s left to do is race. And Cordon-Ragot is really looking forward to taking her shot.
“I’m allowed to believe in Roubaix, because it’s the race where everything happens,” Cordon-Ragot says. “Being a captain in Roubaix is almost impossible, because you have chaos happening right and left. I really want to focus on this one.”
That cavalier spirit should feel familiar. It fueled Trek-Segafredo to a team title two years ago, and Cordon-Ragot is betting that it still can.