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‘I have a career to finish’: Audrey Cordon-Ragot sets sights on comeback after suffering a stroke

The Trek-Segafredo rider suffered a stroke on the day she was due to travel to Australia for the world championships last month.

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This story originally appeared on CyclingTips.

French national champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot has given an exclusive interview to Bretagne-based newspaper Le Télégramme about the stroke she suffered last month.

Cordon-Ragot was preparing to travel to Australia for the road world championships when she started to feel like something wasn’t right.

“When I got up in the morning, I didn’t feel well. I was disoriented, bordering on faint,” she told the French news outlet.

“I felt like I was drunk. Atypical symptoms, vomiting, tinnitus, tingling in the limbs, etc. I wasn’t sure what was happening to me, I just knew it wasn’t normal. I had never felt this. I asked Vincent [Ragot, her husband] to call an ambulance. I spent the day in the emergency room.”

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She recalled how a doctor from the French federation encouraged her to undertake an MRI scan before embarking on her travel to Australia.

“That MRI showed the stroke. It was a shock for me. I stayed in hospital in Pontivy for a few days.”

In the build-up to the stroke, Cordon-Ragot says she had “felt fine”.

“I had just finished second in the Simac Ladies Tour. I didn’t have any symptoms. I was ready for the worlds and wanted to train well at home for one more week. There was no sign of a CVA (cerebrovascular accident) or even illness. The symptoms were also atypical. They were not the symptoms that we associate with a CVA. I was disoriented, vomited and had sensations in my extremities. But I had a feeling it might be a CVA despite the symptoms not being those we know. My intuition was right.

“Every time I say CVA I cry because it’s a word that makes me scared. It’s not what you want to hear. We know the consequences it can have, like paralysis. For Vincent, it was shocking too because it reminded him of different family histories. It was hard telling my family what happened.”

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Naturally, Cordon-Ragot was concerned about the impact the stroke would have on her career.

“I don’t know if I had time to be afraid,” she said. “What mattered most to me at the time was to know if I was going to have a future in cycling, to know if I was going to be able to follow my dream to continue until the Paris Olympics in 2024. It’s weird to say but it’s a bit like when you fall off a bike, the first thing you look at is your bike. Me, I wondered if I was going to be able to go back on it. This is what connected me to life. Since then, I have been given reassuring news on the subject. I never thought of ending my career. My relatives did not encourage me to do so. I have a career to finish.”

Given the potential severity of her condition and knowing all she did, Cordon-Ragot was asked if she’d considered her survival in the aftermath of the stroke. Her reply was characteristically thoughtful and affirming.

“Yes, of course, I was afraid to die. But when it happens to you, you know, it’s more your loved ones who are afraid that you might be gone. You do not realize, or you fail to realize, that your time on earth might be over. I know it, I’m a miracle. I got lucky in the end.”

Thankfully, she has not had any severe lasting effects.

“Today I feel fine,” she said. “It’s been a month now and I haven’t done exercise in that month. It was hard mentally and physically to not be able to. I will have surgery on the 20th and after that I should be able to continue a normal life with cycling in it. My family also know they can’t slow me down, even though they may be scared. I will have to start slowly but I expect to return to the peloton next year.”

She will travel to Martinique for a holiday where “I will start some physical activity in the sun and then we have the first team camp in December. I won’t have the level in December but I will build towards my first objective of the season and that is Paris-Roubaix.”

She also hinted at rumors of a move to a new team, Bretagne-based B&B Hotels which is rumored to be setting up a women’s squad for 2023.

“My new team will be announced soon but it won’t be a surprise that I want to return to my roots, to the place where my cycling all started, and that’s Brittany. I want to return to a team where I can have a high level and focus on my performance 200 percent.”