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Audrey Cordon-Ragot wins the Cholet Pays de Loire in a Breakaway Sprint

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot won the Cholet Pays de Loire, in the Maine-et-Loire town of Cholet, in western France, in a three-up sprint. The French rider, who lives just 60km from the race finish, outpaced former teammates Amélie Rivat (Poitou-Charentes-Futuroscope) and Miriam Bjornsrud (Hitec Products) at the end of a 116km race whose latter stages were dominated by Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling riders.

Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling’s Belgian Champion Jolien D’hoore took the sprint for fourth place, at the head of the next group on the road, 22 seconds later.

“That was so good!” Cordon-Ragot smiled. “I’ve done this race since 2006. I won it in 2012, and I was also on the podium. I really wanted to win because I wanted to thank my teammates for all their hard work today. Also, because I worked a lot for the team in the past weeks, and they wanted to thank me as well.

“Today they were protecting me, so I had to win. I didn’t have any choice!” she laughed. “This race is close to my home, and my family was there, and it’s not every race that your family can come. It’s in France too, so it’s good.”

The race was made up of four laps of a 29km circuit around Cholet, which featured the climbs of La Tessoualle and La Séguinière. Despite several attempted breakaways, the peloton was all together as it entered the third lap but, very soon afterwards, a group of 19 riders got away. Most of the strong teams in the race were represented, with Cordon-Ragot, D’hoore and Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara there for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling, and so the group’s advantage was able to build beyond three and a half minutes.

Late pressure from Cordon-Ragot saw the group reduced to 12 riders, before a final attack saw the French rider escape with Rivat and Bjornsrud.

“We were really good,” Cordon-Ragot said. “We were three at the front, but some other teams had four – like Futuroscope and Lointek – but I think we were the three that were the strongest. Mayuko was so strong, she just did the perfect job. She was pulling on every climb, before the last lap; finally I pulled on the last lap, but that didn’t work, but after that I tried again and that was a good one!

“I wasn’t worried about Amélie, because I was a teammate of hers, and I know that she isn’t faster than me,” Cordon-Ragot continued. “I was more worried about Miriam; I know that she can be fast, but she couldn’t really pass me when were turning before the last finish line, so I knew that she was full gas.

“If I didn’t think I could win the sprint I would have waited for Jolien, and she could win, but I was quite sure of myself.”

Having worked so hard for her teammates since the very beginning of the season, it was Cordon-Ragot’s turn to be the protected rider in what is her local race. After guiding D’hoore to her maiden World Cup victory in Drenthe last weekend, the Belgian champion was determined to return the compliment this time.

“Jolien really wanted for me to win today,” said Cordon-Ragot. “The plan was to protect me, so we did that. I tried, and tried, and tried, and finally it worked. We really wanted for me to win, but if it was a bunch sprint then Jolien would be the fastest.”

Cordon-Ragot’s victory makes her the fourth different winner for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling in 2015. Having won in Cholet three years ago, in a solo breakaway, the 25-year-old Bretonne recognises the difference with her first victory in the colours of Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling.

“Maybe the difference is that I’m stronger,” she explained. “I feel I’m a different woman now. I’m part of one of the biggest teams in the World now, so it’s different. You have the feeling that you’re there because you’re strong, and you’re winning because you’re strong. It’s not a poker game, it’s really a team race – a team game – it’s the most important part of winning, to know that you’re not alone; you know that there are five other girls there next to you, to help you, so it’s a different feeling.”

1. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

2. Amélie Rivat (Poitou-Charentes-Futuroscope)
3. Miriam Bjornsrud (Hitec Products)
4. Jolien D’hoore (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling)

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