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Cobbled Sectors of Paris Roubaix Femmes

The 2022 Paris Roubaix Femmes contains 17 sectors of pavé. They each vary in difficulty and the race organisers provide a star rating for every sector. From the single star of Templeuve-L’Épinette to the five stars given to Carrefour de l’Arbre. A sector’s length plays a role in the difficulty with some sectors no worse to ride than others, other than the sheer amount of cobblestones to ride. The state of repair plays a big role too with some sectors showing their age with great divots and deviations from the centre crown of the road. The gaps between the cobblestones themselves vary, with greater gaps inducing harsher riding. The majority of sectors are 3 stars, effectively average but the race organisers still classify them as difficult. Only the 1 star sectors are designated as ‘easy’.

Although Lizzie Deignan won in 2021 by attacking the first sector of the day, it’s unlikely that will happen again. Different conditions and a switched-on peloton will carefully assess who is allowed to make a breakaway. It’s unlikely the break will get much leeway as well with the peloton desperate to avoid a break victory repeat. I believe the Carrefour de l’Arbre is going to be a key sector to watch in 2022. It’s the last 5 star sector, is long at just over 2 kilometres and full of twists and turns. The sector will reward good bike handling and anyone able to put the power down. It’s the sort of place I’d expect to see Chantal van den Broek-Blaak attack as she will need as small a group as possible to make it to the velodrome.

There is one glaring omission from the list of cobbled sectors on the women’s Paris Roubaix. The Arenberg is yet to feature in the Paris Roubaix Femmes. Part of this is down to the race start being held in Denain. It’s tough to create a route that starts in Denain and doesn’t include the Arenberg as the first or second sector of the race. Organisers are worried that the sheer brutality of the Arenberg as the first sector would decide the race too early and unbalance the excitement. Everyone want to see the women’s peloton on the Trouée d’Arenberg though and would love to test the theory that it would be too hard, too early.

The skill to riding the cobbles is to negotiate the cleanest, fastest possible line through the sectors. With the best pavé riders able to look like they’re simply floating across the rocks. To some extent speed cures some of the worst vibrations of riding cobbles but you really have to be going at pro speeds to feel the benefits from that.

Weather

With the weather forecast looking very dry around this year’s race, we shouldn’t see a repeat of last year’s mud bath. Many riders crashed, losing grip on the combination of wet stones and mud. The alternative issue this year will be dust. The lead cars, police and tv motos will kick up a cloud of acrid dust that riders will have no choice but to breathe in. It also creates a thin loose layer on the cobbles themselves, making each turn a potentially hairy experience.

Paris Roubaix Femmes Race Preview

2022 Paris Roubaix Femmes Race Preview

Paris Roubaix Femmes Sectors in Order

Sectors by Difficulty

  • Mons-en-Pévèle
  • Carrefour de l’Arbre
  • Hornaing à Wandignies
  • Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosières
  • Auchy-lez-Orchies à Bersée
  • Camphin-en-Pévèle
  • Warlaing à Brillon
  • Beuvry-la-Forêt à Orchies
  • Orchies
  • Pont-Thibault à Ennevelin
  • Cyosing à Bourghelles
  • Bourghelles à Wannehain
  • Mérignies à Avelin
  • Templeuve (Moulin-de-Vertain)
  • Gruson
  • Willems à Hem
  • Templeuve (L’Épinette)
  • Roubaix (Espace Charles Crupelandt)