Senne Knaven is 19 years old and a first-year elite rider. With her dad being a former winner, her mother a multiple Dutch cyclocross champion and Senne herself a winner of the mini Paris-Roubaix, she has the pedigree to race the cobbles of the Hell of the North.
“You can’t compare Paris-Roubaix to any other race in the world. This Monday we checked the cobbles and, in my memory, it was much harder,” Senne smiles. “I won here as child and those memories have faded a little so it was good to get to know the cobbles again. They are not like the ones we have in Ronde van Drenthe or Flanders. When the roads are straight and there are no potholes or ruts, it’s all fine and doable but when there is corners and holes it makes it so much harder.”
The women’s peloton starts the 125-kilometre race in Denain for four local laps before hitting the first and longest sector of the race in Hornaing after 42 kilometres. In total the women face 29,2 kilometres of cobbles including the 5-star sectors of Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre.
“I expect it to be very hectic, especially on those local laps because everyone wants to be at the front. You can’t really compare it to last year when everyone crashed. I expect it to be a battle before the cobbles and between the cobbles and that the pace will be super high.”
Senne is excited to be part of the AG Insurance-NXTG team.
“For me this is the best race of the year and it’s very special to be part of it. I don’t want to think too much about the fact my dad won here because I don’t want to add pressure. I just want to enjoy the experience from the start all the way to the velodrome.”
AG Insurance-NXTG lines up this Saturday with Maud Rijnbeek (NED), Ilse Pluimers (NED) and Mylène de Zoete (NED) like in 2021 and debutants Senne Knaven (BEL), Gaia Masetti (ITA) and Eline van Rooijen (NED).
You can watch the race around the world from the first sector of cobbles at Horaing on Eurosport/GCN from 1.30pm CET, SBS in Australia, on Sporza in Belgium and NOS in the Netherlands.