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Women's Paris Roubaix Race History
It was a long time coming but the first women’s Paris Roubaix finally took place in 2021. We’d been teased that the race was taking place after the COVID lockdown in 2020 but further measures derailed the race. It was the same story in the spring of 2021 but finally, in October 2021, we saw a women’s peloton on the cobbles.
The race route is short than the men’s Paris Roubaix and famously will miss out on the Arenberg. The race starts with some local laps around Denain but after that the cobbles are relentless. 17 sectors of pave will then test the women’s peloton before reaching the Roubaix velodrome. Conditions look good for 2022’s race, with no rain beforehand we will see a dry race. The wind won’t be too strong but will be crosswinds for most of the route. I’m expecting a decent sized group to sprint for the win this year.
Last year’s Paris Roubaix was a brutal experience. Wet and muddy, riders crashed hard, sustaining serious injuries but the solo break from Lizzie Deignan stole the show. She attacked on the first stretch of cobbles and despite a late charge from Marianne Vos, held on to win on her own in the velodrome. The shots of her blood stained bar tape after the race showed the brutality of the cobbles.
Paris Roubaix Femmes 2022 Contenders
For a brief time, it looked like Marianne Vos was going to challenge Lizzie Deignan for the win last year. The gap was coming down and everyone was doing the maths for the catch. We’ve seen the usually reduced road calendar for Vos this season, with 2nd in Gent Wevelgem being her best result. The Tour of Flanders has been a tough race for Vos in recent years so 20th there isn’t too much of a bum note, even for the GOAT. The cyclocross world champion has everything you need to win Roubaix – bike handling skills, power and a sprint. Vos, unfortunately, test positive for Covid this morning, without symptoms
Her teammate Coryn Labecki will also be a useful lieutenant and we saw her get a good run out at Brabantse Pijl. The 17th place finish doesn’t look amazing on paper but that hides a long solo attempt to bridge across to the front of the race. It looked so close at one point but unfortunately never quite made the connection. If anything happens to Vos, she could also do well in the velodrome.
Marta Bastianelli was 5th in last year’s women’s Paris Roubaix, winning the sprint from the biggest bunch still together at the front of the race. In theory, all the mud didn’t suit her last season but you can see how she goes with all the attacks and sprints to a high finish. She’s on a run of 6 consecutive top-10 finishes and I see that continuing here.
One of the best photos from last year’s Paris Roubaix Femmes was of Emma Norsgaard. Sat on the floor of the velodrome after the finish with her head in her hands. It captured the harshness of the day, both physically and mentally. Norsgaard started the season really strong but has waned slightly on the hilly races of the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold – that’s probably to be expected in fairness. Paris Roubaix Femmes is her big goal for 2022, so after finishing 6th in the mud here last season, plus her sprint makes her a big contender.
Trek Segafredo has a wealth of actions. World champion Elisa Balsamo won 3 Women’s WorldTour races in a week at the end of March but has been relatively quieter since. 28th at the Tour of Flanders and 61st at Brabantse Pijl showed that she’s still human. Paris Roubaix being flat may help but she was only 57th last season after a crash. Another with a track background and a sprint, does she have the bike handling? She hasn’t said it’s a major goal but the cyclocross star Lucinda Brand will be at this year’s Paris Roubaix Femmes. You can see how she’ll be used in the 2021 Deignan role – an attack on hard sections and see what sticks. It’ll be similar to Ellen van Dijk who has the engine to power over the cobbles and not be seen again. She suffered a nasty concussion from her crashes here last year which lasted for a few months in the off-season. That could be a possible knock to her confidence on the cobbles here. Finally, for Trek, there’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot who finished 8th in last season’s race. Whether she matches that again is dependent on her current form. Her last 2 races were DNFs at Nokere Koerse and Trofeo Alfredo Binda back in March.
It’s tough to ignore FDJ’s Marta Cavalli after the way she won Amstel Gold Race last weekend. That was her first Women’s WorldTour victory and to attack out of a group of such big names showed Cavalli was a worthy winner. She’s been knocking on the door for some time and we knew she was in great climbing form after finishing 3rd in GC at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. I think others may be suited to Roubaix slightly more, including her teammate Grace Brown. The Australian should surely be the team’s lead rider here after an impressive spring classics campaign. She’s not had the best results but that hides how active Brown has been in launching attacks to take the pressure off Uttrup Ludwig and Cavalli. Brown is a rider you can see blitzing a section of pavé and not being caught.
22nd in the mud last year, Maria Giulia Confalonieri has been in great form all Spring. A host of top-10s including 3rd at Gent Wevelgem. She’s similar to Balsamo in the way that she has the track background and can clearly sprint but there may be doubts about how well she will fare on the cobbles. With no Lisa Brennauer this year, Ceratizit WNT will be firmly behind the Italian.
I can’t quite decide on how successful Team DSM will be at this year’s Paris Roubaix Femmes. Floortje Mackaij has been solid all classics season, with podiums at Omloop van het Hageland and Drentse Acht. At her best, you can see how Mackaij could infiltrate a break and stay away quite happily. It’s a similar story with Peiffer Georgi who was 4th at Dwars door Vlaanderen and 9th at Omloop van het Hageland. She’s done a tonne of work to ensure other races come down to a sprint. It’s for that reason I think those two will probably have to work for Lorena Wiebes again here. Wiebes has a track background, even if it’s not at the highest levels and we all know what she can do in a sprint. Wiebes probably fits that ideal build stereotype for the cobbles as well so you can see how a dry Roubaix would suit her. Wiebes has also said how she would love to win Paris Roubaix Femmes.
I suspect that SD Worx will be working for Chantal van den Broek-Blaak at this year’s Paris Roubaix Femmes. She was 10th last season and this was originally planned to be her last ever race. As things have turned out, Van den Broek-Blaak will continue racing a while longer. Her 3rd place at the Tour of Flanders inspires confidence, she was destined for 3rd by assisting Lotte Kopecky to a famous local victory. There are others with better sprints so she will need to go solo or drop the likes of Vos, Norsgaard and Wiebes. Teammate Lotte Kopecky feels ideally suited to the cobbles at Roubaix. She does cyclocross, she does track, she can sprint – everything feels perfect for her. Kopecky will do some track after this race and have a break and reading between the lines, Flanders was her race and Roubaix will be raced for others. That said, she will get a chance, particularly if it comes down to a sprint. You can never rule out others on SD Worx and this could be one for Luxembourger Christine Majerus. She was 11th in the mud last season, races cyclocross and we know how much power she has to chase down moves. There’s always a chance it’s one for Lonneke Uneken as well. In this line-up, she’s probably a back-up to Kopecky but Uneken has a victory in 2022 already at Bloeizone Fryslan and was 4th recently at Brugge-De Panne.
I’m torn about whether this will be a race for Chiara Consonni. With it being a dry edition she may be ok and contesting a sprint on a velodrome will be no problem for her. I’m thinking Valcar’s best option is probably Silvia Persico who seems to be on a never-ending form high at the moment. The cyclocross world champs bronze medallist has been a consistently high finisher all spring. She just took her best result of the year at Brabantse Pijl with 7th but has been flirting with the bottom reaches of the top-10 all season in the Women’s WorldTour.
You can never rule out Parkhotel Valkenburg’s Mischa Bredewold when sustained power is needed. Her results are tapering nicely heading into Paris Roubaix Femmes. She took her season-best result at Brabantse Pijl with 14th place but she’s another where the end result hides how active she’s been in races. Never afraid to give it a go off the front, I expect we’ll see her in the mix.
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB isn’t having an amazing season, particularly so when you look at the team rankings. One of the bright spots has been the young Italian Letizia Borghesi who has joined the team and claimed some top-10s at Scheldeprijs and Nokere Koerse. She’s been one to watch ever since winning a Giro Donne stage back in 2019 and it’s great to see her at the front of races more often. We also got to see a lot of Clara Honsinger at the recent Tour of Flanders where she spent a load of time at the front of the race in the break until the fabled Koppenberg. The cyclocrosser will relish races like this where bike handling and riding in the gravel and mud at the side of the cobbles is king. Plenty would love to see her get a strong road result, especially as her notoriously slow starts to CX races don’t matter as much on the road.
A lot of hype will surround Plantur-Pura who come with a team almost completely cyclocross based. Of those riders, I think we can look towards Sanne Cant and Julie de Wilde who represent two generations of Belgian talent. Cant has been good on the road this year in the generally flatter races. She was 11th at Gent Wevelgem and 15th at Scheldeprijs. She has the potential to be a monster on the pavé and is a decent enough sprinter for the finish too. Julie de Wilde can top Cant’s results though with 2nd at Dwars Door Vlaanderen and 7th at Scheldeprijs. Those who saw her finish 2nd in the Harrogate junior worlds in 2019 knew she was going to be a great rider and we’re seeing her deliver on that this season. I can see her scoring a top-10 here.
Without Susanne Andersen, Uno-X would’ve had a rather quiet start to the 2022 season. The Norwegian has been picking up the team’s best results with top-10s at Gent Wevelgem, Le Samyn and GP Oetingen. She’s certainly been rejuvenated as I’d hoped with the change in teams as she was down the pecking order at Team DSM. She will have able support from Hannah Barnes and if Andersen can be positioned well would become a threat in a sprint in the velodrome.
Paris Roubaix Femmes 2022 Outsiders
There’s some similar logic in choosing both Maria Martins and Mieke Kröger in this section. Both are super strong track riders and have been known to pull off the odd sprint too. For Le Col-Wahoo’s Martins that was recent with 5th at Brugge-De Panne but for Human Powered Health’s Kröger you have to go back to 2018 for her last decent non-TT stage finish. If either of these riders decides to go nuclear on a stretch of pavé, the rest of the peloton is going to have its work cut out just trying to stay on the wheels.
For those who watched the cyclocross season, the French pair of Perrine Clauzel and Amandine Fouquenet will ring some bells. Both riders had a rest after the CX part of the year and have just started their road seasons. Both riders are used to riding off-road, with Clauzel also known for racing mountain bikes too. They’re both long shots but worthy of note as serious cyclocross riders riding Paris Roubaix Femmes.
Finally, I’m including Elodie le Bail who is a teammate of Perrine Clauzel at St Michel-Auber 93. Another French rider, she’s notable for giving up (or rather postponing) her career as a nuclear engineer to return to top-level cycling. Those who watched Bloeizone Fryslan will remember her orange jersey finishing 3rd on the last stage which confirmed her form after finishing 4 in a race over in Turkey earlier in the year. Against this absolute top-level stacked field, she probably won’t match that result but she is a rider to keep an eye on certainly.