Paris-Roubaix Femmes is coming.
For some, it’s a race they’ve wanted to do since buying their first bike but thought they could never do it. As more and more races were added to the women’s calendar and ASO even seemed open to the idea of a women’s Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix remained firmly out of reach.
For Jolien D’hoore, soon to retire, it is a childhood dream come true to be able to run on the same cobbles as some Belgian heroes of the past.
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“I wanted to do this race even more than Flanders. It’s a big difference with Flanders, you can’t compare it. In Flanders, they are real cobblestones and here it is only a pile of stones thrown together. You have holes in between and it’s just a fight, ”D’hoore said. VeloNews.
“I think this is the race of my dreams. If there is one race that suits me the most, it’s Paris-Roubaix. It’s racing with so much prestige. When I was little, I watched it on TV, and I remember that Johan Museeuw or Tom Boonen won this race. He has so many memories for me.
The wait for the first Paris-Roubaix Women has lengthened. It was first necessary to wait for the organizer ASO to give in under the weight of the envy of this race. And then it was COVID-19 that kept it out of our reach for a bit longer.
However, the apathy of the organizers and a global pandemic could not prevent this from finally happening, and the very first Paris-Roubaix Women will take place this Saturday. After having to wait so long, it almost doesn’t seem real that it’s going to happen, but it is.
Read also : Paris-Roubaix Women route confirmed with 17 cobbled sectors, including Carrefour de l’Arbre
The excitement among the women’s peloton is palpable, even with those who have absolutely no desire to race themselves, like newly retired Anna van der Breggen. For the European champion Ellen van Dijk, who has a real chance of winning the first pavement, this is a special moment.
As her teammates completed a lap and headed for the team’s camper van after their scouting of the course on Wednesday, van Dijk stayed there to do about five before chasing them – but not before. to take a photo with the young fans who had gathered on the track.
“I really like riding on this velodrome because of its great history and I want to practice it a bit. I’ve been there many times. The first time it was a magical feeling but now I know it a bit. It’s still special anyway, ”said van Dijk VeloNews. “It’s really nice to have this race. It gets a lot of attention and it’s a great race so I’m really happy with it.
A day for the history books
Rumors had been circulating about a push for a women’s Paris-Roubaix, but there was little hard evidence until the UCI revealed its reworked coronavirus schedule for 2020, with one little surprise added. While it did not happen on this or the next occasion, the cat was indeed out of the bag.
Nothing like Paris-Roubaix on the women’s calendar. Indeed, there is hardly any such thing in the male calendar.
Of course, there are cobblestone races, but none have the same brutality and mystique as with an edition of “Hell of the North”. It is the female peloton which leaves towards the unknown.
What we do know is that it’s going to be tough, with wind and rain forecast on top of the pave assault.
With the race first announced a year ago, many teams had the chance to try the cobbles over the next 12 months. However, Wednesday was the last chance for many runners to test themselves before the big day and the gravity of the situation set in.
“It was super cool. I’m so excited for Saturday, but also a little scared because it’s gonna be super hard. It’s a good mix of excitement and a bit of fear. I think you have to have respect for the cobbles and for the course, ”said Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. VeloNews.
“It was a new experience, but everyone told me you can’t compare it to anything, it will be crazy, so I was expecting it. I’ve been watching it since I was little and I sort of knew it without really knowing it, now it’s confirmed.
“It’s going to be in the history books. It’s going to be cool, and I think a lot of people are going to watch and it’s such an epic race for the men. I think everyone dreams of winning the first edition. Hope I can be in the mix.
For the very first women’s Paris-Roubaix, the peloton will make a few laps of Denain before heading towards the pave. They will face the first of 17 cobbled sections after 33 km and it will be relentless until the riders reach Roubaix.
While there is nothing quite like it in the women’s calendar, there are still some clear favorites emerging among the peloton. Watch as Ellen van Dijk, Lizzie Deignan, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Jolien D’hoore, Marianne Vos, Floortje Mackaij and new world champion Elisa Balsamo to be in the final selection on Saturday. Climbers like Annemiek van Vleuten and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig could also be contenders on a good day.