How the Race was Won
Trek-Segafredo continue to reign supreme at Paris-Roubaix Femmes, with the victory this year going to Elisa Longo Borghini, after her third place to teammate Lizzie Deignan last year. She went solo on a cobbled section with 33km to go, and though the chasers behind her came occasionally perilously close, it was never quite enough to close the gap; Trek-Segafredo had two riders in the chasing group, who could disrupt any serious effort. Longo Borghini came into the iconic velodrome with a thirty second lead, and she could take a moment to soak in the noise of the crowd that filled the velodrome. A few moments later, her teammates were there to congratulate her.
The Main Action
For the second ever edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, the sky was clear and the cobbles were dusty. It was the polar opposite of the mud-drenched first edition. They started with loops around the streets of Denain; an extra loop this year extended the race to 124km. The early breakaway was formed by Gaia Masetti (AG Insurance-NXTG Team), Leonie Bos (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Amalie Lutro (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), Katie Clouse (Human Powered Health) and Tanja Erath (EF Education-Tibco-SVB). The first loops were relatively calm, but as they approached the first cobbled section, the tension rose as riders battled for position, and crashes began to disrupt the peloton, as they would continue to do all day.
The breakaway group split over the first cobbled sector, with Masetti, Lutro and Erath staying out front. With the day dry and windy, dust rose visibly from the cobbles, swirling around the riders’ wheels as they took the gutters of the road. It was clear that Trek-Segafredo’s tactic was to take control of the race; Ellen van Dijk set a blistering place over the first few sections of cobbles, shattering the peloton behind her, and then Chloe Hosking took up the task. Suddenly, however, the randomness of Roubaix came into play; van Dijk, who had looked so strong, with riders barely able to keep her wheel, punctured, dropping back through the fractured groups she’d created.
Gradually, the remains of the breakaway were absorbed back into the leading group, until it was only Erath still up the road, making an impressive solo effort. SD Worx were leading, and weren’t pushing the pace too hard, until at Sector 13, with Erath caught, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak appeared at the front to make a sudden acceleration over the cobbles. This set things up for an attack from Lotte Kopecky, who, as they approached the five-star sector at Mons-en-Pévèle, distanced herself from the remnants of the peloton, followed by Marta Bastianelli (Team UAE ADQ) and Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo). It was Canyon-SRAM who did the work to keep this potentially dangerous group within touching distance, with Tiffany Cromwell on the front of the peloton, and Alice Barnes attempting an attack. Although it seemed briefly as if the leaders might stay out in front, by Templeuve, eight sectors from the end, they were caught.
With 33km to go, Elisa Longo Borghini made her decisive move. It was announced that her teammate, Elisa Balsamo, the world champion, had been disqualified for a sticky bottle as she attempted to rejoin the main group after a mechanical. Shortly afterwards, on the second set of cobbles at Templeuve, Longo Borghini attacked. A few riders tried to follow, but couldn’t stick with her; she was all calm, focused power.
With 25km to go, SD Worx started to put serious effort into catching Longo Borghini. Chantal van den Broek Blaak pushed so hard on the front of the remaining reduced group that she split it further – crucially, dropping her own teammate, Lotte Kopecky. At Bourghelles, the seventh sector from the end, Longo Borghini had only ten seconds; it seemed feasible that she could be caught. But, van den Broek-Blaak, waiting for Kopecky to rejoin, took the pressure out of the chase, and the gap quickly expanded again to thirty seconds. Kopecky made a last attempt to bridge across, opening up a gap, but the small group that followed her included van Dijk and Lucinda Brand, and they were always able to interfere.
As the kilometres ticked down, and the chasing group failed to make any inroads on Longo Borghini, her victory seemed more and more inevitable. She looked smoothly powerful, though she had to make a dramatic save on the corner of one cobbled section, keeping herself from crashing. Kopecky waited for van den Broek-Blaak to catch her group, and though van den Broek-Blaak immediately moved to the front, taking up the role of leading the chase yet again, it was increasingly fruitless. Kopecky said after the race that, at a certain point, they decided to race for second, bowing to Longo Borghini’s power – and also, perhaps, to the difficulty of chasing when her teammates were always there to take the pressure out of any attempt.
As Longo Borghini came into the velodrome, she had enough of a gap on the chasers that she could enjoy the moment, motioning to the crowd for more cheers in her final metres. Behind, they sprinted for second place, with Kopecky coming out on top after a lead-out from van den Broek-Blaak, and Lucinda Brand in third. After the congratulations from her team, Longo Borghini sat on the floor in the velodrome, head in her hands, processing what she’d just done.
It was second and eighth for SD Worx, with Lotte Kopecky winning the sprint for second place. Lucinda Brand rounded out the podium for Trek-Segafredo, meaning that in both editions of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, the team has taken both first and third. They had a third woman in the top ten with Ellen van Dijk in seventh place, after her intense early efforts on the cobbles, and an impressive chase back to the leading group after a puncture. Team DSM also had two riders in the top ten, with Floortje Mackaij and Pfeiffer Georgi.