Paris – Roubaix Femmes Avec Zwift will mark its third edition on Saturday, April 8th. Often described as the Queen of the Classics or Hell of the North, it is one of the most famous races after the Tour de France. Many times, the champion must obtain an equal amount of good luck in addition to being on top form, hoping to escape the many mechanicals that threaten them through the famous cobbled sections.
The Hell of the North name originally referenced World War I, but has since come to refer to the inclement weather that often takes place. When the rain pours down, the rugged cobbled stones that line the narrow farm roads turn into ice patches in a pool of mud as riders fight desperately to remain upright. Even when the sun remains shining, the dust kicks up in clouds as the riders grip their bikes bouncing beneath them. Riders have often complained of numbness in their hands and arms from the continuous vibration.
The third edition of Paris-Roubaix avec Zwift will be lengthened this year to 145.4km, roughly 20km longer than the 124.7km in 2022. The change will take place at the beginning of the course before the women merge onto the men’s course, tackling the same succession of 17 cobbled sections that total 29.2km. Though the changes take place sending the field for two loops at the start, fighting the winds on these roads may sap the energy needed for the last kick in the velodrome.
The first cobbled sector to greet the women will be in Hornaing. The remaining sectors take place within the next 82.4km before the race enters the famed Roubaix Velodrome for the final laps before celebrating the 2023 champion.
In the last two editions, the Mons-en-Pévèle (at 96.9km) and the Carrefour de l’Arbre (at 128.3km) have been where the decisive moves have taken place. Lizzie Deignan (2021) and Elisa Longo-Borghini (2022) had escaped off the front by this point, going on to solo victories in the velodrome. Time will tell if the field will change tactics this time around, fighting in a track sprint for victory.
Riders to Watch
Trek-Segafredo has won the first two editions of the race, with Lizzie Deignan, and Elisa Longo-Borghini defending the title for the team last year. Deignan is out this season after welcoming her second child this spring. The team has yet to release their roster for the Hell of the North. After finishing third last season, Lucinda Brand confirmed in an interview with the race organization, she would be leading the team in Roubaix. The squad will have to contend with SD Worx as their main rivals, alongside the yellow and black jerseys of Jumbo Visma with Marianne Vos.
SD Worx has been on a winning streak, notching victories at Dwars door Vlaaderen, Gent Wevelgem, Strade Bianche, and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Demi Vollering, Lotte Kopecky, and Lorena Wiebes have each earned two victories so far this season, with Marlen Reusser winning Gent-Wevelgem. Wiebes hit the tarmac hard at Gent-Wevelgem, crashing not far from the finish. At the time of publication, the team has yet to announce any updates whether she will be racing. Still, SD Worx have proven they have a stacked squad with several cards to play, heading to the start as heavy favorites for the win.
Marianne Vos is expected to line up, though Team Jumbo Visma has yet to confirm her participation. Vos had finished second in 2021, but just before the start last year had tested positive for Covid and was forced to skip the race. The multi-time World Road Champion continues to find her form after an early season surgery to correct an iliac artery constriction. Her compatriot, Annemiek Van Vleuten of Movistar Team, will skip the race as she has traditionally done in the past two seasons. The 2x World Champion will focus instead on the elusive Amstel Gold victory, following Tour des Flanders.
Other riders to keep an eye on include Marta Cavalli racing for FDJ-Suez. The Italian has finished twice in the top ten. If she should find herself dealing with bad luck on the day, her teammate Grace Brown will be another option for the team. Brown had a strong start to her season winning the Santos Tour Down Under in January but has had a tough Classics season thus far. Pfeiffer Georgi of Team DSM was 9th last year, arriving on form in Roubaix after winning Brugge-De Panne only weeks ago.
‘Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage:
Australia – SBS
Belgium – RTBF, VRT
Canada – FloBikes
Colombia – Señal Colombia
Denmark – DKTV2
Europe – Eurosport
France – France 3
Italy – RAI
Japan – J Sports
Latin America – ESPN International
New Zealand – Sky Sport
Norway – TV2
Netherlands – NOS
United States – SSC, NBC, Peacock
Spain – RTVE
Sub-Saharan Africa – SuperSport
South East Asia – Eurosport, GCN
When: Saturday, 8 April
Where: Roubaix, France
What: 1-day Spring Classic
Riders to Watch:
Lucinda Brand ****
Marianne Vos ****
Pfeiffer Georgi ***
Marta Bastianelli **
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By Rebecca Reza