The first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift left the spectators in awe of Marianne Vos’ speed and lines over the muddy cobbles of the Hell of the North. It seemed like the “GOAT”, who had already conquered hundreds of victories on all sorts of terrains, had already tamed the mighty roads leading to the iconic vélodrome André-Pétrieux, but Lizzie Deignan had surged with an early and masterful attack and Vos finished 2nd. The Dutch star was naturally a favorite for the second edition, last year, but she had to withdraw when she returned a positive Covid test just hours before the race. Since then, she has conquered the Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and signed a new contract with Jumbo-Visma, until the end of 2025. At 35 years old, she faces a new challenge to further write history on the legendary roads of Roubaix.
What are your plans for this Spring?
For me, it’s actually a short period of racing. I returned to racing in the Trofeo Binda (20th), then I did Dwars door Vlaanderen (3rd) and the Ronde (15th), and now I have Paris-Roubaix and then Amstel Gold Race. These are totally different races, but I hope to do well. I’ve had some good training the last few weeks. Of course, racing is different but I’m happy to be back in the mix and I want to take it to the next races.
How important is Roubaix for you?
It’s of course a race that stands out in the calendar. When it was added to our calendar three years ago, as riders, we didn’t really know what to expect. You only know it from television, you know it’s going to be hard but it’s difficult to know what you’ll get in the race. The first edition was a rainy, slippery one. It felt really special to be part of that. I was sort of lucky in the race not to have too much trouble. And of course ending up with a good result, it was a nice first experience. There is no other classic like Paris-Roubaix. It’s definitely something special.
As a kid, you spent part of your holidays on the road, following the Tour de France. What was your experience with Paris-Roubaix?
I was just watching it on the television. But that’s the kind of race for which you sit down in front of the television and you follow the whole broadcast. And it was really nice when I did my first recon of Paris-Roubaix. I recognised quite a lot of the sectors, the race points, because I knew them from watching it on the television. So even with nobody around, it still felt like I was in the race because you know the images from the race itself. That’s what I really remember from the first time I was on the roads of Paris-Roubaix.
And what about the first time in the velodrome?
It was after a long recon with a massive headwind, so finally entering Roubaix was sort of a relief. I think that’s something you also experience in the race although there can also be tension for the result of course. But yes, after such a hard race, you enter this velodrome, which is such a special place in cycling. The building itself isn’t really special but it has such a memorable feeling that coming into this stadium is really nice.
Did you visit the showers?
Yes, yes! I also showered there after this recon.
In the first edition of Paris-Roubaix, you impressed with your speed and the lines you were taking in the sectors. Had you already mastered the cobbles of Roubaix?
No, not really [she laughs]. I think there was also a bit of luck involved. Of course, you need to be in the right position, then you need to know at what kind of speed you can take the cobbles. There were also some crashes just behind me that I couldn’t have avoided if I were behind. It was nice to make it to the finish in one piece. And Elizabeth Deignan had a fantastic attack from the first cobble zone already. It was going to be hard to catch her, but I wanted to give it a try and see how far I could get. I ended up somewhere in between but it was still nice to try and give it my best on the cobbles.
With your experience of the classics, how would you describe the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix?
Well, they’re hard… I have to say it helps when you have the right material, the right wheels, the right tyres, the right pressure, it all makes a big difference. Then, the position before the cobbles can be as important as the cobbles. You have to ride fast on the cobbles but you have to make them as comfortable for yourself as possible. You try to stay in the middle, or on the side, but mostly in the middle, and you try to just push the pedals but it’s hard. The end of every sector, when you get back onto the tarmac, it’s a relief, like: ‘I made this one’.
Last year, you had to withdraw at the last minute. Does it change your approach for 2023?
Not really. Of course, last year I was pretty sad to miss out on the race. I was really looking forward to it and that’s the same for this edition. Maybe I’m even more looking forward to it after missing out on the last edition. But the preparation is the same.
What kind of specific work do you do for Roubaix?
Of course we don’t only train the cobbles, so all the training I’ve been doing is also in preparation for Paris-Roubaix without adding too much cobbles. Doing Flemish classics helps to prepare, we also do some cobbles, even though they’re not the same, and positioning is also quite important in Flanders. It’s nice to have these races towards Paris-Roubaix. We’ll do a recon two days before the race, we’ll do part of the course to see it again. Most of the team has already done a recon but I had a slightly different preparation so I didn’t do it this year. But I did it last year and the year before. I think I know the course pretty well by now but of course it will be good to see it again on Thursday.
You know the course, you know yourself… What’s the ambition?
To try to do a good race. I guess you also need a little bit of luck. But I think with this kind of race all you can do is try to stay in front, try to keep the right position and then give your best. I hope to be there and play a role in the finale.
Born in ‘s-Hertogenbosch on May 13, 1987
Team: DSB Bank (2006-2009), Nederland Bloeit (2010-2011), Rabo Women (2012-2016), WM3 (2017), WaowDeals (2018), CCC-Liv (2019-2020), Jumbo-Visma (2021-2023)
Best results on the road:
Olympic Champion (2008)
World Champion (2006, 2012, 2013)
Winner of the World Cup (2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
Winner of the UCI Women’s WorldTour (2019)
Winner of the Flèche Wallonne (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013)
Winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (2013)
Winner of the Trofeo Alfredo Binda (2009, 2010, 2012, 2019)
Winner of the Giro d’Italia (2011, 2012, 2014)
2 stages of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (2022)