Preview: Paris Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift

Written by: ProCycling Women
Posted 3 weeks ago

On Saturday April 6th, we  will be treated to the 4th edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift, also known as the Hell of the North, covering a slightly modified 148.5 kilometer route. Despite the change, the cobble (Pavé) count remains consistent at 29.2 km, spread across 17 sections.

The minimal route changes aim to maintain the essence of the race. The removal of a risky section adds over three kilometers to the total distance. With the final stretch including challenging sections like Mons-en-Pévèle and Le Carrefour de l’Arbre, the Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift promises yet another thrilling edition of 148.5 kilometers in rough French terrain which is defined by a hard day on the cobbles.

As of all the previous editions, the race start in Denain, France and finishes in the iconic Roubaix Velodrome. It’s a test of endurance, skill, luck and determination. With changing weather conditions this years edition will definitely earn it’s name: Hell of the North.

The race was originally penned in the calendar for October 2020 but the inaugural edition was postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, on October 2, 2021, history was made as the women’s peloton raced the unforgiving pavés, adding a new chapter to the illustrious legacy of Paris-Roubaix.

Included into the WorldTour calendar by the UCI and race organizer ASO, Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift stands for progress for women’s cycling. Dating back to 1896, Paris-Roubaix has long been synonymous with the Spring Classics, and its extension to include women underscores a significant step forward in the sport’s evolution.

 

You can follow the race from the start at 13.35 CET right through to the expected finish around 17:30 CET with our live tracking and live updates in our Pro Cycling Women App on Android or iPhone!

 

 

 

What happened last year?

It was a chilly but dray morning in Denain when the peloton gathered for the 3d edition of Paris Roubaix Femmes aves Zwift. There was a lot of tension in the airt but when the riders presented them to the public, they had a sense of calmness over them. But that was about to change.  With 145 kilometers ahead of them, including 11 kilometers of challenging cobbled sections, they knew the would have a hard day in the saddle ahead of them.

In the early afternoon, Daniek Hengeveld of Team DSM breaks away from a large group at the front, leaving the peloton chasing her by three minutes. Marianne Vos of Jumbo Visma had to stop for a mechanical issue and finds herself chasing the peloton, which has split into three groups due to crashes. Despite her efforts, Vos struggles to bridge the gap to the leading group, but it did cost her a lot of energy.

Italian champion Elisa Balsamo of Trek Segafredo leads the peloton in the first part of the peloton as they speed up to close the gap to the breakaway thinning out the peloton. Then with only 40 kilometers left to go to Roubaix, Hengeveld was caught by a group of 13 riders, including Alison Jackson, Marthe Truyen, Katia Raguso and Marta Lach and Eugenie Duval. Behind them, a thinned out peloton with favorites for the win chasing them down while the speed of that group is high and soon the prediction is that the leading group will be caught.

But with 35 kilometers remaining chaos as a big crash in this chasing second group having all the favorites on the ground, except for one fortunate rider, Romy Kasper. While some riders quickly get back on their bikes and join the chase again, others like Elisa Balsamo and Lotte Kopecky fight hard to regain lost ground.

As the two groups near each other again, Pfeiffer Georgi accelerates in the second group, attempting to bridge the gap to the front. Meanwhile, Allison Jackson urges her fellow riders to work together as they approach the velodrome. She knew something beautiful might happen. Georgi didn’t make it to the front and multiple attacks from the chasing group trying to get the speed up failed and so the leading group battles it out for the win at the Roubaix Velodrome.

Marta Lach is the first one who is picking up pace, with Alison Jackson launching a decisive sprint in the final corner to claim victory at Paris-Roubaix. Katia Raguso takes second place, narrowly ahead of Marthe Truyen.

The Parcours

The race starts in Denain. A Small French town just south of the Belgium/French border north of Cambrais. After a 4km neutral ride the peloton does another loop around the town to warm up before it heads on NorthWest towards Roubaix. Here they will encounter 17 sections of Pavé, cobbled sections, a total of 29,2km.

Unfortunately, the riders will not ride the iconic Trouée d’Arenberg. The organization deemed this section too close to the start and they don’t want to start the race with a 5-star section so early in the race.

The rout has changed slightly compared to the previous edition making it now 148,5 kilometers in length, compared to the 145 kilometer last year.

The first cobbled section that the riders have to conquer is also the longest one of the day, the 4 start section Hornain à Wandignies , 42km into the race. This section is 3.7km long and it gives the perfect opportunity to split the peloton into groups or even to form a break away. Just ask Lizzie Deignan, who hit this sector as a first rider to protect her leaders but ended the section with a 30 second lead, ending up winning it!

Now that the riders are warmed up and had the feel of the first cobbled section, the cobbles section arrive more frequent. The peloton awaits Warlain à Brillon, Tilloy à Sars et Rosières and Beuvrey la Forét à Orchies, Orchies and Auchey lez Orchis à Bersée, but we don’t forsee a lot of problems there. When there is no break yet, we expect a break to form at Mons en Pévèle, a 5-star section that always proved to be a challenging one. Although looking at Italian Champion and winner of the 2022 edition Elisa Longo Borghini riders might want to reproduce her attack on the section of Templeuve, where she cleared from the peloton. Now 6 other sections will follow before Camphin en Pévelè, 4-stars and then the most cruelling one, Carrefour l’Arbre, the 5-star section that always proved to be a decisive sector.

This is the section where last year the chasing group of favorites hit the cobbles falling over each other, leaving the leading group a significant lead. The three section that comes after the Carrefour l’Arbre won’t be as of affective before they enter the crowd filled Velodrome of Roubaix where they ride one full lap before one of the riders will be crowned winner and given the Cobblestone Award.

The contendors

Lotte Kopecky

The Belgian World Champion from SD Worx-Protime is a always a top contender for Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift. Sdworx-Protime never won the race before but they are keen on adding it to the team’s impressive win list. They do miss a key rider in the name of Marlen Reusser, who underwent surgery on her broken jaw and teethe earlier this week, due to a crash early in the race of Vlaanderen. Kopecky’s personal season is also an impressive one so far, with wins at UAE Tour, Strade Bianche, and Nokere Koerse, but her slip at de Ronde van Vlaanderen makes her even hungrier to ride for the win. Kopecky has a solid track record at Paris-Roubaix, coming second in 2022 and seventh in 2023.

Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos possesses the ideal skills for Paris-Roubaix, with exceptional bike handling and a powerful sprint. Recent victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen showcase her top form. Despite finishing second in 2021 and battling COVID-19 in 2022, but her solid performance at de Ronde van Vlaanderen Vos remains a strong contender.

Pfeiffer Georgi

The British rider from DSM-Firmenich PostNL has been consistent in previous Paris-Roubaix editions. Despite some challenges at this year’s Tour of Flanders, Georgi’s determination is evident after finishing ninth in 2022 and eighth in 2023. Last year she proved to be fresh in the finale to place attacks. Although not the all-time high favorite for the race, the British Champion has a strong team around her that help her in her goal to be on the highest spot on the podium in Roubaix.

Alison Jackson

EF Education-Cannondale rider Jackson made history by winning Paris-Roubaix Femmes in 2023, becoming the first Canadian to do so. She aims to defend her title. She will be the dark horse for this race.

Elisa Longo Borghini will not be racing Paris Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift and is sacrificing the Hell of the North race to focus on the Ardennes classic race.

The Weather

The weather conditions are one of the key factors for Paris Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift. All eyes are turned to the weather channels. It looks to be great day without any rain! Although some showers are predicted the days before the race, we won’t expect dusty roads, but cobbles will be slippery and wet. That means Forecasts show a partly sunny day with temperatures can reach 20 degrees Celcius at the start in Denain and up to 24 degrees Celcius in Roubaix! Although the rain might not be a factor the wind might be a player this Saturday. Winds blow at 20-28km/h but have gusts up to 60km/h!

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