Trek-Segafredo was out exploring the 17 cobbled sectors of the first ever women’s edition of the Paris Roubaix on Sunday, with Lizzie Deignan delivering the verdict that even though she was comfortable on the pavé the race was going to be one tough addition to the calendar.
The 32 year-old who topped the 2020 Women’s WorldTour rankings and teammates Elisa Longo Borghini, Ellen van Dijk, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Chloe Hosking and Trixi Worrack were on their initial reconnaissance in preparation for the inaugural edition of the 116 kilometre event on April 11.
“I imagined the worst possible cobbles in the world and I was pleasantly surprised,” said Deignan in a video posted on Twitter. “The biggest thing to take away from it for me was just that physically it was so difficult.”
The 118th edition of the men’s Paris Roubaix and first women’s edition was meant to occur in 2020, with the women’s event added to the calendar for October 25 after the Paris Roubaix was rescheduled from spring because of the initial season break as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However the rescheduled event in 2020 was also ultimately called off after case numbers again rose in the north of France.
The route for 2021 is yet to be confirmed but if it follows the same plan as announced in 2020 the pavé will begin after just 20 kilometres of racing at the Women’s WorldTour event. The 17 cobbled sectors along the way to the finish line on the famous Roubaix Velodrome include two rated at the maximum difficulty level – Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l’Arbre. The cobbles account for 29.5 kilometres of the race route, meaning a quarter of the action will take place on the famous stones of northern France.
“Skillfully I’m comfortable. I’m happy on the cobbles,” said Deignan, who referred to the Trek Domane she rode the route on as a ‘huge advantage’. “But physically it is going to be one of the most demanding races.”
“Physically it is more draining than I expected to ride on the cobbles for that long.”
The women’s racing in Europe started on Saturday with a taste of the cobbles at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium. The 1.Pro race – the second highest classification – was won by world champion Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) who took a solo victory in Ninove. Longo Borghini, in tenth, delivered Trek Segafredo’s top result after Deignan and van Dijk got caught on the wrong side of a split in the peloton.
This weekend the white gravel roads of Strade Bianche will mark the start of the Women’s WorldTour, which Deignan topped the rankings in last year, as did her team, Trek-Segafredo.