The second ever edition of Paris Roubaix Femmes takes place on 16th April 2022, less than six months after the first edition.
While the men’s race is one of the oldest on the cycling calendar, even older than the Tour de France itself, women had to wait 117 years to be granted their own edition.
Following repeated postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the inaugural women’s Hell of the North was an historic moment for women’s cycling. The race was won by Elizabeth Deignan of Trek Segafredo after she soloed to victory, attacking from the front of the peloton before the cobbled sectors had even begun.
The first edition of the race covered 115.6km from Denain to Roubaix on a mainly flat parcours, and featured 17 cobbled sectors. It began with three laps of a circuit around Denain, before heading for the cobbles after 33km. In 2022, the only change to the route is an additional lap of the Denain circuit, taking the total race length to 124.7km. The first cobbled sector comes just after the 40km mark.
2022 Paris-Roubaix Femmes Route
While the women’s route does not take in the infamous Trouee d’Arenberg (Arenberg Forest), it does tackle a number of other legendary cobbled sectors, including the bone-shaking Carrefour-de-l’Arbre and Mons-en-Pévèle, both rated 5 out of 5 stars in difficulty. The cobbled sectors add up to a total of 29.2km, over a quarter of the total distance raced.
The race ends with the traditional lap around the André Pétrieux velodrome in Roubaix. Last year the smiles on the women’s faces as they entered the stadium spoke to the significance of the moment for each and every one of them, and the etching of the second women’s name in the iconic showers at the velodrome will be the culmination of what promises to be another unforgettable day for the women’s peloton.
This year’s edition is likely to see a different style of racing than in 2021. The women’s peloton has increased its strength in depth across the board, and with the majority of riders having raced the route less than six months’ previously, the riders have more awareness of the challenges in store for them. This could lead to a more defensive race, and it’s likely that any early moves will be heavily marked by the bigger teams.
Ellen van Dijk at the 2021 Paris-Roubaix Femmes (Photo: Peter Stuart)
2021 champion Lizzie Deignan will not defend her title. She recently announced her second pregnancy and a break from the sport in 2022. Her team, Trek Segafredo, will still be keen to retain the Roubaix crown though. They secured two of the three podium spots in 2021 and 3rd placed Elisa Longho Borghini could well lead the team into the race. Olympic time trial champion Ellen van Dijk could also represent a good option for the team as could Lucinda Brand.
SD-Worx have choices too. New signing Lotte Kopecky will be one of the pre-race favourites. The Belgian champion’s background in cyclocross makes her one of the riders most suited to the mixed surface and it will be up to the teams of the other contenders to keep her in check. Christine Majerus and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak could both go for long-range attacks, and if they are able to control the race and contain stronger riders, the team have the luxury of options in the later stages of the race.
Emma Norsgaard at the 2021 Paris-Roubaix Femmes (Photo: Peter Stuart)
Movistar’s leader for the race is likely to be Emma Norsgaard. Annemiek van Vleuten crashed heavily in the 2021 edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, fracturing her pelvis. The race isn’t a great fit for van Vleuten’s skillset and the Dutch rider will miss the race in 2022. This gives Norsgaard full responsibility for Movistar at Paris-Roubaix – the Danish rider impressed last season and has already won her first one-day race of this season at Le Samyn Des Dames.
Team Jumbo Visma will bring last year’s runner-up Marianne Vos into the race as another favourite. A strong all-round rider and the current cyclocross World Champion, Vos is comfortable on the cobblestones and will be hungry to add Paris-Roubaix to her impressive palmares. She’ll be supported by a strong team including Coryn Labecki , who herself could represent a challenge from a reduced bunch sprint.Elisa Balsamo at the 2021 Paris-Roubaix Femmes (Photo: Peter Stuart)
Further attacking threats could come from FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope’s Grace Brown, Canyon//SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma, and UAE Team ADQ’s Marta Bastianelli. However, if the racing is defensive and the bunch manages to stay together, the most likely winners of a sprint finish would be Team DSM’s Lorena Wiebes or Trek Segafredo’s World Champion Elisa Balsamo. Lisa Brennauer of Ceratizit-WNT also finished in 4th place in this race last year so should not be counted out.
Having come second in 2021, Marianne Vos will not want to miss out on her opportunity to win the most coveted one-day prize in women’s cycling in 2022. Her superior bike handling skills and experienced head will stand her in good stead and we think she will lift the storied cobble above her head on the top step of the podium this year.
Cover image: Peter Stuart