Following the postponement earlier this year, Paris-Roubaix Femmes was moved to Saturday the 2nd of October. It's set to be a historic day in women's cycling, so cancel any plans and prepare to soak up what is going to be a fascinating inaugural edition of the race.
Much to the relief of many women's cycling fans who might have been cautious to get too excited when the inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes was originally announced, ASO have created an exciting and difficult route. We can expect 17 sectors of cobbles within the 116km race, including five-star sectors such as the Carrefour de l'Arbre.
The race begins with three laps of a circuit in Denain. The first 30km is pretty much the only time that the women's peloton won't be hitting cobbled sectors as, unlike in the men's race, the first sector comes after just 33km. From then on, there is barely 5km in between each of the labelled cobbled sections all the way to the finish in Roubaix velodrome.
It will be arguably more challenging than any one-day race the women’s peloton has faced this season. Since we have not yet seen a race that presents this calibre of cobbled terrain, the favourites are a little harder to call.
Route for Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2021
SD Worx were dominant in the early season Classics. Their strength is certainly in numbers: they are able to populate the front of the race when it really matters, so much so that they have options when it comes to deciding who will be their designated leader. Riders like Amy Pieters or Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (winner of Dwars door het Hageland) can go for long-range attacks but should we see a small group come into the Roubaix velodrome, riders with a track background like Jolien d’Hoore could challenge in a fast sprint.Chantal Van Den Broek-Blaak during Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2021 (Image: Bas Czerwinski/Getty)
The technical demands of a race like Roubaix could also lend itself to some of the cyclo-cross specialists. For team Jumbo Visma, Marianne Vos is very well suited to the Hell of the North. Supported by the likes of Anna Henderson and Jip van den Bos who have both shown their skills in cobbled races such as Le Samyn, the former multiple world champion will be out to ruffle the feathers of SD Worx.
Trek Segafredo will also bring a strong line-up, including the dynamic duo of Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini, who showed incredible tactical prowess in races late last year. Twice winner of Dwars door Vlannderen and World ITT Champion Ellen van Dijk will also be an asset on the cobbles to this team, be it in a supporting or leadership role.Lotte Kopecky (Image: Getty)
Double Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky has proved her ability to consistently produce results and with a fast finish: she isn’t someone you want to take with you to the velodrome. Perhaps the only thing that will hamper Kopecky’s campaign is her team’s smaller presence. While she will likely have the support of Alison Jackson at the end, she is going to have to ride smart if she finds herself isolated in a group, outnumbered by the likes of SD Worx.
The revelation of the early season classics, Emma Norsgaard of Movistar will be able to take a lot of confidence going into Roubaix. The team’s signing of Annemiek van Vlueten made headlines, but Norsgaard’s second places in both Omloop and Le Samyn have put her firmly in contention for a leadership role moving into Paris-Roubaix. Roubaix is perhaps not a course best suited to van Vlueten’s strengths, but with her palmares, we can certainly never count her out.Emma Norsgaard of Movistar with her teammates (Image: Getty)
Team DSM will be looking to improve on a fairly lacklustre Classics campaign earlier this season. If she can make it, the finish is perfectly suited to their sprinter Lorena Wiebes and she'll have a strong lead out with the likes of Susanne Andersen and Floortje Mackaij ahead of her.
As an outside bet, Marlen Reusser of Ale BTC Ljubljana is certainly suited to the hard and arduous nature of the Paris-Roubaix course. Newly crowned World Champion Elisa Balsamo has proved her incredibly fast finish and shown that she can make it over very difficult terrain. She will carry confidence wearing the rainbow jersey for the first time and this could be a huge asset on the cobbles to Roubaix. Hannah Barnes of Canyon SRAM Racing can also produce a good sprint from a reduced bunch as can Charlotte Kool of NXTG Racing.
The openness and unpredictability of this race is what makes it such an exciting proposition and a welcome addition to the Women’s WorldTour calendar.