• Dutch Chantal Blaak of Team SD Worx in recon ahead of the 2021 Paris-Roubaix. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
It’s nearing the first-ever women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix and everyone is getting excited to see the best cyclists in the world hitting the famous cobbles of northern France.
By
SBS Cycling Central

30 Sep - 11:54 AM  UPDATED 30 Sep - 11:59 AM

Watch the women's Paris-Roubaix on SBS VICELAND and SBS OnDemand from 2230 AEST for all the cobbled action from the one-day monument of cycling!

Riders, fans and teams are all bubbling with excitement ahead of the inaugural edition of the women’s Paris-Roubaix, with even predictions of wet and windy weather not dampening the spirits of participants.

The race has been on the cards for a long time now, with the race postponed three times already due to the coronavirus pandemic, from early 2020, late 2020, and early 2021, meaning that the riders have had plenty of opportunity to recon the race route and prepare mentally for the race.

Elizabeth Deignan (Trek-Segafredo)

Trek-Segafredo head into the race with a very strong squad, headed up by recently-crowned time-trial world champion Ellen van Dijk.

“Everyone wants to watch Paris-Roubaix,” said Deignan. “I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of that show. I’m excited about it, almost as a fan doing a race, it’s a bit weird.

“From a personal perspective, yes, we’ve had Amstel and Liège, and races like that were added to the calendar, but in terms of personal memories, in terms of sitting down to watch a bike race, I’ve sat down to watch more Roubaix than Lièges and Amstels.”

Deignan is a big race performer, having won the world championships, the Commonwealth Games and La Course in the past, and with this year’s Paris-Roubaix, the fact that she’s feeling the momentous occasion is significant. She sees the opportunity, not just for herself and her team, but for women’s cycling to capitalise on the opportunity.

“It’s been talked about more and more, and it’s been hyped up for so long now, we really need to deliver a good race, and I think it will be a spectacle,” said Deignan.

"I’m genuinely excited about this one. It’s such a fight to get into those cobble sections so obviously, it’s a little bit more dangerous than some of the races, but there’s no huge climb that I’m scared of getting dropped on, or whatever, it’s just gonna be such a fun race to be a part of.

"It’s huge and it means that from now on women’s cycling will be a part of cycling’s history. It has to start somewhere and I think in the last few years we’ve seen a huge amount of progression.

"Now we have this iconic and tough race, which is not normally associated, stereo-typically with women’s cycling – wrongly, obviously – but this is kind of the final step to prove that it's nonsense and irrelevant and that it’s just about bike racing."

Sarah Roy (Team BikeExchange)

Perhaps Australia’s best chance of taking a result away from this race is through the classics specialist Sarah Roy. She came back from a scaphoid fracture for a strong, but ultimately unrewarded ride at the world championships road race, and has had an extra week’s preparation in her legs since then.

“I fast-tracked the rehab of my broken wrist and we’re all amazed that it got through the 166km world championship road race,” said Roy. “I hoped for a better result at the worlds being a course suited to me but given the preparation, I think that’s what we could have expected. The training that I have done and racing the worlds I believe has been good preparation for Roubaix and I hope the legs will be good on the day.”

Roy is a believer in the pulling power of the ‘Hell of the North’, hoping that it attracts a broader audience to women’s racing as well as giving a personal chance at success in the type of race that suits her abilities.

“Paris-Roubaix is a monumental race, having a women’s Roubaix is a sign of a new era for women’s cycling,” said Roy. “My hope is that it attracts a lot of global attention, a lot of new fans, and inspires more females to ride bikes and go pro.

“I have been really motivated and excited for this race since the day it was announced. We have done some great preparation for it with a number of recons and equipment testing. I would absolutely love to win this race someday but being the first-ever edition we can’t really know what’s in store yet. Everybody knows anything can happen and no matter what, it’s going to be incredible.”

Chantal van den Broeck-Blaak (SD-Worx)

The former world champion talked about why this race is unlike no other on the women’s calendar, dismissing even the cobbled roads of the Tour of Flanders, which the women have raced since 2004.

“You can’t compare the cobbles in Roubaix with any other race,” said van der Broeck-Blaak. “I always take the example of Flanders, and in the Ronde, if you’re empty, you can always try to find a way out, but in Roubaix, it’s impossible.

“It’s flat and there is not much rest in between the sectors. And the cobbles are really hard, very bumpy. So when you’re empty, you really lose a lot of speed.”

Watch the women's Paris-Roubaix Femmes on SBS VICELAND and SBS OnDemand from 2230 AEST for all the cobbled action from the one-day monument of cycling!