Saturday 2 October will be a big day in the history of women's cycling. In Denain is the start of the first edition of Paris Roubaix Femmes.
At 13:35 the peloton begins at their race over 116.5 kilometers. The women are presented with no fewer than seventeen well-known cobblestone zones, a total of about 29.5 kilometers, including infamous sections such as Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l'Arbre.
17. Hornaing à Wandignies (still 82.5 km) 3,700m – ****
16. Warlaing à Brillon (75 km to go) 2,400m – ***
15. Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosières (still 71.5 km) 2,400m – ****
14. Beuvry à Orchies (65.2 km to go) 1,400m – ***
13. Orchies (still 60.2 km) 1,700m – ***
12. Auchy à Bersée (still 54.1 km) 2,700m – ****
11. Mons-en-Pévèle (48.6 km remaining) 3,000m – *****
10. Mérignies à Avelin (42.6 km remaining) 700m – **
9. Pont-Thibault à Ennevelin (still 39.2 km) 1,400m – ***
8. Templeuve (L'Épinette) (33.8 km away) 200m – *
8. Templeuve (Moulin-de-Vertain) (33.3km to go) 500m – **
7. Cysoing à Bourghelles (26.9 km remaining) 1,300m – ***
6. Bourghelles à Wannehain (24.4 km to go) 1,100m – ***
5. Camphin-en-Pévèle (19.9 km to go) 1,800m – ****
4. Carrefour de l'Arbre (17.2 km) 2,100m – *****
3. Gruson (14.9km to go) 1,100m – **
2. Willems à Hem (still 8.2 km) 1,400m – ***
1. Roubaix (Espace Charles Crupelandt) (1.4 km left) 300m – *
Last Wednesday, Team SD Worx explored the entire course. Our new team leader Lars Boom was also present. As an active cyclist, Boom was a specialist at the cobblestones. He started nine times in this race. His best result was a 4th place in 2015. A year earlier he won the Tour de France stage over the cobblestones of 'Le Nord'.
Boom joined the riders of Team SD Worx at the course. “You can give a lot of tips from the bike,” says Boom. “How to ride corners on the cobblestones. Which gears you can use the best at cobblestones and the positioning towards certain sections. I notice that some riders are nervous for this new classic, but you also notice that they are really looking forward to this challenge.”
On behalf of Team SD Worx, the following riders will start: Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Elena Cecchini, Jolien D'hoore, Christine Majerus, Amy Pieters & Lonneke Unneken.
This day will be extra special for D'hoore, because it is her last race as a professional cyclist. “It has always been a dream for me to ride this prestigious classic. I can well remember watching on television how Johan Museeuw and Tom Boonen managed to win this race. Even then I hoped that we as women would also be at the start of Paris-Roubaix one day."
What are her ambitions? "That's hard to say. In our team we can ride the final with six people. Then it depends on bad luck and we have to wait and see the course. We can't predict that, because it's our first time."
"For myself, I hope for a small group on the track," continues D'hoore, who raced at the madison on the track during the Tokyo Olympics. "Yes, the finish at the Velodrome of Roubaix is a nice one. However, the track is quite long and that will be disappointing after such a tough race."
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak is regarded by many connoisseurs as one of the top favorites. In the past she has already won classics with cobblestones such as the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. "I know that it is a race that should suit me normally. Although these cobblestones are completely different than in Flanders. There are many gaps between the cobblestones. There is no tarmac beside the cobbles at many places and they are almost never really flat.”
Van den Broek-Blaak is curious how the competition will develop. “We have seen in the men races in recent years that it is a race where anything can happen. You can win from an early break. You can be in the best position and lose everything because of a flat tire or crash. I am looking forward to it enthusiastically but also tensely.”
Photo credits: Raymond Kerckhoffs