On Saturday, October 2, 2021 it was finally time. No less than 125 years after the first edition of Paris-Roubaix for men in 1896, the first edition of 'The hell of the North' for women now took place. A race that has been lobbied for by many riders. But also a day that was feared by many riders.
Around half past one, the peloton left in Denain for a race over 115.6 kilometers with almost 30 kilometers with cobblestones. Due to the rain of the past few days, the cobblestones were wet and muddy, making the race extra tough.
The eventual winner opted for an early attack on the first of the 17 cobblestone zones and rode no less than 81 kilometers solo. Lizzy Deignan-Armistead (TFS) thus won the first edition of Paris-Roubaix in a memorable way.
A small group tried for a long time to connect with Deignan-Armistead. Partly due to various crashes on the cobblestone sections and the division among the pursuers, it was not possible to set up a good collaboration in this group where Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Amy Pieters and Christine Majerus were present on behalf of Team SD Worx.
In the final Marianne Vos (TJV) and Elisa Longo-Borghini (TFS) managed to escape from this group after a crash in which Majerus fell hard and Van den Broek-Blaak was hindered.
Van den Broek-Blaak reached the finish line together with the chasing group and crossed the line in tenth place. All riders of the team managed to reach the finish safely.
Van den Broek-Blaak said after the finish at the Velodrome in Roubaix: "It was super tough, but what a cool race this is. I think everyone is completely empty. It was a really chaotic race, but we were sitting pretty comfortably in I did not expect Deignan's attack on the first cobblestone section, however. Super clever of her that she could stay ahead until the end with so much wind and such a tough course. Hats off."
It was a special day for Jolien D'hoore. She ended her career in the first edition of Paris-Roubaix. Unfortunately, the race did not go as she had hoped. She fell hard twice. "It was literally hell. We explored the course in dry weather, now the cobblestones were super slippery due to the rainfall. One brake and you crashed. That's Roubaix", an emotional D'hoore said after the finish.
"Mentally it was difficult to continue the race after that second crash," she continued. “But there was never a moment to give up. In my last race I didn't want to get in the broom wagon. I had only one goal left: ignore the pain and get to the finish. I could enjoy the last kilometers."
Photo credits: Tornanti