Paris-Roubaix Femmes: Did the inaugural edition live up to the enthusiasm, and what follow-up for the race?


We only had to wait 118 years.

The first Paris-Roubaix Femmes got off to a flying start on Saturday with Lizzie Deignan opening the race count with a solo victory of 82 km, jumping to the front of the peloton on the first section of cobblestones.

Read also : Lizzie Deignan’s unstoppable solos make history at Paris-Roubaix Women

Paris-Roubaix has often seemed to be the domain of cycling’s “tough men” forever, but eventually the “tough women” were allowed to show their mettle on the rough. pave from northern France.

Now that the mud has dried and dust has settled on the opening of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, did she live up to expectations, how will she remember it, what will her place be? in the history of cycling, and what needs work?

Let’s dive in.

Did it meet expectations?

The riders of Paris-Roubaix Femmes had to face difficult conditions (Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Yes, and then some.

The inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes delivered a lot of action, excesses, dramas and upheavals. The only major disappointment was the fact that we couldn’t see the peloton hitting the first cobblestone sector, after coverage was limited to the last 60 kilometers, which ultimately meant the winning move couldn’t be watched by no one other than those stationed. on the paved area.

Nonetheless, what we saw was quite an epic fit for the occasion which was only added by rain and mud.

Read also : Thrills and thrills at Paris-Roubaix Women: less than half of the finish and 44 times missed

While it would have been nice to see a little tighter competition for victory, Lizzie Deignan’s solo race was a huge effort worthy of her gritty surroundings. His lead has never been greater, but in conditions where avoiding others was just as difficult as staying on his bike, his lonely ride up front proved to be the better choice.

Marianne Vos’s ultimate effort to bring Deignan back added some late drama to the proceedings but – even for the great Vos – the gap was too big to close.

The riders put on a fantastic show during the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes and we just have to wait six months before the second edition.

How will we remember it?

Rain and mud meant many runners came down
Rain and mud meant many runners came down (Photo: Bas Czerwinski / Getty Images)

Mud, mostly.

When we look at the pictures in twenty years or so, it will be the mud-stained faces that stand out. If Paris-Roubaix has its own myth in the world of cycling, a wet Roubaix is ​​quite another thing.

Marianne Vos summed it up very well by saying: “I think maybe it should have been like that, that the first edition was like that with these conditions with the mud and the rain. It even made it more epic.

Read also : Marianne Vos: The rain and the mud made the first Paris-Roubaix Women “even more epic”

As the smallest details of the day fade into memory, another aspect of the race will remain etched in the history books and in the minds of those who watched it: Lizzie’s Day Race. Deignan. She wasn’t meant to be the leader of Trek-Segafredo, but a fortuitous split allowed her to gain the advantage and she would not be seen by the others until they reached the velodrome.

As if her race wasn’t dangling enough, she did the whole race without gloves.

What is its place in history?

A historic trophy for the women's peloton
A historic trophy for the women’s peloton (Photo: Bas Czerwinski / Getty Images)

There is no doubt that the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes was a historic moment for cycling. Until Saturday, the peloton had never ridden anything like this before and the riders cycled into the unknown as they exited the town of Denain in northern France shortly after 1:30 p.m.

Not so long ago, organizer ASO declared that there was no appetite for a female Paris-Roubaix. Whether or not that was true at the time, there was certainly a desire for it when it was first announced in 2020 and even more so after another year of waiting.

Read also : Lizzie Deignan on the triumph of Paris-Roubaix Femmes: “We are part of history now, there is no going back”

The very first Paris-Roubaix Women is not a turning point for women’s cycling, to say that would be to forget everything that has happened in the last ten years. It is a sign of the enormous momentum that the female side of sport has taken and it is another important step on the road to parity, in all its aspects, with men.

Ten years ago, the idea of ​​the powerful ASO to create a Paris-Roubaix for women would have seemed unimaginable. However, he now hosts this in addition to creating a Liège-Bastogne-Liège Women and there is a Tour de France Women just around the corner.

Meanwhile, the peloton is becoming more professional and companies are knocking on the door of the UCI to register for the WorldTour. A Paris-Roubaix Femmes is a sign of the progress made for the women’s peloton.

What needs work?

Less TV coverage meant fans missed Lizzie Deignan's big attack
Less TV coverage meant fans missed Lizzie Deignan’s big attack (Photo: Bas Czerwinski / Getty Images)

As is often the case with new releases, there are always some glitches and glitches that need to be fixed for the second time.

First and foremost, live television images. Maybe we should be thankful for everything as ASO must have been reluctantly forced to give live coverage of their other women’s races just a few years ago.

However, it would have been a fantastic showcase for the race if the television footage had started at least when the riders were first expected on the cobbles. The main action was always going to take place on the cobblestones and not showing the first sectors was a short-sighted gesture on the part of the organizer.

Best cash prize. In the big debate over what is needed to further promote women’s cycling, the cash prizes are slightly lower than TV coverage. However, it looks like a kick in the teeth when you see Deignan only received € 1,535 compared to Sonny Colbrelli’s € 30,000 for winning the men. The overall prize pool for the women was only € 7,005 while the men had € 91,000 divided between them.

Read also : Here’s what Marianne Vos and Elisa Longo Borghini said after Lizzie Deignan left with Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Of course, it will take time to reach the same amounts for men and women, but such a big disparity is just not difficult for ASO.

The last of the big improvements needed to return to racing in six months is better timing. It looks like next year’s men’s and women’s races will take place on the same day. Hopefully ASO will organize a common team presentation for all the teams so as not to divide the loyalty of the fans. It is hoped that they also don’t start the women’s race so obnoxiously early that they will be forced to eat plates of pasta at 5:30 a.m.

If they ever held it separately, the need to plan better by hosting the men’s team presentation during the women’s race ensured that some would have to choose between which race they wanted to support, from the fans to the media.

There were other little things that sometimes made the race feel like it was flying by the seat of its pants. Large queues formed in the media accreditation area before the race, as it seemed that the organizer was surprised at the number of people who wanted to cover the race, while finding the WIFI password for the race. media center was as difficult as figuring out what was at the start of the race.

These are simple fixes that should hopefully be ironed out as the race finds its way onto the calendar.

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