Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2022: Who will be crowned Queen of the Cobbles at Hell of the North?
With the defending champion Lizzie Deignan absent, a field stacked with talent and the forecast set fair, Paris-Roubaix has all the ingredients for an epic race. But those cobble sections can be brutally unforgiving even if the sun is shining, so it is no surprise that the experienced riders seem to be the favourites heading into Saturday. Who will secure cycling’s most iconic trophy?
‘I felt I was making history’ – Deignan on historic Paris-Roubaix win
Paris-Roubaix Femmes is back for its second edition this weekend, the women taking on the famously brutal cobble stones of northern France on Saturday as the race returns to its customary spring slot in the calendar.
Last year’s winner Lizzie Deignan is not returning to defend her trophy, sitting out the 2022 season as she is expecting her second child. That leaves the field relatively open but there are a few familiar faces on the starting list that are definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Marianna Vos is a legendary name that can never be ignored, the Dutchwoman having finished second in Gent-Wevelgem this season and seventh in Strade Bianche. She was the first to sense the danger last year when Deignan was pulling out a lead up front on her now infamous lone breakaway, and the Dutchwoman did everything she could to track the Brit down, in the end coming home just over a minute behind. She opted to miss last weekend's Amstel Gold Race despite being the defending champion, choosing instead to focus all her energy on Paris-Roubaix.
Vos’ main rivals could come from Trek-Segafredo. They have Elisa Balsamo in their line-up, ably supported by Chloe Hosking and Elisa Longo Borghini.
Balsamo is still in the rainbow jersey as she was in October, and will be hoping for a less eventful edition after crashing in the horrendous conditions last year. She did make the finish line, although later admitted that it had taken her a full week to recover.
Elisa Balsamo of Italy and Team Valcar - Travel & Service world Champion Jersey crashes in cobblestones sector during the 1st Paris-Roubaix 2021 - Women's Elite a 116,4km race from Denain to Roubaix
Image credit: Getty Images
With Trek-Segafredo knowing what it takes to win - Deignan usually rides for them - it will be interesting to see if they try and get riders into a breakaway, or bank on a large group making it to the velodrome together.
Speaking of, tactics could be quite different given the weather conditions are set fair for Saturday’s race. That’s a huge contrast to the inaugural event, when overnight rain left the cobblestones slick and greasy, left the riders splattered in mud, and left the would-be winner covered in blood.
If the forecast does deteriorate, watch out for Lotte Kopecky. She’s been in fine form his season, winning Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders, and growing up in Belgian is well aware of the terrain. She’s had very decent support from her Team SD Work cohorts so far this season, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be out in force for this one.
Deignan powers home for Paris-Roubaix victory
If bad luck befalls Kopecky, the team might look to Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, or Elena Cecchini, both of whom have shown glimpses of form already this season.
As for Movistar, Emma Norsgaard returns for another tilt, having finished sixth in October. She is leading the charge for the team, Annemiek van Vleuten opting to switch her focus to Fleche Wallonne.
With nine out of last year’s top 10 returning, and only Deignan missing, it is a stacked field and much could depend on those tactics. The British rider showed a lone breakaway can hold on, and the course is very similar to last year’s. There is still 29.2km of cobbled sections to negotiate, with three of those sections granted five star status.
'Extremement difficile' is the official description for those sections, and it is hard to argue with that. The riders might have the experience garnered from last season’s race, but as the men’s edition has shown, Paris-Roubaix is never straightforward.
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