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It’s almost time. Saturday, October 2, Team Jumbo-Visma Women, with Marianne Vos as their absolute leader, will start the first edition of Paris-Roubaix for women. With a final almost identical to that of the men, it promises to be a historic race.
The women’s edition of the ‘Hell of the North’ starts in Denain and finishes on the famous Vélodrome in Roubaix. During this premiere, the ladies will face no less than seventeen cobbled sections. In the deeper final they will have to put in a significant effort, just like the men, on iconic strips like Carrefour de l’Arbre and Mons-en-Pévèle.
"It’s going to be a battlefield."
The possibility that the riders will be treated to a mud fest is undoubtedly there. The first edition seems to be a wet one, given the latest weather forecasts. “It’s going to be tough in terms of conditions. It was nice during the reconnaissance when the strips were still reasonably dry. We don’t know exactly how much it will rain on Saturday or if the course will be dry. In any case, it will be more difficult than during the reconnaissance. The course will make it tougher anyway. It will be a struggle from the start to get a good position for the cobbles. Then you know it’s going to be a battlefield.”
Experience from cyclocross is an advantage on a wet course, according to Vos. “We have scouted the course well, and it is very challenging. Experience from cyclocross can be an advantage because you feel more at ease when it’s wet or slippery. On the other hand, it’s still a very tough race, and you still need a big bike and a lot of power.”
Either way, this first hell classic for women will be a memorable moment, according to Vos. “When you have done the reconnaissance and you enter Roubaix you feel ‘okay, we are almost there’. The moment you turn onto the track, with all that cycling history, is so beautiful, almost magical. Of course you hope to be able to ride onto that track on Saturday. There will be moments of enjoyment, and there will also be moments of sheer agony. But I hope that at least after the finish, we can enjoy a very nice race.”
Jip van den Bos