Lizzie Deignan has ridden a brilliant solo race to win the inaugural women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix. Deignan won ahead of Marianne Vos and Elisa Longo Borghini, both of whom were key in last week’s Road World Championships.
In the race that has always been considered one of the monuments of the sport. Despite its 115 year history, Paris-Roubaix had never been raced by women until today.
Paris-Roubaix has also long been known by a different name, the ‘Hell of the North’. It earned the name for both the typical weather of the race, and its gruelling course. With 29km of cobbled roads, split up across 17 sections, the course is brutal.
This year was a wet race, with rain pouring down on the course for days before and during the race, kicking up mud and making the ancient cobbles even more slippery and difficult than normal.
The 118km race set of from Paris with 129 riders in the peloton, but just before the first section of cobbles, with 85km remaining, Lizzie Deignan attacked.
Her move would prove decisive, as the next time that any of the rest of the peloton would see her would be after the finish line.
Deignan quickly grew the gap, with over a minute of a buffer with 70km to go as she hit the third section of cobbles.
The conditions were starting to wreak havoc, as the bunches behind, chasing Deignan were savaged by crashes and rain, and were already dramatically reduced.
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As the television coverage came on with 51km to go, Deignan was well clear, with almost a two minute gap. She was calm and collected, ensuring her rhythm was strong as she hit the difficult parts of the course.
The cobbled sections became more treacherous and technical as the race wore on, with Deignan coming close to falling victim at a few stages.
As the race hit 20km to go, the Carrefour d’elle Arbre section of cobbles loomed. The most difficult and dangerous cobbled section of the course. It was there that Marianne Vos made her move.
Just a week after she finished second at the World Championshps, Vos attacked, attempting to catch Deignan. With a pedigree of 238 wins across her career, including seven World Cyclocross Championships, Vos had both the best chance of catching Deignan, and the best bike handling skills to attack on the cobbles.
Her attack devastated the group behind her, and Vos was left with just Elisa Longo Borghini in her wake, 15 seconds behind.
Despite Vos’ best efforts, Deignan continue to maintain her lead of 1:15, and with 5km to go, it was clear that Deignan would stay away.
Deignan entered the Roubaix velodrome, as the men who raced Paris-Roubaix have done for 115 years, and rode the lap and a half to the finish line.
She finally raised her arms and saluted, as the monumental achievement struck her. She was crowned the first female winner of Paris-Roubaix, with a race time of just under three hours.
Deignan, who has previously been both a world champion and an Olympic champion lifted the trophy above her head in a career highlight.
The men will race tomorrow, over a longer course, in what is expected to be an even more rain-effected race.
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