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10 riders to watch at Paris-Roubaix Femmes

The Paris-Roubaix Femmes favourites
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Paris-Roubaix Femmes is only in its second edition but it has already proven to bring the absolute best riders in the peloton to the podium. 

Last year Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) soloed to victory in an epic, mud-splattered October edition in 2021 ahead of Marianne Vos and Elisa Longo Borghini.

This year, Deignan is out on maternity leave and Vos, who heads our riders to watch,  has now become a last minute withdrawal due to COVID-19. Plus the Paris-Roubaix Femmes cobbles are reportedly dry and so in much better condition than usual given that only six months have passed since the mud was cleared from the cobbled farm roads. That will make for quite a different race to 2021's pandemic-postponed edition but any Paris-Roubaix is bound to be selective.

The organisers have chosen again not to subject the women to the Trouée de Arenberg but have added another opening lap to extend the race to 125 kilometres, up nearly 10km from the inaugural race. The addition gives the women more time to prepare for the first sector of pavé with 82.5km to go.

Deignan made her winning move on that first 3700-metre sector from Hornaing to Wandignies last year but it is a feat unlikely to be repeated this season. Who will emerge victorious on the banks of the famed Roubaix velodrome? 

Cyclingnews picked ten riders to watch.

All the details in our Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2022 - Preview and follow along with Cyclingnews live coverage on Saturday.

Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma)

Marianne Vos

Marianne Vos (Image credit: Getty Images)

Widely regarded as the greatest bike racer in history, Marianne Vos has amassed well over 200 victories in her career on the road in addition to a slew of major results in other disciplines.

Vos has everything: natural talent, an insatiable appetite for winning, incredible bike-handling skills, a calm demeanour and the confidence that comes with having won just about every type of race.

The 34-year-old reclaimed her former dominance in cyclo-cross in the off-season, winning the world title. She was out-sprinted at Gent-Wevelgem by road world champion Elisa Balsamo and so was expected to be doing everything possible so that she won't suffer that type of disappointment again at Paris-Roubaix.

Though, COVID-19 turned out to be something she couldn't control and just hours before the start of the race the news came out that she would have to withdraw, making it an even more open race with  the top two riders of last year not in the peloton. 

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)

Lotte Kopecky

Lotte Kopecky (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Kopecky was one of the main favourites for Paris-Roubaix in 2021 but the Belgian champion suffered a puncture on the Auchy to Bersée sector and, holding her hand up to indicate her troubles to the team car behind, lost control and skittered across the pavé sparking a crash. She finished 15th.

Now with the powerful SD Worx team after leaving Liv Racing, Kopecky has proven her talents with a pair of brilliant wins - first in Strade Bianche and then in the Tour of Flanders - and as a result, has chalked her name up near the top of the favourites list.

Like Vos, Kopecky is multi-talented having won world titles on the track and dabbled in cyclo-cross. Last fall, she won the gold medal in the points race at the UCI Track World Championships in the indoor Stab Velodrome just metres away from where Paris-Roubaix will finish and she will be highly motivated to stand atop the podium again on Saturday - this time hoisting the cobblestone trophy.

Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo)

Ellen van Dijk

Ellen van Dijk (Image credit: Getty Images)

Last season, Deignan was the Trek-Segafredo team's third leader for Paris-Roubaix and she said after the race that her attack "definitely wasn't in the plan". The team would have been working for Van Dijk but she first punctured and then, attacking together with Elisa Longo Borghini to chase Vos for the final podium spot, Van Dijk crashed hard and was out of the race with a concussion.

This season, Van Dijk has an equally strong team with plenty of cards to play should she run into more bad luck. Van Dijk is the reigning time trial world champion and European road champion and a proven quantity in cobbled races. She won the Tour of Flanders in 2014 and is a two-time winner of Dwars door Vlaanderen.

If the stars align, look for Van Dijk to be at the pointy end of the race and powering across the pavé.

Emma Norsgaard (Movistar)

Emma Norsgaard

Emma Norsgaard (Image credit: Getty Images)

Just 22 years old, Emma Norsgaard is in her second year with Movistar and has already established herself as one of the top sprinters in the peloton and as a powerful force in one-day races.

In the first five races of the season, Norsgaard was never outside the top 10, winning Le Samyn and coming second at Omloop van het Hageland. Since the cobbles don't suit her star teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, Norsgaard will be the team's leader and aiming to improve upon last year's fine sixth place finish in Paris-Roubaix.

Marta Bastianelli (Team UAE ADQ)

Marta Bastianelli

Marta Bastianelli (Image credit: Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022)

The 2007 World Champion Marta Bastianelli doesn't quite have the palmares of her contemporary Vos, but when the 34-year-old wins it's usually something big. Her 38 professional victories include the Tour of Flanders (2019), Gent-Wevelgem (2018), and the Ronde van Drenthe (2019).

Bastianelli packs a devastating punch in any sprint. While in her new team, she perhaps lacks the kind of support of the more established squads for lead-outs, she has proven herself to be especially dangerous when she can make the winning breakaway.

In last year's Paris-Roubaix, Bastianelli won the sprint for fifth ahead of Norsgaard. She's had a great start to the 2022 season, winning the Vuelta CV Feminas, a stage in Valencia and the Omloop van het Hageland, and has been top 10 in every one-day Classic except Strade Bianche so far this season.

Bastianelli is definitely a rider that no one will want to tow into the velodrome in Roubaix.

Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo)

Elisa Balsamo

Elisa Balsamo (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

We could almost put the entire Trek-Segafredo team on the who to watch list for Paris-Roubaix. Should the race come down to a sprint of any size, if World Champion Elisa Balsamo is in the mix, she'll be hard to beat.

Balsamo is the hot rider of the moment having swept up three wins in quick succession last month at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem.

Trek-Segafredo know that no team will want to bring Balsamo to the line, and have riders for every alternative scenario. With last year's third-placed finisher Elisa Longo Borghini, former cyclo-cross World Champion Lucinda Brand, Van Dijk and 2021 Paris-Roubaix top 10 finisher Audrey Cordon-Ragot to go with attacks, Balsamo can save herself for a possible reduced bunch sprint. Or maybe even make the winning move - who knows what this 24-year-old can do? She's only at the beginning of finding her limits.

Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope)

Marta Cavalli

Marta Cavalli (Image credit: Getty Images)

Another rider of great potential who is only just starting to expand her limits, Marta Cavalli was the impressive solo winner of the Amstel Gold Race. The Italian held off a star-studded chasing group to take that win.

Amstel was Cavalli's first WorldTour win but was presaged by some outstanding performances in 2021. She was in the top ten in most of the Spring Classics last year including a sixth place in the Tour of Flanders. Cavalli was top 10 in four Giro Donne stages and sixth overall, one off the podium at the Ceratizit Challenge and ninth in Paris-Roubaix.

However, in one weekend, Cavalli rocketed up from hardly mentioned in the contenders' list to a genuine challenger for the cobblestone trophy.

Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx)

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Image credit: Getty Images)

Another former world champion, Van den Broek Blaak has spent much of her career on teams with multiple leaders and acting as a wildcard for bigger stars like Annemiek van Vleuten or Anna van der Breggen.

Van den Broek Blaak has enormous experience and has shown herself to be worthy of the status of a protected rider with victories in the Amstel Gold Race (2018), Gent-Wevelgem (2016), Tour of Flanders (2020) and Strade Bianche (2021).

The 32-year-old finished at the back of the small bunch sprint in 10th at Paris-Roubaix last year. In dry conditions, expect Van den Broek Blaak to be once again off the front trying to make the race difficult for her rivals.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)

Elisa Longo Borghini in the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Elisa Longo Borghini in the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes (Image credit: Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images)

Normally, Elisa Longo Borghini would be a five-star favourite for Paris-Roubaix, especially after landing a fine third place in 2021. However, the Italian champion was forced to skip the Amstel Gold Race with a cold and was a question mark for the Hell of the North.

Having recovered, it's unclear as to whether Longo Borghini will have the spark needed to succeed in such a strenuous race.

Before coming down with that cold, Longo Borghini's best one-day performance of the season was eighth in Strade Bianche. She helped tee up Balsamo for the win at Gent-Wevelgem but should have a free role in Paris-Roubaix.

Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM)

Lorena Wiebes of Team DSM

Lorena Wiebes of Team DSM (Image credit: Getty Images)

Lorena Wiebes is arguably the fastest sprinter in the women's peloton at the moment, and is tied with Balsamo in the win count for the season so far with four.

Hot off a dominant sprint win in the Scheldeprijs and with victories in Nokere Koerse, the Ronde van Drenthe and GP Oetingen, Wiebes is a versatile sprinter with an incredible burst of speed. She even finished second to Balsamo at Brugge-De Panne with a broken spoke.

Last year Wiebes did not finish Paris-Roubaix but it is no reflection on her abilities in the race - she had only just recovered from a crash at the Simac Ladies Tour and Roubaix was her first race back. It will be exciting to see what a healthy Lorena Wiebes can do at Paris-Roubaix on Saturday.

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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.