The surprise announcement also sent teams into a hurry to organise route previews so their riders could get to know the cobbled sectors and plan ahead with the best equipment choices for the famed Hell of the North, was originally set to be held on October 25.
However, the inaugural edition of the women’s Paris-Roubaix was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 cases have been rising in France during October, especially in the Nord department, with the finish town of Roubaix situated in an area that has been assigned the highest threat level.
Despite the cancellation, teams committed to previewing the route including CCC-Liv, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Mitchelton-Scott and Trek-Segafredo. The race has already been scheduled as part of the 2021 Women's WorldTour set to take place on April 11.
ASO announced the route details of this year's event in September and the women's race was set to begin in Denain, south of Roubaix. The peloton were supposed to race 116 kilometres before finishing on the famous Roubaix Velodrome. There were 17 sectors of cobbled roads, with the pavé beginning after just 20km of racing, included in the inaugural route.
Two of those sectors were rated at the maximum difficulty level – Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l'Arbre – and the cobbles were to take up 29.5km of the race route, meaning a quarter of the action was going to take place on the famous stones of northern France.
Boels Dolmans spent time previewing the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix last year during a promotional campaign for Specialized's new Roubaix. Current world champion, Anna van der Breggen told Cyclingnews that all of the riders and teams participating in the women's inaugural Paris-Roubaix should take the time to preview the cobbles because they are unlike any other during the cobbled Classics season, and the same advice will hold true for next year's event in April.
"I think it will be someone who is not scared, first of all," Van der Breggen said of the future winner of the first-ever women's Paris-Roubaix. "These cobbles, we tried them, they are brutal and different to any other cobbles. I don’t know how they find these. This race already has a lot of history in men’s cycling and now we are able to race, it is a big step for women."
Some of the eight Women's WorldTeams have previewed the cobbled sectors in August, September, and October, to gain valuable tactical and technical experience, and to make suitable equipment choices that can withstand the rough cobbles.
Click through the gallery above to see teams previewing the cobbles sectors.
CCC-Liv had not yet announced the team that would have raced in the inaugural Paris-Roubaix, however, they brought in Lars Boom as performance manager to help the team prepare for the inaugural race. Boom gave the team his top tips for racing Paris-Roubaix including advice on positioning, anticipation and equipment details.
CCC-Liv normally race on Liv's road racing model the Langma, however, the team was expected to switch to the brand's cyclo-cross model Brava for Paris-Roubaix.
"The kind of bike you ride matters," Boom told Cyclingnews. "This year with Liv, we still ride on the normal brake pads and don’t have disc brakes. I’m working with the team on what we are going to do because it will be late October, and the farmers will be taking out the crops from the land, and they use the cobblestones to do that, so there will be a lot of mud on the road.
"We are thinking to maybe to ride the Brava, our cyclo-cross bike, but we need to make a decision to either ride the Brava or the Langma road bike, and try to fit a bigger tire in there. On a cyclo-cross bike you can fit a bigger tire more easily. That’s a decision we will make after our recon."
- Frameset: Liv Brava
- Wheels: CADEX (33 mm)
- Tyres: Vittoria Corsa CX (28mm or 30mm)
- Components: SRAM Red AXS disc (160mm in front, 140mm rear)
- Chainset: 48/ 35
- Cassette: 10/ 33
- Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace
Trek-Segafredo would have had several contenders for the inaugural Paris-Roubaix but many would have been looking to Classics specialists Lizzie Deignan, Elisa Longo Borghini and Ellen Van Dijk.
Deignan, who is currently leading the Women's WorldTour after victories at GP de Plouay, La Course and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, was looking forward to the first Paris-Roubaix, but will now have to wait until next April.
"Obviously this is an amazing surprise, I’m really delighted. I think Paris-Roubaix is an iconic race, one of the races that attracts most fans in cycling and if we can attract those same fans to women’s cycling, I think it’s a really positive thing," Deignan said after ASO announced the event would be part of the top-tier series.
The team were expected to race on the Trek Domane SLR with some tweaks to the set-up that included double tape or gel padding across the handlebars for added shock absorption.
Van Dijk previewed the route with teammate Audrey Cordon-Ragot and director Ina Teutenberg in mid-October. She said Paris-Roubaix was her goal but she will look forward to the race in April.
"I’m very disappointed that Paris-Roubaix is cancelled," Van Dijk said. "It was my main objective and I was very excited about this new race for us. Of course, the health of people is priority number one, so I understand the decision. I’m already looking forward to April 2021.”
Trek Domane SLR
- Frame and Fork: Trek Domane SLR OCLV 700 Project One Icon Prismatic Pearl
- Wheels: Bontrager Aeolus wheels RSL37
- Handlebars: Bontrager XXX Aero and XXX VR-C Classic shape, Bontrager Pro IsoCore with double tape or gel padding.
- Stems: Bontrager XXX
- Saddles: Bontrager Aeolus Pro
- Tires: Pirelli PZero 30MM Rider weight determines rider tire pressures.
- Drivetrain: SRAM RED AXS Etap, Single front chainrings in various sizes from 50-52T, 10-26 cassette, 10-28 for some riders, and additional Blip Shifters on the bars near the tops and in the drops.
- Brakes: SRAM AXS Etap Hydraulic disc brakes 160 front rotor and 140 rear rotor. If poor conditions, metallic pads instead of organic.
- Pedals: Shimano SPD.
- Weight: 8.0kg
How Paris-Roubaix could have been next week, a thread:@ellenvdijk, @CordonRagot and @yokoteute took the chance familiarize themselves with The Hell of the North pic.twitter.com/NrNeGf39WbOctober 13, 2020
Mitchelton-Scott previewed the route the day before it was announced that the race had been cancelled. The riders who spent time training on the route were Sarah Roy, Grace Brown and Jess Allen, the team's Classics specialists.
The riders were expected to use their team-issued Scott Addict bikes and they tested both 28mm tubeless and tubulars on the cobbled terrain.
"Obviously, we are really disappointed to find out that the Paris-Roubaix has been cancelled," Grace Brown said following her preview of the route.
"It was going to be our first women's event and we were all really excited to race it this year. We reconned part of the course and had our first try at the Roubaix cobbles. We were pretty excited to line up and race it.
"Obviously, the situation with COVID-19 in the area is pretty bad and we understand why it had to be cancelled this year. It's not that long until April, and we'll be able to go in flying, and be really excited to experience the event for the first time in all it's glory."
Mitchelton-Scott will not be racing on Scott bikes next year as it was announced that the team will use Bianchi in 2021.
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope spent three full days previewing the pavé sectors at Paris-Roubaix back in August. Their riders spent time testing the cobbles, their positioning into the decisive sectors of the route, and different equipment choices for event day.
Emilia Fahlin and French champion Jade Wiel joined their teammates for the preview sessions as the team looked at section-by-section of the route. Fahlin is a Classics specialist and should excel on a course like Paris-Roubaix.
The team were expected to race on their sponsor-issued Lapierre XELIUS SL, their high-end road model.
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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