Of the two five-star cobbled sectors at Paris-Roubaix Femmes, one would prove decisive in determining the final result – though not for the overall win.
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) was long gone by the time the 15-woman chase group two minutes behind her reached Camphin-en-Pévèle with 20 kilometres to go, but a crash – and an attack – on the mud-coated sector would end up deciding the remainder of the podium behind the Briton.
It was there that Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) attacked to seal her eventual second place, while Deignan's teammate Elisa Longo Borghini was first to react, holding her third place to the finish. Just four seconds later, though, Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) rolled home in fourth place in the Roubaix velodrome having chased hard over the final sectors of the race.
The German national champion was sixth in line in the group before a crash took out several riders including Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), Christine Majerus (Movistar). Brennauer's problem, though, were that the pair were riding right in front of her.
"It was super muddy and slippery on the cobbled sections," she said after the race. "There were lots of crashes and also some just in front of me on the sector where Marianne went. I had to go around and missed out on the breakaway, and it was really a pity.
"Overall, I'm super happy with the race how it went and for me personally when I couldn't go with Marianne Vos I knew it was a big pity and I should've been there. I tried to save it in the end and make it on the podium. I attacked to catch back Elisa Longo Borghini and I just missed out on it, so I'm a little bit disappointed as well."
Vos accelerated in time with the crash behind, with Longo Borghini following as Brennauer was among several riders forced to take evasive action. There was still time to catch the pair at that point, though Longo Borghini's fruitless chase of Vos illustrated how tough it was to bridge across over the remaining trio of lower-rated cobbled sectors.
"I just wanted to catch her back," Brennauer said of the Italian. "Anyway, getting here and riding into this velodrome with all these people cheering for us was a really special moment.
"I heard people cheering for us and I had to focus on pedalling as fast as I could to catch her back, but the atmosphere was just unique."
Despite her disappointment at just missing out on a podium place at the inaugural edition of the race, Brennauer still took time to pay respect to the day's winner, who had jumped off the front on the very first cobbled sector of the race, 82 kilometres from the line.
"I think that it was not her plan to ride all the way home. I think it was maybe to set it up for another rider on her team," Brennauer said, an idea confirmed by Deignan herself in the post-race press conference.
"Yeah, she's a super rider, really strong. I was alone with one teammate, and we had to play a bit and wait to see what other teams would do and how they would react. But she had an amazing day and a super-strong ride."
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content on Cyclingnews and takes on live race text coverage throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Tro-Bro Léon, Strade Bianche, and the Vuelta a España.
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