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Annemiek van Vleuten confirms start at first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Annemiek Van Vleuten of Movistar Team won the overall at the 2021 Ceratizit Challenge By La Vuelta
Annemiek Van Vleuten of Movistar Team won the overall at the 2021 Ceratizit Challenge By La Vuelta (Image credit: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) has confirmed to Cyclingnews that she will compete in the first-ever edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes held on October 2 in France. The Dutch talent said that the famed cobblestones of the Hell of the North are not particularly suited to her but that she wanted to be there for what she called ‘a big milestone’ in the sport of cycling.

“I added Paris-Roubaix to my calendar. It’s not a race that suits me but I am super excited that it is organized for us. I see a little bit of a risk racing it, but it’s at the end of the season now, so I’m willing to take the risk,” Van Vleuten told Cyclingnews in a phone interview on Saturday.

Van Vleuten is currently at the UCI Road World Championships with the Dutch National Team where she will race the individual time trial on September 20 and the road race on September 25 in Flanders, Belgium.

Speaking about Paris-Roubaix, Van Vleuten said she would be happy to work for her Danish trade teammate Emma Norsgaard, who she said is a favourite for both the Flanders World Championships and Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

“Paris-Roubaix is not a race that suits me, it will be super cool to be on the start line at Roubaix and help my teammates. For example, Emma Norsgaard is going to be a big contender,” Van Vleuten said.

The inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes was added to the Women's WorldTour for October 25 in 2020, but was cancelled due to COVID-19. The first edition to be held will now take place on October 2, 2021, after a second cancellation from April of this year.

The UCI and ASO's decision to add the event to the calendar last year was an historical moment for women's cycling, as Paris-Roubaix is one of the world's most iconic Spring Classics. The event this fall will be a day written into the history books for both women's cycling and for the first winner of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

“I always said that I will not stop before they organize a Paris-Roubaix for women. So, now I can stop. I changed as a rider, though, now I’m more of a climber and it’s not a race that suits me anymore. No matter whether it suits me, or not, it’s a big milestone. It’s important that we are taken seriously,” Van Vleuten told Cyclingnews.

“It’s the same as the [Worlds in] Flanders, I’m happy that we race 160km, which is a good distance for this kind of course, and in the end, you can make a difference. Also, I like that we have 30km for the [Worlds] time trial, so it’s decided in bigger time gaps.

“It shows that they [organisers] appreciate and take us seriously. I like to be taken seriously. We are very professional women. Also, it’s Roubaix, and now we can finally show that we are tough women who can also ride the Roubaix cobbles. It’s cool that we can finally show it.”

Organizers of Paris-Roubaix, ASO, announced last week the routes of the men’s and women’s events. The women’s peloton will race 116.4 kilometres, starting with three circuits around Denain. 

The route will join the men’s route in Hornaing after 31km and include 17 sectors of cobbles, covering the final 85km of the men’s route in northern France and finishing in the iconic Roubaix velodrome. The final part of the route includes the five-star Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l'Arbre sectors, with a total of 30km of cobbles in the race.

Van Vleuten said that she has not yet previewed the Paris-Roubaix route, but will start thinking about the race after completing the World Championships this week. 

Asked if there was anything about racing over the cobbles of the first women’s Paris-Roubaix that made her feel anxious, Van Vleuten said, “I will get nervous for Roubaix after the World Championships.”

Van Vleuten said that she will not participate in the Women's Tour held from October 4-9. Although she initially contemplated competing in the six-day race, she said that she decided not to largely because it only offered flat stages.

"I checked the UCI calendar to try to find some hilly race for us but I couldn’t find them.  I was going to race the Women’s Tour but I saw that it’s super flat, and decided not to do that, it’s sad that they didn’t put one or two hilly stages in it. It will be five days of breakaway or sprinter stages. There’s no Il Lombardia for the women, and I hope that someday there will be," she said.

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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.