Brand: We have a team with riders made for races like Paris-Roubaix
Trek-Segafredo dominate the day with three finishers in the top 10
Trek-Segafredo brought the strongest team to Paris-Roubaix Femmes on Saturday and duly walked away with another victory at the second edition of the race.
After Lizzie Deignan triumphed in wet conditions last October, this time around it was Elisa Longo Borghini's turn to solo to the win and hoist the famous cobblestone trophy aloft in the Roubaix velodrome.
Her team boasted world champion Elisa Balsamo as well as Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand, all feasibly contenders for the win at the start of the day. It was that team strength that would allow the squad to prevail against other top names like Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx), Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), and Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM Racing).
Brand stepped on the podium, too, taking third place from the chase group behind Longo Borghini, while Van Dijk finished seventh to make it three Trek-Segafredo riders in the top 10.
"We basically all the time kept all the numbers up front," Brand explained after the race. "For me it was ideal to be in this group, have no pressure and no fights to the cobbles. We caught back and then Elisa went and we never saw her again.
"We had good riders behind, so it was perfect. We have a team with riders who are able – or made for – races like this."
Early in the race, Van Dijk had worked on the front of the peloton, pushing the pace on the first cobbled sectors of the day and splitting the peloton before she was forced to stop with a puncture at 70km to go.
She was forced to endure a long chase back to the front, but eventually made it there, helping Longo Borghini out front by playing spoiler in the chase group alongside Brand.
"It was halfway through the third sector and it took me super super long to get back," Van Dijk said of her puncture. "I was always a worker. I just had to get back.
"You never know," she said, referring to the team's plan for the day. "You want to do that, but it's not that easy. In the end I think we had a super good team with a lot of strong girls and in the final you have the best cards."
Whatever Trek-Segafredo's initial plan was, it surely would have included Balsamo in some form. However, a combination of bad luck and eagled-eyed commissaires put paid to her involvement in the final after the Italian was disqualified for a sticky bottle while she was chasing back from a puncture with over 30km left to run.
"It kind of happened," Van Dijk said of Balsamo's disqualification amidst the chaos that was unfolding during the race. "I don't know. It was a bit chaotic in my radio. Something happened with Balsamo and I didn't understand. I just knew she wouldn't come back and that we had to play different cards."
The card that the team ended up playing was that of Longo Borghini, who jumped away for good with a counter-attack at 32km to run. Then 23 seconds after she finished, it was Brand who added to the Trek-Segafredo joy, sprinting to third from the six-woman chase.
"The whole week I thought about entering the velodrome, how cool it would be, and I got goosebumps and stuff like that," Brand said in the post-race press conference. "Then I entered and thought I really need to focus.
"I just tried to think about the best way to sprint, it was super hard to beat Kopecky even though she was tired. Ellen helped me super good, but I think getting third was the highest possible position for today."
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Prior to joining the team, he had written for most major publications in the cycling world, including CyclingWeekly, Rouleur, and CyclingTips.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France and the spring Classics, and has interviewed many of the sport's biggest stars, including Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen.
As well as original reporting, news and feature writing, and production work, Daniel also runs The Leadout newsletter and oversees How to Watch guides throughout the season. His favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Volta a Portugal, and he rides a Colnago C40.