Labecki: I'm going into Paris-Roubaix with an open mind
Big ambitions for American as Jumbo-Visma take aim at cobbled victory
Coryn Labecki will be in a rare position when she starts the second-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift on Saturday. Labecki didn't race the historic first edition last year, and whilst many went into their debut Roubaix with few expectations or pressures, that won't be the case when the American takes to the start in Denain.
Labecki's Jumbo-Visma teammate Marianne Vos finished second in 2021, and the team have been clear in their hopes to one-up that this year.
"Marianne was second last year and we want to do better than that, which leaves us with just the win," Labecki said. "We are in a position that it's realistic. We have a good team to race for the win."
Vos will be Jumbo-Visma's main hope on Saturday, but Labecki is also clear that the Dutchwoman is not their only option, and has not written off her own chances.
"It doesn't matter if it's me, Marianne or Romy [Kasper], going into the velodrome for the win, as long as we are in a good situation to do that, we can," she said. "That's our main goal. It's somewhat of an open plan."
Though the race is now in its second edition, Labecki will be one of the riders making her debut at the race on Saturday. The American missed the inaugural edition in October to get married, but not without watching the race on the morning of the rehearsal.
"I watched it early in the morning," Labecki said. "When we turned it on, Lizzie [Deignan] was doing some power glides through the mud. I thought, 'well, it's a good year to get married and miss this race'."
Despite not having raced on the cobbles of northern France, Labecki learnt a lot from watching Deignan ride to victory in the Roubaix velodrome last year and goes into the weekend with a better understanding of the race.
After initially viewing Paris-Roubaix as a "power course" - a flat race, suited to the bigger, more powerful riders - Labecki conceded she didn't think it would be a course for a lighter rider like herself, but the reality of last year's route changed her perspective.
"All the riders who I initially thought would do well, didn't," she said. "It was more of a skills and positioning race than it was pure raw power.
"It is going to be hard for everyone, and you will need strength, form and fitness to do well. But what stood out riders apart was the skillset and bike handling, how well they could position into the sectors, and then the willpower and fighting spirit to keep going after any and luck that comes your way - keep fighting."
As the reigning world cyclo-cross champion, positioning and bike handling won't be a worry for Labecki's teammate Vos, but Jumbo-Visma will have to get the racing right, too.
"If we have another Lizzie-move, we need to have someone in there to keep the pressure on another team that potentially misses it," she said. "Keep racing forward and not conservatively or holding back.
For Labecki, the pressures of being a team aiming boldly for victory may be real, but above all, there is an excitement at starting the newest Monument of women's cycling.
"I'm just grateful to have a start there. It's a historic race and I can only hope and plan to have a good day."
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Matilda Price is a freelance cycling journalist and digital producer based in the UK. She is a graduate of modern languages, and recently completed an MA in sports journalism, during which she wrote her dissertation on the lives of young cyclists. Matilda began covering cycling in 2016 whilst still at university, working mainly in the British domestic scene at first. Since then, she has covered everything from the Tour Series to the Tour de France. These days, Matilda focuses most of her attention on the women’s sport, writing for Cyclingnews and working on women’s cycling show The Bunnyhop. As well as the Women’s WorldTour, Matilda loves following cyclo-cross and is a recent convert to downhill mountain biking.
- Kirsten FrattiniWomen's Editor