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Paris-Roubaix Femmes 'a real hell' for D'hoore in her final race

Jolien D'hoore (SD Worx) before the final race of her career, Paris-Roubaix
Jolien D'hoore (SD Worx) before the final race of her career, Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes ended without success for SD Worx. Just like many other teams, Lizzie Deignan's (Trek-Segafredo) move on the first pavé sector at 82.5 km from Roubaix was regarded as 'too early'. During the interview with Jolien D'Hoore the British national anthem started to play for winner Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo).

"I saw Deignan go. I rode in third place. I told myself that it was way too early to go and that she would blow up her engine. I told Christine and Chantal to keep cool and bide our time. In the end, she did win. Chapeau. It was well deserved," D'Hoore said.

The SD Worx riders were also caught out when Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) accelerated away towards the remaining podium spots. Chantal Van den Broeck-Blaak finished at the back-end of the group of five that sprinted for fifth place while Jolien D'Hoore finished outside the time cut. It was a bittersweet goodbye to the sport for Belgium's Jolien D'Hoore while Van den Broeck-Blaak gets one more chance in April 2022.

Before the race, D'Hoore stated that she wanted to have fun in the last race of her career. She ended up finishing outside the time cut with mud and blood indicating she didn't have much fun between Denain and Roubaix. 

"Not at all. During the local laps, I was already part of a crash which wasn't a great start at all. I needed to switch shoes. By the time I got back we were at the first pavé sector. I was riding near the front at that point and able to do my thing. I made the first cut, featuring in a group of about 20 riders. Then we reached the fourth or fifth pavé sector and there was a new crash. Once again I was part of the crash. Then I knew it was too much. My knee was really hurting a lot. Once again I had to switch shoes because they were broken again. It was a real hell," D'Hoore said while the rain started to come down heavily in Roubaix. 

"Mentally it was hard because I really targeted this race. I was really good too. My whole body was hurting: my knee, my hip, my back… I knew the only thing that mattered from there was finishing the race. I didn't want to enter the broom wagon in my last race. There was only one goal left and that was to reach the velodrome, no matter how many minutes behind the leaders. I had to fight through the pain. During the final ten kilometres, I was able to enjoy it."

Glancing back on her career so shortly after a rough day made it hard to put it all in perspective. "I wish today would've been better but I'm happy it's over. You always want to reach higher but I'm pleased with what I achieved in my career. I'm most proud of my bronze medal at the omnium at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and also the 2017 world title in the madison in Hong Kong," D'Hoore said. 

She started to switch the button and realised her career as a pro cyclist was over. "I asked for a beer but the soigneur didn't have one for me. No more recovery shakes either. The new life can start now. There's a lot of emotions now. There's fatigue, the pain of the crashes and the end of my career."

Riding in the peloton was completely different compared to Deignan's solo ride, D'Hoore said. "When you're in the top-15 it's OK but when you're halfway in the bunch it's a war zone. It was super slippery. The cobbles were really slippery, much more than during the recon we did with Lars Boom. When you touched your brakes you would crash. It's part of this race. It wasn't too dangerous. It's Paris-Roubaix. This is what makes this race so beautiful. When you're unlucky too many times then you're without a chance for the prizes and that was the case for me today," D'Hoore said.

Teammate Chantal van de Broeck-Blaak was a bit luckier with the crashes but in the end, one crash cost her a chance to battle for the podium spots. "It was hard, obviously. I think everybody is dead-empty," a mud-clad Van den Broeck-Blaak said when stepping off her bike on the inside of the Roubaix vélodrome. "I think I saw Ellen van Dijk crashing three times. I didn't have fear but was prepared there would be crashes. I'm not a rider who's daring to take a lot of risks but manages to sneak through the crashes. You don't need to be too crazy to do this. It was a very chaotic race. We were in the game quite well, with the four of us. A lot of things might and would happen. I ended up in a crash without major trouble. Then I was behind a puncture where I wasn't able to pass. So we chased. The only thing you can do is work hard so I'm really dead-empty now."

"It's a really cool race and one that suits me really well. I hope to improve my result next year, well in a few months that is. I hope it'll be dry then," Van den Broeck-Blaak said. The long-range attack from Deignan wasn't something she expected to conclude in a victory. "I'm super impressed. I didn't expect her to stay ahead because there was so much wind. Then again, the pace always dropped back after the cobbles in our group. The peloton split apart due to the chaos. It's a pity for us. Our tactic was to get as many riders as possible near the front and hope that we would be able to make some moves late in the race. There was a crash that blocked all of us so from there we just had to chase hard until the finish."