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Stay in front, don't look back: Lucinda Brand's approach to Paris-Roubaix

Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo)
Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Lucinda Brand opted to skip the first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes to focus on cyclo-cross last fall but she watched the race live on television as her teammate Lizzie Deignan secured a history-making victory and was crowned the Queen of the Classics. 

There are two key points she took away from watching that remarkable performance in which she believes will help in her as she lines up to race her first Paris-Roubaix on Saturday - “stay in front and don’t look back,” Lucinda Brand told reporters in a press conference on Thursday.

“I have been looking forward to Paris-Roubaix and we tried to make a really good programme towards this race, for me. I’m also a bit nervous because almost the whole bunch knows what is coming, and I don’t, so it puts me in a different position of course.”

Brand was the cyclo-cross world champion last year and so she decided that her focus last fall would be directed solely on the start of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup calendar and other international races. 

Read all the details in our Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2022 - Preview and follow along with Cyclingnews live coverage on Saturday.

She said that she took pride in her Trek-Segafredo teammates’ performances that saw Deignan secure the win, Elisa Longo Borghini place third, and Audrey Cordon-Ragot finish eighth in what was a wet and muddy first edition of the women’s event. 

The second edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes held on Saturday, Brand said, will be a different type of race altogether as the conditions are expected to be warm and dry.

“I definitely watched the race last year, and it was a very exciting one to watch, and it made me very proud to see my teammates handling the difficult conditions so good. I also knew straight away that it was once-in-a-lifetime that the race would be that hard and that wet. I was prepared for a dry Roubaix this spring. Now, it feels almost like summer. It will be a totally different course,” Brand said.

The route will not include the famed Trouée d'Arenberg of the men's race route, but the women will race a slightly longer 124km, versus 115km in 2021, including an additional opening lap in the start city of Denain. As for the pavé, the peloton will tackle 17 sectors for 29.2km of cobbles. Two are rated five-star difficulty: Mons-en-Pévèle with 49km to go, and the Carrefour de l'Arbre with 17km to go en route to the velodrome in Roubaix.

Brand joined Trek-Segafredo for two separate route previews and has ridden on every stretch of gnarly cobblestone road. 

“We did parts this week and parts last week, and so in total, I have done all the sectors. They are hard. Not even one sector is similar to another one, and it is hard to remember which one is which,” she said. "After this, I am not going to ride the cobbles again until next year. It’s already a bit painful. I’m an excited nervous, not knowing what is coming exactly, but not afraid.”

Despite the more pleasant condition, Brand is still expecting a challenging race and one that will undoubtedly rely on having good luck on her side.

“It’s still hard and it will be a big fight into every sector. Probably, there will still be crashes, but once you are on the cobbles, it is not a danger to slip away on every single stone. Chances of having bad luck is a little bit smaller, but it is still a course known partly for luck.”

Brand joins cyclo-cross world champion Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) as two accomplished cyclo-cross racers who will compete at Paris-Roubaix, and whose additional off-road skills might be seen as an advantage over the rough pavé.

“Everyone says you have an advantage of being a good cyclo-cross rider, and I think that it mainly has to do with bike handling skills. There are riders who do not ride cyclo-cross and who are also good at this point. The race is way longer [than a cyclo-cross race]. The way you handle your bike or finding the best position and some nice spots that are less rough will help. The rest is still about being a good bike rider. It helps if you know more about how your bike reacts and what you can do about it,” she said.

Brand has only competed in three races this spring at Dwars door Vlaanderen, Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race, where she was working for her teammates. She also said these races were built into a training programme specifically to prepare for Paris-Roubaix.

“My form has improved every race. I didn’t have so many races coming into Paris-Roubaix, and I used every race to be a good help for my team, and continue hurting myself, even if I was dropped, to get really good training out of it. The results on paper were maybe not great but the numbers on the computer were giving me some [confidence],” Brand said.

Trek-Segafredo line up with several contenders that also include road race world champion Elisa Balsamo, time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk, and Longo Borghini, and the team will field Cordon-Ragot and Chloe Hosking.

“If you look to the names, we have a very strong team, and the fact that we won the race last year, there will be some eyes on us. We are not the only team that have chances with [multiple] riders. It is going to be a super interesting race, and we will try to put the pressure on the other teams.”

Deignan will not be on the start line to defend her title as she is currently on maternity leave from the sport. Asked if Deignan gave her and the team helpful tips on how best to approach the upcoming Hell of the North, Brand said, “you have to race it, don’t think too much, stay in front and don’t look back.”

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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 cycling from the community and 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 men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.