Lizzie Deignan solos for 82km to win inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) has put her name into the history books of cycling by winning the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes with a long attack. Deignan attacked with 82.5 kilometres to go, just before the first of 17 pavé sectors, and built a gap of up to 2:40 minutes as the peloton gradually fell apart on the cobbles behind her.

A chase group formed and eventually grew to almost 20 riders, but Deignan was still 2:16 minutes ahead at the 20-kilometre mark. Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma) then accelerated away from the chase group on the Camphin-en-Pévèle sector, quickly closing the gap to 1:17 minutes at the end of the Gruson sector with 14.8 km to go. But Deignan fought back, and at the end of the last real pavé sector 6.8 kilometres from the finish she was still 1:14 minutes ahead.

The Briton covered the final kilometres without mishap and celebrated her historic victory in the wet Roubaix velodrome, crossing the line before Vos had even entered the cycling track. Finishing 1:17 minutes behind, Vos took second place while Deignan’s teammate Elisa Longo Borghini completed the podium, holding off a late charge by Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT). Marta Bastianelli (Alé BTC Ljubljana) won the sprint of a small group for fifth place.

“I feel really emotional,” said Deignan, who was initially struggling for words in the post-race interview, overcome by the magnitude of the moment. “I just, I don’t know, I’m just so happy, really proud. I can’t believe it happened.”

Having regained her composure, she continued: “Women’s cycling is at this turning point, and you saw it today, this is part of history. I am proud to be part of a team that also makes history. We are so grateful to everybody behind the scenes, all the viewers watching, because every fan who’s watching this is also making history. It is proving that there is appetite for women’s cycling and that the athletes here can do one of the hardest races in the world, and I am so proud that I can say that I am the first-ever winner.”

Deignan then explained how her race-winning solo came about: “This was really not the plan. I needed to be at the front in the first cobble section to protect my leaders. I was kind of the third rider today, actually. I looked behind after the first cobbles, there was a gap, and I thought, ‘well, at least, if I’m in the front, they have to chase me’, so I just kept going,” she said before receiving her very own cobblestone on the podium, framed by Vos and Longo Borghini.

How it unfolded

129 riders took to the start in Denain, facing 116.4 kilometres to the velodrome in Roubaix of which 29.2 km were on cobblestones, distributed over 17 different sectors. Although it stayed dry for most of the race, the previous day’s rain had left puddles behind, turning the roadsides and the worst pavé sectors into mud.

The race started with three laps of a short circuit around the start town, and the first to attack were Emilie Moberg (Drops-Le Col s/b Tempur) and Nicole Steigenga (Doltcini-Van Eyck-Proximus) who got a 20-second advantage, chased by Elena Pirrone (Valcar-Travel & Service). The peloton reeled all three riders in again before turning towards the first pavé, the four-star sector 17 from Hornaing to Wandignies (the sector numbers are counted down).

Just before the start of the cobbles, Deignan accelerated to enter the sector in first position and got a gap on the rest of the field. Going into sector 15, she was a minute ahead, and the peloton fell apart into many groups on this sector, also due to mechanicals and crashes, leaving only 32 riders in the first chase group that emerged once the race was on the asphalt again.

Unhindered by other riders, Deignan could choose her line on the pavé and continued to increase her advantage to almost two minutes at the start of the five-star Mons-en-Pévèle sector with just under 50 kilometres to go. Behind her, the peloton broke apart on the cobbles time and again as riders crashed or suffered punctures, including pre-race favourites Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) and Lotte Kopecky (Liv Racing). Although Kopecky quickly received a teammate’s bike, the frame was too large for her, stopping the Belgian champion from playing a big role in the race.

Vos, Christine Majerus (Team SD Worx), Brennauer, Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), Bastianelli, and Aude Biannic (Movistar Team) emerged from the Mons-en-Pévèle sector as the first chase group with individual riders and small groups all over the road behind them and Deignan 1:55 minutes ahead.

This gap increased further to 2:40 minutes at the start of sector 8, Templeuve, 33.8 km from the finish. The group had now grown to 17 riders, and Majerus, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Team SD Worx), Bastianelli, Vos, and Romy Kasper (Team Jumbo-Visma) pushed up the pace, dropping five riders including Van Dijk and Longo Borghini and finally eating into Deignan’s advantage.

The dropped riders came back on the asphalt, and the chase group entered the four-star sector 5, Camphin-en-Pévèle, 2:11 minutes behind Deignan who slid around the corners in the mud but kept her bike upright.

Vos put in an acceleration on the cobbles and was followed by Longo Borghini and Van Dijk, but the European champion crashed heavily, bringing down Majerus with her. Further down the paceline, Sarah Roy (Team BikeExchange) and Biannic crashed in the same spot.

Vos was speeding away, had opened a 50-metre gap on Longo Borghini by the end of the sector, and had reduced the gap to Deignan to 1:45 minutes when she entered the five-star Carrefour de l’Arbre. Longo Borghini lost ground when she had to put her foot down after misjudging a corner, and Vos continued to make up ground.

But after the Gruson sector, ending with 14.8 kilometres to go, Vos was unable to reduce the gap even further, and when Deignan still held a gap of 1:14 minutes at the end of sector 2, 6.8 kilometres from the finish and with only the largely-symbolic Espace Charles Crupelandt to come just before the entry to the velodrome, the victory was hers to take barring mishaps.

The Trek-Segafredo team car itself suffered a breakdown on the final kilometres into Roubaix as a drizzle began to set in, making it vitally important for Deignan not to get a late puncture, but when she finally turned into the velodrome, she could celebrate a historic victory as the first woman to win Paris-Roubaix.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Elizabeth Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo 2:56:07
2Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women Team 0:01:17
3Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:47
4Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team 0:01:51
5Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Ale' BTC Ljubljana 0:02:10
6Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar Team Women
7Franziska Koch (Ger) Team DSM
8Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
9Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
10Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) Team SD Worx
11Christine Majerus (Lux) Team SD Worx 0:03:03
12Leah Thomas (USA) Movistar Team Women
13Maria Van 'T Geloof (Ned) Drops-le Col Supported by Tempur
14Amy Pieters (Ned) Team SD Worx 0:04:26
15Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Liv Racing 0:04:33
16Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
17Teuntje Beekhuis (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women Team 0:04:36
18Romy Kasper (Ger) Jumbo-Visma Women Team 0:04:41
19Maria Martins (Por) Drops-le Col Supported by Tempur 0:05:55
20Lucie Jounier (Fra) Arkea Pro Cycling Team
21Aude Biannic (Fra) Movistar Team Women 0:06:04
22Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team 0:06:20