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The first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2021 - Preview

Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2021
Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2021 (Image credit: Paris-Roubaix Femmes / ASO)

The cycling world has patiently awaited one of the most historical moments in cycling's history, and the day has finally arrived, with the first-ever women's Paris-Roubaix to be held on October 2 in France.

The Hell of the North has been the most celebrated Monument on the men's racing calendar for 117 editions, with the inaugural race held in 1896. The UCI along with organisers ASO made the decision to add an inaugural women's event to the late-season revised calendar in COVID-hit 2020. It was a historical moment for women's cycling, as one of the world's most iconic Spring Classics had opened its doors to the women's peloton.

The inaugural edition was cancelled last October, and then cancelled again, and rescheduled, this spring due to the pandemic.

The first edition of the event this Saturday will be a day written into the history books for both women's cycling and for the rider who will be crowned the first-ever champion of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes, 125 years after the crowning of the inaugural men's champion Josef Fischer of Germany.

Join Cyclingnews for live text-based coverage of 2021 Paris-Roubaix Femmes, and check in after the race for our full report, results, gallery, news and features on October 2, 2021 from 1 p.m. CDT until the finish.

How to watch

Follow Cyclingnews on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for alerts on important stories, news, interviews and all the action during the Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

The Paris-Roubaix Femmes will offer fans live race coverage and post-race programmes across television broadcast and live streaming platforms on October 2. The women's race will begin at 1:35 p.m. CET (local time) and is expected to finish between 4:45 and 5 p.m. CET.

You can sign up for a subscription to Eurosport Player for £6.99 / $9.26 for a month, £4.99 / $6.61 for a year-long monthly pass, or £39.99 / $52.99 for a 12-month pass.

Coverage via the GCN+ available on the GCN app, will be available in the UK, around Europe and select other countries around the world. Access in the UK will set you back £39.99 for a year. GCN+ will be showing the entire 115.6km of Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

FloBikes hold the TV rights for Canada – a subscription will set you back $12.50 per month or $150 per year. The Paris-Roubaix Femmes will be aired in Australia by SBS

Paris-Roubaix Femmes will be available to view in the USA on NBC's Peacock Premium. A seven-day free trial is available, while a subscription to Peacock Premium will set you back $4.99 (or $9.99 without ads) per month.

Around the world, a number of other broadcasters will air the event, including Rai in Italy, Sporza and RTBF in Belgium, France TV3 in France, RTVE in Spain, and NOS in the Netherlands, J Sports in Japan, Sky Sports in New Zealand, TV2 Norway, DKTV2 in Denmark, RTL in Luxembourg, Señal Colombia, and SuperSport Saharan Africa.

If you're outside your home zone, you may be able to access your streaming programmes with ExpressVPN which gives the ability to simulate being back in your home country, allowing you to watch the race live on various devices –including Smart TVs, Fire TV Stick, PC, Mac, iPhone, Android phone, iPads, tablets, etc.

Who to watch

Italys Elisa Balsamo R sprints to the finish line to win ahead of Netherlands Marianne Vos L during the womens elite cycling road race 1577km from Antwerp to Leuven on the seventh day of the Flanders 2021 UCI Road World Championships on September 25 2021 in Leuven Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD AFP Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARDAFP via Getty Images

Elisa Balsamo (right) and Marianne Vos go head-to-head in a sprint for the rainbow jersey at the UCI Road World Championships, won by Balsamo (Image credit: Getty Images)

Organisers were forced to move Paris-Roubaix Femmes from it's original April slot on the Spring Classics calendar to a late-season October slot due to COVID-19, and many of the top riders in the peloton have targeted this event as a number one goal for the 2021 season.

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will line up as the leader for SD Worx, while her newly-retired compatriot Anna van der Breggen is expected to be at the race gaining experience ahead of her new role as the team director. Van den Broek-Blaak targeted the event in the spring, and when it was cancelled, she revised her plan for a late-season peak in an attempt to win in Roubaix.

Cyclo-cross World Champion Lucinda Brand has opted not to participate in Paris-Roubaix in favour of the beginning of the cyclo-cross World Cup calendar, however, Trek-Segafredo will field a contender in Lizzie Deignan and support from riders like Elisa Longo Borghini and Ellen van Dijk.

Double Belgian Champion Lotte Kopecky will be on the start line for Liv Racing with support from Alison Jackson and Sabrina Stultiens. After finishing 16th at her home World Championships last week, Kopecky will no doubt be looking for a big win at Paris-Roubaix before the season closes out.

Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) returns to racing having recovered from a concussion sustained in a crash at the Simac Ladies Tour, which saw her sit out of the World Championships last week. She will have a strong backing from Floortje Mackaij and Megan Jastrab over the hellish cobbles.

Emma Norsgaard will be flying the colours for Movistar, and picked out as a favourite by her teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, who was a last-minute addition to the roster. Van Vleuten had initially intended to race at the Women's Tour the following week but instead opted for the more historical moment at Paris-Roubaix.

American Champion Lauren Stephens will be on the start line with her team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank, and certainly a dark horse to watch after a successful gravel season.

The world witnessed an incredible elite women's road race at the World Championships last weekend in Belgium in what ended up a showdown between the new World Champion Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Travel & Service) and Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma). The two powerhouse punchy riders will also be on the start line in Denain to become part of the memorable experience that will be the first women's Paris-Roubaix.

The route

Paris-Rouabix Femmes 2021 - Profile

Paris-Rouabix Femmes 2021 - Profile (Image credit: Paris-Roubaix Femmes / ASO)

The first-ever edition held of Paris-Roubaix Femmes will start in Denain, south of Roubaix and close to the border with Belgium. 

The peloton will race 115.6 kilometres, starting with three circuits around Denain. The women’s race route will join the men’s route in Hornaing after 31 kilometres. The women's route will follow the final 85km of the men's route into Roubaix.

The women will tackle 17 cobble sectors, for a total of 29.2km of pavè, and part of the route includes the two five-star sectors; Mons-en-Pévèle at 67km mark and Carrefour de l'Arbre at the 98.5km mark, before the famed velodrome-finish in Roubaix.    

The 17 cobblestone sectors

  • 17 - Hornaing à Wandignies (km 31.1 - 3.7 km) ****
  • 16 - Warlaing à Brillon (km 40.6 - 2.4 km) ***
  • 15 - Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosières (km 44.1 - 2.4 km) ****
  • 14 - Beuvry-la-Forêt à Orchies (km 50.5 - 1.4 km) ***
  • 13 - Orchies (km 55.5 - 1.7 km) ***
  • 12 - Auchy-lez-Orchies à Bersée (km 61.6 - 2.7 km) ****
  • 11 - Mons-en-Pévèle (km 67 - 3 km) *****
  • 10 - Merignies à Avelin (km 73 - 0.7 km) **
  • 9 - Pont-Thibault à Ennevelin (km 76.4 - 1.4 km) ***
  • 8 - Templeuve - L'Epinette (km 81.8 - 0.2 km) *
  • 8 - Templeuve - Moulin-de-Vertain (km 82.4 - 0.5 km) **
  • 7 - Cysoing à Bourghelles (km 88.8 - 1.3 km) ***
  • 6 - Bourghelles à Wannehain (km 91.3 - 1.1 km) ***
  • 5 - Camphin-en-Pévèle (km 95.8 - 1.8 km) ****
  • 4 - Carrefour de l'Arbre (km 98.5 - 2.1 km) *****
  • 3 - Gruson (km 100.8 - 1.1 km) **
  • 2 - Willems à Hem (km 107.5 - 1.4 km) ***
  • 1 - Roubaix-Espace Charles Crupelandt (km 114.2 - 0.3 km) *

What to expect

What to expect

Paris-Roubaix countryside

Paris-Roubaix countryside (Image credit: Thomas Maheux)

It's difficult to predict how the first edition of the women's Paris-Roubaix will unfold but there are a few things that we can expect from a race so famed for its cut-throat cobblestone sectors en route to the velodrome in Roubaix.

As the first women's edition of the most famous Monument in the history of cycling, there will be some similarities in the no-holds-barred approach to the pavè. The women's race will not feature the nearly-100km of open tarmac, but instead will start with short circuits in Denain before getting straight to the point with 29.2km of pavè embedded in the last 85km of racing.

The most powerful riders will do well across the cobbles, and we think Jolien D'hoore, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, or Ellen van Dijk, as a few examples of strong riders who could win a race of this nature. 

It's not just about power, however, and positioning into the pavè will be equally as important. We can expect riders who have great bike handling and positioning skills among the peloton to be successful in a race like Roubaix because these will be the riders who can hold their own position at the front of the field and get onto the cobbles first. We can look to riders like Marianne Vos or Christine Majerus, whose cyclo-cross skills will give the an added confidence when it comes to bike handling and positioning on rough terrain.

The teams with the best equipment suited for a race like Paris-Roubaix will have an advantage. Teams such as Trek-Segafredo and SD Worx have bikes that are tailor-made for comfort and speed over the cobbles.

Rain is forecast for this weekend. Some rain has already fallen and winds from the southwest are expected to blow rain showers across northern France on Saturday and Sunday, meaning tailwinds and even some crosswinds are possible, and we can expect this to add an extra dimension of difficulty to the race.

Luck is always a factor at Paris-Roubaix; too much bad luck will end a rider's chances of success and the rider who wins must have some good luck on her side to avoid the almost inevitable mechanicals and crashes across the pavè.

In short, every woman on the start line will want to win this race but only one can ever be crowned the first-ever winner of Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

24 Teams

  • FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
  • Trek-Segafredo Women
  • SD Worx
  • Liv Racing
  • Movistar Team
  • Alé BTC Ljubljana
  • Canyon-SRAM Racing
  • Team BikeExchange
  • Team DSM
  • Lotto Soudal Ladies
  • Team Coop - Hitec Products
  • Team TIBCO - Silicon Valley Bank
  • Doltcini- Van Eyck - Proximus Continental Team
  • Drops - Le Col s/b TEMPUR
  • Parkhotel Valkenburg
  • Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling
  • Valcar - Travel & Service
  • Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime Women Cycling
  • Arkéa Pro Cycling Team
  • NXTG Racing
  • Bepink
  • Team Jumbo-Visma Women

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the 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 cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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