Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) won the second edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift with a long solo attack.
After a front group of three, with Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx), Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ) and Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), was caught with 34 km to go, Longo Borghini counter-attacked and got away on the Templeuve cobblestone sector.
The Italian champion gradually extended her advantage over the chasing group, leading by 41 seconds with 12km to go. Although the chase came closer in the final, Longo Borghini fought back and could celebrate in the Roubaix velodrome, winning 23 seconds ahead of Kopecky, who beat Brand in the sprint for second place.
“It is just an unbelievable feeling. It has been a very tough spring for me, I had sinusitis for a month and could not perform the way I wanted. I knew I was worth more than what I was performing, and it was also a little bit frustrating," explained Longo Borghini at the finish.
"It was a hard time, but I need to thank my family, my boyfriend Jacopo [Mosca], my mum, my dad, and my nieces for their trust, they always keep my morale up, and I want to thank Trek-Segafredo because they still had faith in me.
“They brought me here, and I was like ‘I don’t think I’m ready’, and they kept saying ‘you are more than ready, we know you can do it’, and I have to say that they were right. With the sinusitis, I could not breathe, and in cycling, breathing is everything. I had to take one step back in order to take two steps forward; I skipped Amstel and Brabantse Pijl and took a course of antibiotics to get rid of the infection. And in the end, if I feel good, I win,” the winner smiled.
How it unfolded
The 124.7-kilometre Paris-Roubaix Femmes started in Denain with four local laps before tackling 17 cobblestone sectors for a total of 29.2 kilometres of pavé on the way to the Roubaix Velodrome.
An early breakaway of five riders fell apart on sector 17 (counting downwards to the finish), with only Tanja Erath (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), Amalie Lutro (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team), and Gaia Masetti (AG Insurance-NXTG) staying in front. A puncture on sector 15 stopped Masetti, and shortly afterwards Lutro was also dropped by Erath.
The German continued on her own until she was caught by the peloton, which had about 40 riders with 61 kilometres to go. In this phase, several favourites like Emma Norsgaard (Movistar Team), Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Ellen Van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo), and Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) suffered mechanicals but all returned to the peloton eventually.
On sector 12, Auchy-lez-Orchies à Bersée, Kopecky attacked with Bastianelli in her wheel. Brand bridged to this front duo, and they kept an advantage of 15 to 20 seconds for a long time. Further back, World Champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) punctured, then almost crashed on her chase back. However, Balsamo was disqualified after taking a sticky bottle from her team car.
When Kopecky, Bastianelli, and Brand had been caught, Longo Borghini attacked on a short stretch of tarmac, then used sector 8 to accelerate away from Elena Cecchini (Team SD Worx) and Norsgaard who had followed her. Norsgaard tried to close the gap, but Cecchini would not ride with her, and they eventually dropped back to what remained of the peloton, with Longo Borghini 30 seconds ahead.
On the sector from Cysoing to Bourghelles, SD Worx teammates Kopecky and Van den Broek-Blaak accelerated, leading to a group of eight that closed the gap to 11 seconds but never made the catch. After unsuccessful attacks by Van den Broek-Blaak and Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM), the group stopped riding again, bringing the next group back and increasing Longo Borghini’s advantage again.
On the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector, the last five-star sector of the race, Kopecky set a hard pace from the start and rode everyone off her wheel, but Cavalli quickly closed the gap to the Belgian champion. Longo Borghini was still more than 20 seconds ahead and increased this further on the next kilometres, meaning she had plenty of time to celebrate victory.
There were no attacks from the chase group in the final, and in the track sprint, Kopecky was fastest to take second place ahead of Brand and Cavalli.
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