10 Riders to Watch at Paris-Roubaix Femmes

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This Saturday marks the arrival of one of the spring season’s most challenging competitions: the Paris-Roubaix Femmes. Initiated in 2021, after years of anticipation for a women’s edition of the notorious “Hell of the North,” this race quickly became a coveted victory within the women’s cycling world.

What sets Paris-Roubaix apart is its unique blend of allure and accessibility; it’s not only a prize every cyclist dreams of winning but also, due to the unpredictable and harsh nature of the northern French cobbles, a race where victory is within reach for any rider who can withstand its trials. Over its first three editions, the race has been anything but predictable, featuring a long solo win, a late solo break, and an unforeseen breakaway triumph. It’s a testament to the race’s unpredictability, where endurance and fortune play as big a role as strategy and strength, making it possible for any competitor to seize the day.

10. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime)

Just a short while ago, Lotte Kopecky was considered a leading contender for Paris-Roubaix. Recent setbacks in her last few races, however, don’t diminish her prospects for the upcoming Saturday; if anything, they add to her motivation. With a season’s worth of Classics aspirations on the line and fueled by the drive to overcome recent disappointments, Kopecky enters the race with something to prove. Her condition is a topic of intrigue, particularly with the Ardennes classics on the horizon, which she has been preparing for. Yet, Kopecky remains a formidable force in the peloton, and Roubaix’s flat terrain could play to her advantage, considering climbing was her Achilles’ heel in the Tour of Flanders.

Kopecky’s approach to racing, often characterized by sheer power and determination, is particularly well-suited to the demands of Roubaix, where endurance and avoiding mishaps are key to victory. Her ability to make decisive moves on flat sections sets her apart, a tactic that has proven successful in past editions of the race. With the support of a determined team and the coveted cobblestone trophy within reach—a prize her team, SD Worx-Protime, has yet to claim—Kopecky has the opportunity to make a significant impact this weekend. It all comes down to her execution on race day.

9. Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike)

Marianne Vos, universally recognized as the greatest of all time in women’s cycling, has an enviable collection of wins across all major competitions. Yet, the constant introduction of new races poses a delightful challenge for her to further enrich her already impressive achievements. Among these, the Paris-Roubaix stands out as a coveted title she aims to secure before hanging up her racing shoes. Despite a strong second-place finish in the race’s first year and overcoming a setback due to Covid before the second edition, Vos managed a commendable 10th place in 2023.

Trailing just behind Lizzie Deignan in 2021, Vos has proven her capability on the punishing cobbles of Roubaix. All she needs is a stroke of luck for things to fall into place. Currently, Vos is experiencing a peak in her performance, having claimed victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Dwars door Vlaanderen this season, and she feels confident about her current form. Although winning at Roubaix is a formidable challenge, Vos’s exceptional form this year might just offer her the best opportunity yet to triumph in one of the few races still missing from her legendary palmarès.

8. Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek)

Lidl-Trek, victors of two out of the three Paris-Roubaix Femmes thus far, enter this weekend’s race without their past champions—Lizzie Deignan, who is recovering from a broken arm, and Elisa Longo Borghini, who has chosen to focus on the upcoming Ardennes classics. Despite these absences, the team has several strong options, including Lucinda Brand, a previous podium finisher. However, Elisa Balsamo is poised to lead the team, riding high on excellent form this Classics season. Despite a checkered history at this race, including a disqualification and lower placements, Balsamo brings valuable experience from participating in every edition and draws on her team’s wealth of knowledge.

Balsamo’s season has been impressive, with victories at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Brugge-De Panne, alongside second places at Ronde van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem. Although not typically a solo breakaway rider like some of her teammates, Balsamo has the potential to be a key player in the decisive move, particularly in a sprint finish where her chances are formidable against almost any rival, Lorena Wiebes being a notable exception. For Balsamo, making it to the final stages in a strong position could very well mean a shot at victory, provided luck is on her side.

7. Emma Norsgaard (Movistar)

Emma Norsgaard of Movistar is another rider who has meticulously prepared for the unpredictability and challenges of Paris-Roubaix. As a true rouleur, her combination of time trial prowess and sprinting ability makes her well-suited for success in this grueling race. With previous finishes in the velodrome of 11th and 6th, Norsgaard has demonstrated resilience and endurance that could outlast pure sprinters like Balsamo and Wiebes. Known for her aggressive racing style, Norsgaard, along with her proactive Movistar team, is expected to make significant moves this Saturday, potentially leading to a standout performance.

6. Alison Jackson (EF Education-Cannondale)

Alison Jackson, representing EF Education-Cannondale and the sole previous winner in the lineup, is a significant contender for this year’s Paris-Roubaix. Despite a quieter season up to this point, it’s worth noting that her situation was similar before her 2023 victory. Roubaix is known for its unpredictable nature, meaning past performances aren’t always indicative of future success. What works to Jackson’s advantage is her confidence, derived from her firsthand experience of victory here. She has the insight on pivotal race segments, understands when to exert effort and when to conserve it, and importantly, she possesses the self-assurance of knowing she’s capable of winning— a rare and valuable mindset in the peloton.

In a competition that intimidates many, having the certainty of one’s own resilience can be incredibly empowering. EF Education-Cannondale, emerging from the legacy of EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, is tackling its debut Paris-Roubaix equipped with a wealth of experience and early season successes. While it’s uncommon for history to repeat itself exactly, especially in cycling where strategic dynamics constantly evolve, Jackson’s victory is not solely dependent on a breakaway; her capabilities position her as a strong competitor for the race’s outcome this Saturday.

5. Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime)

Jasper Philipsen’s performance in last year’s men’s edition underscored that sprinters, if they possess enough resilience, can indeed excel in Roubaix. Lorena Wiebes, known for her toughness, hasn’t yet translated that into top results at this event, a challenge she shares with her team, SD Worx-Protime, which has struggled to find its footing in this race. Nevertheless, their resolve is strong this year, positioning Wiebes as a potential strategic asset alongside Kopecky.

Different from Kopecky’s approach, Wiebes wouldn’t need to break away – a daunting challenge on the unforgiving cobbles – but instead focus on maintaining her position within the lead group. While staying at the front is hardly a simple feat, Wiebes is notoriously difficult to shake off. Should she manage to stay in contention until the final stretch, her sprinting prowess in the velodrome could be devastating. It’s uncertain whether Wiebes will have to set aside her ambitions for the team’s strategy, as was partially the case in Flanders, but the peloton will surely regard her as a formidable contender, one who cannot be overlooked.

4. Zoe Bäckstedt (Canyon-SRAM)

Paris-Roubaix isn’t just a test of skill, fortune, and condition; it’s also a celebration of passion—for the race itself, its legendary cobblestones, and the sheer determination required to claim one of cycling’s most iconic trophies. Zoe Bäckstedt, whose admiration for this classic race is perhaps unmatched, carries a unique connection to Paris-Roubaix through her father, Magnus Bäckstedt, the 2004 champion. At just 14 years old, having just competed in her last junior edition of Paris-Roubaix, Bäckstedt feared she had experienced her final competitive moment on these historic cobbles.

Driven by a profound affection for the event, she and a friend reached out to the ASO, advocating for the establishment of an elite women’s Paris-Roubaix. Their dream became reality three years later, with the inaugural women’s race taking place in 2021, marking Bäckstedt’s emotional return to the cobbles at the elite level. Although her comeback year wasn’t crowned with victory, the 19-year-old stands out as one of the sport’s most promising talents, poised to vie for the top spot in this beloved race in the years to come.

3. Pfeiffer Georgi (dsm-firmenich PostNL)

Among the riders who have consistently shown remarkable performance in Paris-Roubaix, securing two top-10 placements within its three editions, is Pfeiffer Georgi of dsm-firmenich PostNL. At just 23, the British national champion has quickly established herself as a reliable force in the peloton, adept at supporting her teammate Charlotte Kool in sprint finishes while also pursuing her own goals in the classics.

Georgi’s 2023 season was particularly notable, marked by triumphs at Classic Brugge-De Panne, Dwars door de Westhoek, and Binche Chimay Binche pour Dames, alongside securing her second national championship. Georgi’s resilience on the course stands out; she’s a fighter who doesn’t let setbacks derail her efforts. Her determination was evident in her ninth and eighth-place results in the recent Paris-Roubaix races. For Georgi, a successful breakaway could very well lead her to victory.

2. Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ)

Chiara Consonni, with her modest build at 59kg and 1.65m, might not seem like the typical powerhouse for the Spring Classics, yet this sprinter from UAE Team ADQ defies expectations. Her remarkable ability to position herself advantageously in races demonstrates a rare and valuable talent. Having clinched victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen two seasons back, Consonni has proven herself to be a formidable sprinter in tight finishes and shows resilience when the race conditions intensify.

During the previous edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Consonni impressively finished ninth, competing in the sprint for places just behind the lead breakaway group. Although victory eluded her and her group that day, her performance confirmed her capability to endure the race’s demands. With her combination of tenacity and sprinting prowess, Consonni remains a strong contender in this competition. She’s just waiting for the right breakaway opportunity to seize a win.

1. Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez)

Grace Brown of Australia might not frequent the top step of the podium, yet at 31, she’s known for delivering standout performances on occasion. Her enduring power, unwavering resolve, and capable sprint make her an ideal candidate for the demands of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, despite not having achieved top results in the event thus far, with 12th and 13th places in the last two editions.

While these results are respectable in such a challenging race, Brown has the potential for much higher achievements. Over recent years, she has shown her knack for seizing opportunities, notching up several stage wins, and claiming victory at the Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne. With her robust endurance, Brown represents one of the peloton’s most formidable competitors for FDJ-SUEZ, especially in a race that rewards the resilient like Paris-Roubaix.

Suggested Read: Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2024 Preview

Conclusion

This Saturday’s Paris-Roubaix Femmes brings together a field of talented and determined riders, each with their own unique strengths and aspirations. From seasoned champions to emerging talents, the race is set to be an unpredictable battle across the infamous cobbles of northern France. With no clear favorites, the event stands as a testament to the diversity and depth of talent in women’s cycling, promising thrilling competition and heroic efforts. As these ten riders prepare to face the challenges of the “Hell of the North,” their stories of resilience, ambition, and passion for the sport are sure to inspire fans and fellow competitors alike. In the quest for the coveted cobblestone trophy, anything is possible, making this edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes a must-watch event.

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