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Lizzie Deignan storms to victory at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes

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The peloton hit the famous cobbles of the first ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes today. The race began in Denain, south of Roubaix from where the peloton raced 116 km before finishing at the famous Vélodrome André-Pétrieux in Roubaix. The course featured 17 sectors of cobbled roads with the pavé beginning after just 20km of racing and included the famous five star sectors Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l’Arbre. The cobbles took around 30km of the race route, meaning a quarter of the action took place on the famous stones of northern France. And what a spectacle the inaugural race presented. Although the peloton did not take on the famed Arenberg Forest, that traditional opening stretch in the men’s race, there were still enough passages to make this course extremely tough. It was a more challenging race than any other one-day event with a calibre of cobbled terrain that has not been previously seen in women’s cycling. Attacks and counterattacks, mechanicals, drama, and dropped riders characterised today’s race on this iconic course.

Initial attacks had already been reeled back in by the first cobbled sector from Hornaing to Wandignies. It was at this point that Deignan attacked and managed to put distance between herself and the chasing field. With 50km remaining, on the five-star Mons-en-Pévèle sector, she had stretched out her lead to two minutes, with the field behind her further reducing to under 30 riders due to crashes and punctures, which involved several pre-race favourites. Sensing the urgency at this point, a group consisting of Vos, Majerus, Cordon-Ragot, Brennauer, Biannic and Bastianelli emerged in pursuit, as the race severely splintered on the unforgiving terrain. With more riders having bridged over to this group, they gained renewed confidence in the chase and were able to chip away at Deignan’s advantage. Vos decided that her best strategy was to attempt to go alone in pursuit, and by the time she reached the Carrefour de l’Arbre, she was just over 1:30 in arrears, with the chase behind her yet again complicated by a series of unfortunate crashes. Despite the Dutch star’s best efforts, however, Deignan proved to be the strongest on the day, with not even a mechanical suffered by the Trek-Segafredo teamcar impeding her commanding victory at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes. The rain had fallen in Roubaix by the time she entered the famed velodrome and crossed the line to claim an historic win. Vos finished 1:17 in arrears, taking second place, with Deignan’s teammate Elisa Longo Borghini making a double podium for Trek-Segafredo with her third place overall after fending off a late attack by Lisa Brennauer, who took fourth.

After the race, Deignan commented: “Women’s cycling is at this turning point, and you saw this 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 and all the viewers, because every fan who’s watching this is also making history. It proves that there is appetite for women’s cycling and that the riders 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.”

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