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Five conclusions from Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Elisa Longo Borghini steals the show, Trek Segafredo's masterclass, and SD Worx unravels.

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For the second year running Trek-Segafredo came away with the spoils at Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

Like last year, the American team won via a solo move with Italian champion Elisa Longo Borghini skipping clear with around 30km to go and soloing to a huge win.

However, this year saw a completely different style of race from 2021, and a far closer battle as SD Worx threw everything at their main rivals. There were plenty of subplots in a gripping tactical battle, and VeloNews has analyzed the main talking points.

Also read:

Elisa Longo Borghini masterclass

We will get to the dominance and the sheer unadulterated style of Trek-Segafredo’s racing in a moment but we have to start with the winner, Elisa Longo Borghini, who came out on Saturday as a thoroughly deserving winner.

Much of the groundwork was laid by her teammates but it was the Italian who created the winning move with a telling attack through Templeuve. No one could latch on after a pulsating chase of a move that contained Lotte Kopecky, Marta Bastianelli, and Lucinda Brand had been neutralized at the start of the all-important sector.

There was a brief moment when two riders almost made contact (more on that later) but once Longo Borghini created a gap of around 20 seconds it was always going to be hard to close her down.

What we saw from the 30-year-old after her attack was a breathless masterclass on the dusty, dry cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. The Italian measured her efforts perfectly through each sector, riding a razor’s edge between risk and brilliance, before stamping on the pedals once the terrain smoothed.

While her rivals clearly had the power to reduce the gap to just a handful of seconds through a number of key sectors, Longo Borghini had the consistency and confidence to hold her rivals at bay before finally wearing them out. Twelve months ago Lizzie Deignan put in a more dominant solo performance, but Longo Borghini’s win was arguably the better of the two, and certainly a better spectacle and more thrilling race.

In terms of her career, the Italian is often overshadowed by some of her rivals but she has now one Paris-Roubaix to accompany her wins at Strade Bianche, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Tour of Flanders, and other countless victories. She is, without question, a superstar in women’s cycling.

Finally, and I don’t want to try and bring it back to the men on this one, but this photo shared by the Trek PR team that shows the men’s squad taking time out from ASO duties on Saturday to crowd around a device to watch the women’s tear it up over the cobbles was pretty special moment in itself. There are so many unfathomable questions as to why it took so long for the women’s sport to have this race on their calendar, but it’s a joy to behold now and one that should be cherished by everyone associated with the sport.

Trek-Segafredo, a team at the top of their game

There was a moment on Saturday when the entire race appeared to be unraveling for the American team. Ellen van Dijk had suffered a front wheel puncture at the worst possible time, Chloe Hosking had crashed into a ditch and Elisa Balsamo had been ejected from the race for taking a sticky bottle. Trek, make no mistake about it, was on the ropes.

The team certainly benefited from some questionable tactics from their rivals, but as a squad, it managed the situation perfectly. Van Dijk returned to the lead group and blocked several key moves, Lucinda Brand marked Kopecky’s most powerful attack with more than 50km to go, and then defended Longo Borghini’s position when it mattered most, while Audrey Cordon Ragot was her ever-consistent best.

Three riders in the top seven says it all, along with the fact that the team has now won the first two editions of the race with solo winning moves. It seems to thrive on the Roubaix conditions like no other. There were some questions around the team coming into the race due to recent results, and some squads might have gone into a shell when bad luck hit like it did on Sunday. Not this team.

SD Worx unravels

Was the team too rigid in its approach? Possibly. There’s no shame in finishing second in a race as finely balanced as Paris-Roubaix but there’s no doubt that the post-race debrief on the team bus would have been an interesting scene.

Kopecky didn’t fully commit when she had created a powerful move with Brand and Marta Bastianelli and that allowed several teams to regroup and chase. Had the Belgian fully committed, maybe that move would have survived until the end but hesitancy and a determination to play to the script rather than the scenario certainly tipped the balance in Trek’s favor.

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak looked great on the day but she wasn’t in that first move, and she didn’t latch onto Longo Borghini when the Italian took the race by the scruff of the neck. It’s in these moments that races are won and lost.

Calling back Cecchini also looked like a mistake. She was no match for Longo Borghini but if she had made contact and simply sat on then perhaps it could have at least caused the Italian champion to think twice for the briefest of moments before pushing on.

Jumbo-Visma rallies

Losing Marianne Vos just hours before the race was a massive blow for the Dutch team. It meant it went into the race without its leader, its focal point, and its best chance of a result. However, rather than shy away from that, the remnants of the team put in a dogged performance.

Teuntje Beekhuis, Romy Kasper, and Coryn Labecki were never far from the front, and but for some bad luck, it might have slipped into the top-10. A top result of 14th on the day didn’t really do the team’s efforts justice but Labecki and Kasper in particular were often in the right places at the right times when the early moves were being made and Ellen van Dijk was ripping the bunch apart. Given how late it lost its leader the team can be proud of its efforts.

TV coverage needs expansion

As I write this we’ve watched 30 minutes of preamble ahead of the men’s race and viewers will have the chance to watch the entirety of the race on Sunday from start to finish.

While those at home received more coverage in 2022 than they did in 2021 — at least we saw the winning move this time — there’s still a lack of parity.

Looking at the numbers on VeloNews, the site generated more traffic for the women’s race in 2022 than it did for the men’s in 2021. The appetite is there, so full and complete television coverage of the women’s race should be part of the package next year.