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ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Epic.
That was the word that Marianne Vos used to describe the inaugural edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. While some fans have been waiting years for a wet Roubaix, the women’s peloton got it on their first attempt.
It made for a gritty race with many of the big favorites landing in the mud at some point, giving the first Paris-Roubaix Femmes race an extra tinge of history-making in the process.
“I think maybe it had to be like this, that the first edition was like this with these conditions with the mud and the rain. It even made it more epic,” Vos said in her post-race press conference. “With the delay after the announcement of the first Paris-Roubaix, of course, we had a longer wait so it made the excitement even bigger. All of the teams were definitely ready for this first race.
“With the lead up in the last couple of weeks, the hype around the first Paris-Roubaix got bigger and bigger. Of course, you feel those nerves and excitement as well. It has been great to be part of this inaugural Paris-Roubaix. It’s even better than it’s now one of the races that will be there every season.”
The first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes has been a long time coming with the race first announced for last October before being postponed twice. Vos believes the long build-up to the race only served to make it even more chaotic as a growing number of teams had time to get ready for the race.
“We have been all looking forward to Paris-Roubaix and to be here today at the start line you felt the excitement from all of the teams and all of the riders. That caused chaos in the first hour to be up there for the first cobbles and to be there in the right position,” she said. “It was a big fight, and we all knew it would be a big fight for the first cobble sections to be there and to be out of trouble.
“You have to be focused and you have to stay alert, and some of the sections were very slippery and muddy and, up at the front, we didn’t really know what to expect. You just have to deal with it and see the lines and overall the sensations were that it was just great to do Paris-Roubaix. Once you’re racing, you just try to do your best and it was a fantastic feeling to finish here in the velodrome.”
Close but not quite close enough
Vos was one of the many caught up in the crashes and carnage that was caused by the mud and the rain. Despite this, she attacked out of the chasing group behind Deignan on Camphin-en-Pévèle.
She stormed away from the rest of the group, riding smooth as silk around some of the corners as her chaser Elisa Longo Borghini struggled to stay on her bike in some sections.
“I try not to think too much. Of course, as a cyclist you have to try and switch off the mind and just go. The safest place is to be in front of the bad things happening and you just try to stay out of trouble and that’s where a team is very important,” Vos explained. “My teammates did really well to keep me in position before the biggest fights.
“It’s not that you think so much, it’s just that you try to let the bike do the work. You keep pedaling and you keep pushing but then you have to let go. In the final, you give everything you have.
With her acceleration from the chase group, Vos closed down Deignan very quickly and it looked like she might have the Trek-Segafredo rider in her sights by the time they reached the Roubaix velodrome, but her chase would eventually stall and Deignan had plenty of time to celebrate.
It was a second close call in a week for the Dutchwoman after taking silver at the world championships, but she tried to look at the positives rather than the negatives.
“We tried what we could and Lizzie Deignan had a very brave early attack and she gained a good advantage,” Vos said. “From the moment in the final when I went, I knew it was going to be very hard to make up time on her. I got a little close, but in the end, I didn’t get closer to 1:15 or whatever. Then, of course, I kept riding for the second place so for today I have to be happy with second.”