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Trek-Segafredo’s grip on Paris-Roubaix Femmes ends, but team goes down swinging

After two straight victories, Trek-Segafreo sees Lucinda Brand as team's top finisher in 12th after a dramatic race.

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ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Trek-Segafredo’s 100 percent success rate at Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift came to an end Saturday, but it wasn’t for want of trying.

The U.S.-registered team led the charge in trying to track down the early breakaway but suffered a high-profile fall on the Pont-Thibault to Ennevelin sector of cobbles that sent several big names to the floor.

In the end, Lucinda Brand was the team’s best-placed finisher in 12th place, coming across the line in a group containing Lotte Kopecky and Marianne Vos that ended the day 12 seconds behind the winner.

“It was a difficult race, it was hard to make a difference on the cobbles. Of course, the breakaway was able to get such a big gap with some very strong riders in it. I think we took our responsibility, it would have been nice to have a bit more help there but it went how it went,” Brand told reporters in the track center at the finish.

“We still won the first two editions, we tried to win the third one, it didn’t work but we did what we could so we cannot blame ourselves.”

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An extra lap around Denain that was added for this year’s race meant that the riders had some 63km before they hit the cobbles Saturday. Unlike in the first edition in 2021 — where there was just 20km before the first sector — it allowed a breakaway to form before the pavé arrived.

With 18 riders in the group and most of the teams represented in the move, there initially appeared to be little impetus to chase down the attack and it had close to six minutes at one point. Eventually, Trek-Segafredo took the initiative and started to pull on the front of the main group with Italian champion Elisa Balsamo doing the work.

Trek did have a rider in the break with Lisa Klein, but the German time trialist hadn’t been 100 percent during the week and the team wasn’t ready to go all-in on her.

“We had a good situation with someone in front but Lisa had been a little bit ill in the beginning of the week so we could not gamble anything on that. I think with so many strong riders behind, it would have been a shame to be so far behind,” Brand said.

Lucinda Brand and Elisa Longo Borghini followed the late moves
Lucinda Brand and Elisa Longo Borghini followed the late moves (Photo: Gruber Images)

Balsamo got little help from other teams as put the hammer down on the front, but her efforts paid dividends and she almost halved the gap by the time her work was done. However, it meant that she was spent when the race was hitting the final kilometers and Trek couldn’t rely on a sprinter to finish it off.

“It kicked off with a staring contest. We ended up being the sole team who wanted to pick up our responsibility. It’s something I didn’t understand. There were a few really strong riders in the lead group. We also had someone in there too which pleased us a lot but still we wanted to get back in the race too,” she said.

“We offered Balsamo really early and we showed that we were really trying. If she didn’t have to do that and she was with us in that group, then we have someone to sprint. We offered people there because we had the trust in a strong final. It didn’t work like that in the end.”

With the gap reduced, the action from behind kicked off when Kopecky surged clear with 50km to go on sector 12. Eventually, an elite group formed around her with Brand and defending champion Elisa Longo Borghini making the cut.

Elisa Longo Borghini was leading the group of favorites when she crashed
Elisa Longo Borghini was leading the group of favorites when she crashed (Photo: Chris Auld)

Rain pummelled the course over the preceding days and while most of it was dry, there was still mud and standing water about. Longo Borghini was leading the group across sector 9 with 36km to go when she hit a greasy patch and came down hard.

All but one of the group came down, with second wheel Romy Kasper the only one to stay upright. Brand had nowhere to go as riders fell in front of her and she was somersaulted over the entire group as she was pitched off her bike.

“I don’t think I ever flew that high. It was kind of a shock, but surprisingly so far I am feeling ok,” Brand said. “I don’t know who caused the crash. Tomorrow will be no fun. My ribs will hurt me a lot.”

The group had been making good headway at the time of the crash, but the fall disrupted the chase with riders now scattered across several groups on the road. Most of the major favorites would converge again for the final ride to Roubaix and the group got within 10 seconds in the closing kilometers, but it wasn’t quite enough.

“At that moment, it’s just checking yourself and your bike and getting up as soon as possible. I was quickly with a group, and I was trying to motivate them to chase, and we came close but not super quick. I felt that not everybody was putting everything in there, which we saw because the group behind also came back,” she said.

It was debatable whether or not the crash was the defining factor in the chase being able to stay away as the leaders continued to put in a big shift on the front as the chasers got ever nearer. Even without the fall, Brand knew that it was going to be hard to pull the move back.

“When I heard the names, I predicted the winner, if we didn’t catch them. It was a very strong breakaway,” she said. “In the end, if you give such a big group more than five minutes you can expect if nobody is going to help you it will turn out like this.

“If we came to the finish with this group, I’m not sure it would have made any difference. We tried a lot but we’re definitely not the fastest from this bunch. It is what it is, but we did everything we could but we cannot blame it on ourselves.”

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