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DENAIN, France (VN) – History was made Saturday when some 129 riders rolled out of Denain to start the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes.
Despite the typically inauspicious start point – a car park and beat-up street in a small French town – there was a sense that this was a special moment as riders signed on for the “Hell of the North” in Denain.
After 125 years of waiting and an agonizing, 12-month postponement, the women’s peloton would hit the cobbles for the first time as the ASO begins to expand its reach into women’s cycling via Paris-Roubaix Femmes and the Women’s Tour de France.
Here’s what the history-making riders said at the startline:
Lauren Stephens (Tibco-SVB)
I have to keep reminding myself how special it is. When I came to Europe the first time in 2013, on my second visit I visited the velodrome and we talked about one day how we’d have a race for the women, and here wea re in 2021 and here we are, having the race … I’m goinh to help my teammates as much as I can and then just enjoy the experience.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope)
I’m excited! It’s the day! The day we get to finally race Paris-Roubaix. It’s super important, and it shows that women’s cycling is going in the right direction. So many have been waiting so long for this day, and the fans too! It’s such a big hype around the men’s race and everyone knows Paris-Roubaix and everyone is excited watching it, even I was watching Paris-Roubaix when I was a little girl. I’m expecting chaos, and a battle, and it’s going to be crazy out there. It’s going to be hard – I’m excited but also a bit afraid!
Sarah Roy (BikeExchange)
It’s an iconic day, super-special. There’s been such a huge build-up, we’ve got everything thrown at us with some wind and rain overnight, and it’s probably going to start racing in the middle of the race. It’s a first time for everybody, we’ve never raced these kind of cobbles, it’s the complete unknown but that makes it so exciting for everybody as well.
Alison Jackson (Liv Racing)
Super-excited, I think you can feel it in the air with the media and the fans and all the attention it’s getting, it’s a really exciting thing for the sport. Paris-Roubaix is special, there’s a lot that you can’t control, so you have to see how it goes moment by moment, but anything could happen.
Jolien d’Hoore (SD Worx)
For women’s cycling, it’s a historical day … it’s a beautiful race, it has so much prestige and it’s a race I can remember from when I was a little girl. Also it’s not that far from Belgium and the course really suits me – it’s flat and it has cobbles so it could be a really nice day for me. We’ve had cobbled races, but this is next level. It’s going to be tough for the whole body but I’m really looking forward to it.
Marlen Reusser (Alé-BTC)
It’s important for the women’s peloton. It can teach us something in the women’s peloton because we don’t have this kind of race, so we can have a new type of racing, and put something new in our way of racing by having this race also – it’s important.