Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) on the Roubaix Velodrome at the end of 2021 Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

Marianne Vos: ‘The rain, wind and mud made it a wonderful first edition’

Runner-up Marianne Vos reflects on a “fantastic” first ever women’s Paris-Roubaix.

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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) finished second in the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes, crossing the rain-slick finish line 1:17 after Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) after a spirited 18 km chase.

“I gave everything,” Vos said after the race. “It was hard but also great and so incredibly cool.”

As so many said in the days and weeks leading up to Saturday’s iconic race, it was hard to predict the outcome given the lack of reference. However, with her weighty palmarès and G.O.A.T. status, Vos’s positioning as favourite for the title was never in doubt.

Barring misfortune, Vos was always expected to play a part in this historic edition, and the Dutch rider did not disappoint. With Deignan up the road, Vos was ever-present in the chase, her cyclocross experience no doubt coming in handy on the mud-strewn pavé.

“I had to be constantly focussed, because it almost felt like war on the cobblestones – although I know you can’t really call it that,” Vos said. “That’s why I tried to ride from the front as much as possible. It was really slippery, but apparently it had to be, this first edition.”

Deignan had made her winning move on the first and longest of the 17 cobbled sectors, with 82 km left to race. The shattered peloton chased hard for hours, but Vos was the only one able to threaten the leader’s advantage.

Marianne Vos chasing solo in the last 20 km of Paris-Roubaix.

“I think she entered one of the first sections first,” Vos said of her rival’s race-winning move. “The rider behind her left a gap and from there she just went alone. We were still with quite a big group behind. You know that they’re [Trek-Segafredo] a really strong team so they’re going to go early. Sending someone up the road is a good tactic because then they’re not forced to chase anybody down. Behind Deignan, the team still had some other very strong women.”

Despite the best efforts of the chase, the peloton was unable to make significant inroads. Ultimately, Vos took matters into her own hands and attacked on the Camphin-en-Pévèle, but with two minutes to make up in under 20 km, she had her work cut out.

“It was a super-strong attack from Deignan. It was early, really early. You’re thinking, maybe too early but she just kept going. The gap grew up to two minutes and you know that you have to get started at some point. I came back to about a minute of her but that’s where I kept dangling.”

While Vos was able to slash Deignan’s lead over the last few cobbled sectors, it was too late. A week after finishing second to Elisa Balsamo at the World Championships, Vos took the same prize in Roubaix. Nevertheless, the thrill of riding the first women’s ‘Hell of the North’ seemed to outweigh her personal disappointment.

“Maybe it had to be like this, that the first edition had to be in these conditions with the mud and the rain,” Vos reflected. “It even made it more epic. With the delay after the announcement of the first Paris-Roubaix of course we had a longer wait. It made the excitement even bigger. All the teams were definitely ready for this first race. With the build-up in the last couple of weeks, the hype around the first Paris-Roubaix got bigger and bigger. You feel those nerves and the excitement as a rider as well. It has been great to be part of this inaugural Paris-Roubaix. It’s even better that it’s now one of the races that will be there every season.

“It was really fantastic to do. The rain, wind and mud made it a wonderful first edition.”

Vos crosses the finish line in the Roubaix Velodrome at the end of Paris-Roubaix Femmes.

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