2022 Paris-Roubaix Femmes

A Saturday in Hell: Do riders in the women’s peloton prefer having their own day?

Riders give their thoughts on how best to stack the men's and women's races in the big Classics.

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

In 2019, when the women’s Tour of Flanders finished before the men’s race, it had a Flemish TV viewership of 157,000. Three years later, the women’s now finishing after the men’s, Flemish viewership was at 764,000. In 2019, the men’s Paris-Roubaix peaked at 1.93 million in France, the same as the peak of the first women’s race in 2021.

As the appetite for women’s racing continues to grow and television networks belatedly wake up and broadcast the action, the question arises of how best to schedule both pelotons to provide the best experience for fans and riders, and to get as many eyeballs watching as possible.

The Tour of Flanders runs both races on the Sunday, and a move to Saturday would force a clash with the sportive, which generates a huge amount of money for the race organisers. Meanwhile, Paris-Roubaix Femmes takes place on the Saturday, the day before Paris-Roubaix Hommes on the Sunday. Which is the better option? Do the women prefer having their standalone Saturday in Hell at Roubaix, or does the double header add to what is already a big day out for the cycling world?

“I guess it depends what the goal is,” Canyon-SRAM’s Sarah Roy told CyclingTips. “If we’re looking for a bigger crowd of people at our race then having on the same day as the men’s is always going to be better for that.”

However, Roy explains the bigger crowd comes with the caveat that if the women race after the men, a lot of the crowd disperses before the women arrive, as she experienced at Flanders two weeks ago.

“We’re gaining extra interest when they’re already there and are like, ‘Ah, the women’s race,'” said FDJ’s Grace Brown in support of the races happening on the same day. ” Although I understand for a race like Roubaix it may be really hard logistically to have two races on one day.”

DSM’s Lorena Wiebes counts herself among those who enjoy the division across two days, which allows the spotlight to shine solely on the women on the Saturday of Paris-Roubaix. As she put it, “When we start today all of the attention is on our race, that’s all good.”

All that said, for some riders, including Alison Jackon of Liv Racing Xstra, it’s not about when the race happens, but more that fans are able to see it in full.

“I think what is the best for our fans and everyone back home is just full coverage,” Jackson said. “So you can watch it either double-screened [if the men’s is also on], but from the start. Last year we only had the last parts of the race, we missed all of the action. For the fans and the interest of the sport as long as we get to see the full story play out.”

A tongue-in-cheek suggestion: couldn’t the women’s peloton agree amongst themselves to leave the majority of the action until the television broadcasters have finally bothered to fire up the cameras? In 2021 Lizzie Deignan attacked from pretty much the first cobble, a move that was only seen by her competitors.

“No,” Roy said with a laugh at the idea. “I don’t think we’ve ever discussed that.”

It’s easy to forget that cyclists are also fans of the sport as well as being participants. That’s very much the case for Le Col-Wahoo’s Marjolein van ‘t Geloof.

“I do like it when it’s the same day and we get the same people on the roads but I also like to see the men’s race,” she said. “[By Sunday] you’re done and it’s the day after so you can just chill, so that’s also good.”

Editors' Picks