Preview: Who’s going to win the 2022 women’s Paris-Roubaix?

The second edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift will take place on Saturday.

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It’s hard to believe that only six months ago we tuned in to watch a mud-soaked Lizzie Deignan decimate the cobbles and ride into the velodrome alone to be crowned the very first winner of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. Her iconic and emotional win was felt and seen worldwide, and only made more beautiful when Deignan’s teammate Elisa Longo Borghini rode in over a minute and a half later to take third behind Marianne Vos.

Images of the two hugging each other, both in tears with blood-soaked hands, circulated around the internet for weeks after the race and pictures of Deignan’s post-race shower featured in some of the top cycling articles of the year.

Elisa Longo Borghini was clearly excited to see photographer Jojo Harper at the finish.

Looking through photos of the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes, it’s clear the race was one that can’t be replicated. For starters, the weather forecast for Saturday calls for zero chance of rain, albeit with some cloud cover. The day before the race could potentially see scattered precipitation, but nothing like that of October 2021.

Dry cobbles will make for a very different setup to an already unpredictable event. We only have one year to look at for reference and it doesn’t give any indication of how teams will approach the race on Saturday.

The good news is the race organizers ASO have extended live coverage to include all the cobbled sectors, unlike last year when we only saw the final 52 km, well after Deignan had ridden away from the rest of her competition.

While Deignan herself won’t be in attendance at Roubaix this year, plenty of big names will. Marianne Vos, Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak, Elisa Balsamo, and Lotte Kopecky are among the favorites to take the second women’s win in the history of the race.

Will one of those top contenders emerge as the victor, or will another challenger cross the line first in the Roubaix velodrome?

Read on for everything you need to know about the 2022 women’s Paris-Roubaix …

The route

The women will race along the same course to Roubaix they did in the first edition. An additional lap around the start town of Denain adds a little over 8 km to the 2021 course. In total, the race covers 124.7 km with just over 29 km of pavé.

The extra 8 km means the peloton has a bit more road before Hornaig à Wandignies, the first sector of cobbles, at 42.3 km and the same stretch of pavé where Deignan made her race-winning move last year.

Since 2021 was the first women’s edition of Paris Roubaix, and the weather was exceptional, there’s no telling where the race will really kick off this year. The first five-star sector of cobbles Mons-en-Pévèle comes after 76.2 km, well into the race. By then there will have been some selections made, but whether or not the race will already be decided is anyone’s guess.

By the next five-star cobbled sector, the Carrefour de l’Arbre, there are only 17.1 km left to go and with each of the three sectors prior building in difficulty, this stretch of the race will be critical.

After the Carrefour, only three far less technical sections of cobbles await before the finish in the Roubaix velodrome.

The Favorites

The Queen of the North (because the race is called the Hell of the North, get it?) Lizzie Deignan will not be returning to fight for her title as she is expecting her second child in September, but there are many women hoping to take her place on Saturday.

Let’s start with SD Worx, a team that went into Paris-Roubaix last October with high hopes but fell short with their top finisher Chantal van den Broek-Blaak taking tenth. Van den Broek-Blaak, who had planned to retire soon after Paris Roubaix but ultimately decided to stick around for another couple of years, will start on Saturday as one of the top favorites. The former world champion showed incredible form at the Tour of Flanders where she pulled off a 10 km lead out to deliver her teammate Lotte Kopecky to victory.

Van den Broek-Blaak’s main competition will come from within her own team. Kopecky is another favorite and with wins at both Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders, the Belgian champ has a target on her back. Another SD Worx rider to look out for is Christine Majerus. Majerus was aiming for a top ten in last year’s race and finished just outside her goal in 11th. She can crank out some serious watts and has the experience and positioning skills to compliment her power.

Speaking of watts, Ellen van Dijk is someone whose pure power output will come in handy on Saturday. The world time trial champion struggled with the conditions last year, crashing early in the race, but the dry roads will swing the race in her favor. Trek-Segafredo also have Elisa Balsamo, who is riding exceptionally well at the moment. The American team wasn’t able to put together a good race at the Tour of Flanders but the pressure will be on to keep the Hell of the North title in the family on Saturday. Their French talent Audrey Cordon-Ragot is particularly keen to impress in her home country and has recently been tapped by the team to take up a more central role, with Deignan out and Elisa Longo Borghini racing but still recovering from illness.

Jumbo-Visma’s Marianne Vos sat out the Amstel Gold Race purely so she could focus on the upcoming Monument. Last year’s runner-up, Vos has won almost every major race on the calendar in her career except Paris-Roubaix. There is no doubt she can handle a bike, she is the current Cyclocross world champion after all, but she has had an off start to the season. She missed Trofeo Alfredo Binda in March due to illness and hasn’t quite been a threat since. Regardless of the slow start, Vos isn’t the Greatest Of All Time for nothing.

One rider who has had a pretty impressive start to the season is Marta Bastianelli. The UAE Team ADQ rider has a few wins in the legs already, including Omloop van het Hageland, and was up there in last year’s Paris-Roubaix. On top of that her team has been surprisingly organized, something other WorldTour teams can’t claim.

There is a handful of riders worth mentioning based on their riding style and how they’ve performed already this season, one of them being Lorena Wiebes of Team DSM. Wiebes recently took her 40th career victory at Scheldeprijs, four of those wins are in 2022, one of them was the WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe.

Emma Norsgaard of Movistar is another rider whose skillset in theory would come in handy at Paris-Roubaix, and she has been on relatively good form in the buildup to the race.

FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope’s Grace Brown has the power to get over the cobbles and is great at a long-range attack.

Finally, she isn’t a favorite to win but Silvia Persico of Valcar-Travel & Service has been incredible this year and has the cyclocross talent that makes the cobbles slightly less treacherous. She will net a top 10 result and is one to watch for the future.

CyclingTips star ratings

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Van den Broek-Blaak, Vos
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Kopecky, Balsamo
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Van Dijk, Wiebes
⭐️⭐️: Cordon-Ragot, Bastianelli, Norsgaard
⭐️: Brown, Majerus

How to watch

Word on the street is this year’s Paris-Roubaix Femmes coverage will follow the race from the first sector of cobbles to the finish. Nearly three hours of live pictures! It’s one of the races on the calendar that can be watched easily from start to finish, and even though we won’t see the start in Denain, the extended coverage is a step in the right direction.

For those in Europe and North America tune in to GCN+ at 1:00 local time. Australian viewers can watch the race on SBS with former pro and co-host of the Freewheeling podcast Gracie Elvin for company.

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