The last woman across the Roubaix finish line

'The last will be first'.

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“Let’s wait and see who’s last,” isn’t something usually said at a bike race or any other sporting event. Contests are set to decide a winner, to pit differing amounts of brain and brawn against one other and see what happens.

Paris-Roubaix is a race where the victor cements their name in cycling history, but the last to finish has also won. Making it through demented cobbled sector after demented cobbled sector despite the race already being well up the road is an accolade worth celebration.

In the build-up to this weekend, L’Equipe ran an article titled “the last will be first”, with various last-placed riders describing the pain and lasting mental agony of a Sunday in Hell. But now, we also have a Saturday in Hell. Another last rider to be first.

As the crowds quietened and dispersed, riders continued to enter the velodrome. Cofidis’ Valentine Fortin, is she the last? UAE Team ADQ’s Alena Ivanchenko then appears and does the first lap of the velodrome before stopping by her soigneur. “No, no! Another lap!” he cries, pushing her onwards.

A group of four then enter. The race will be closed with a final sprint.

20-year-old American Katie Clouse rides for Human Powered Health and this time last week had never raced in Europe before. Now, she’s done Amstel Gold and Paris-Roubaix. She was the last of the quartet across the line, and although there will be an OTL next to her name for this race, it certainly won’t feel like that.

The last four riders enter the velodrome

“I was definitely cracked with 50 km still to go,” Clouse tells CyclingTips, “but I was like you know what, I’m still going to finish this, so I’m pretty proud to just cross the line…but it was definitely hard.”

A cyclocross rider now finding her way on the road, Clouse is happy to have been “thrown in at the deep end”, although maybe a little too hard, she says, having got involved with moves off the front early on, especially when she’s racing against riders who’ve been “dialled for these races the whole winter”.

“I’ve never experienced this kind of race so it was cool, I’ve just been watching it on TV my whole life so, definitely a day to remember.”

And now you’re done.

“Now I’m done…I think I’m going to go take a nap.”

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