Wednesday 29 September 2021

Photo of the day - 29: Catching up with SD Worx ahead of Paris-Roubaix Femmes

There's been a buzz this week as folks gear up for the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes race. The Paris-Roubaix is one of the oldest professional bike races, and arguably the most gruelling one-day race. The full distance is 258km (161 miles) and the last 160km include 30 sections of cobbled roads (pavés) with most sections being between 1.5 and 4 km long - a total of 55km of pavés. These cobbles aren't of the neat variety that you find in quaint touristic towns or even the ones you see during the Tour of Flanders bike race. They are just jagged, irregular rough and ready cobbles of all shapes and sizes on old narrow roads. Riding your bike along them is a massive test in bike handling and resilience on your body. When it rains it's treacherous, as has been seen over the years in the men's race. 

After a lot of campaigning for a women's race, the organisers ASO finally decided to stage the race last year. Unfortunately, like with many events during these coronavirus times the race had to be postponed twice, and so we now have the race taking place this coming Saturday. It's going to be a real moment in cycling history.
The women's race will be a shorter version of the men's race, with the distance being 116.4km (70 miles) and 17 sections (29.2km) of pavés. The women will tackle iconic sections of Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de L'Arbre, though it doesn't include the Trouée d'Arenberg.

Given the magnitude and excitement of the occasion, I was keen to talk to as many women as I could in advance, as part of an article I was writing for Cycling News website. One of the teams definitely worth speaking to was SD Worx, with its star-studded riders and a couple of riders who could be in with a realistic chance of winning.

So today, for my article in Cycling News, I spoke to Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Christine Majerus, and Jolien d'Hoore, who is retiring from professional racing straight after the Paris-Roubaix Femmes. As expected, all three riders are very excited at the prospect of competing in this race. 

They had just finished doing the reconnaissance of the course, and it was fair to say that they all found it a very tough course, that is going to be risky if it is raining. None of the women were concerned by the fact that they won't be doing all of the iconic stretches of cobblestones, or even that the fact that the race is less than half the distance of the men's race. For them, it was the fact that there is a women's Paris-Roubaix at all, and that in itself is a good thing.

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