While the start of the men’s race is in Compiègne, the women click into their pedals in Denain, 50 kilometres south of Roubaix. Just like they did last year. Yet, the roll-out has been extended to one short and one big loop before merging onto the men’s course.
The cobbled party begins in style. Namely, with the longest sector of the day. Running from Hornaing to Wandignies, the pavé is 3.7 kilometres long and classified with 4 stars. No rest for the wicked and the cobbles come thick and fast after ‘secteur 1’. Every 6 kilometres or so a new set of cobbles from hell are served. No Forest of Wallers, but Mons-en-Pévèle is definitely included in the women’s race with its 2,985 metres of hardship on bone-crushing pavé.
Still eleven sectors remaining after leaving Mons-en-Pévèle. The riders tackle the pavé of Mérignies à Avelin (700 metres), Pont-Thibault à Ennevelin (1,400 metres), Templeuve – L’Epinette (200 metres), Templeuve-Moulin-de-Vertain (500 metres), Cysoing à Bourghelles (1,300 metres), Bourghelles à Wannehain (1,100 metres) and Camphin-en-Pévèle (1,800 metres).
The riders hit the iconic Carrefour de l’Arbre with 16.5 kilometres remaining. At 2,086 metres, this stretch of pavé is feared for the sloped corners. After 1,200 metres a tricky left-hand bend leads to a slight ascent. If specialists want to strike on their beloved pavé, the Carrefour de l’Arbre is their last opportunity. At the end the riders turn right at Restaurant l’Arbre Gruson before they are treated with the heavenly feel of smooth asphalt almost all the way to the Velodrome in Roubaix.
Just two more harmless sectors, Gruson and Willems à Hem, lead the way to the last cobbled section, in Roubaix itself, which is a tribute to the race. The cobbles are neatly organised to avoid major discomfort. Riders go from here into the old Velodrome with one and a half laps to go.
The first two editions of Paris-Roubaix were won with lone range-attacks. In 2021, Lizzie Deignan attacked on the very first sector and she rode to an impeccable victory, while Elisa Longo Borghini rounded off a 30 kilometres solo last year before Lotte Kopecky outsprinted Lucinda Brand for second place.
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Paris – Roubaix Femmes 2023: route, profile, more
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