We’ll be watching. You’ll be watching. Here’s why we’re so excited.
Paris-Roubaix is a race like no other. From the history to the event’s uniqueness, there are many reasons to love this Monument. However, until now, it was always missing something: a women’s race.
Recently, most classics have been run in tandem with competitions for men and women – except Paris-Roubaix. For years, the organizers have resisted adding a sister event despite overwhelming demand.
Finally, in October 2021, history will be made. We’ve had a think about why this is an event to get excited for.
- It’s making history
The Queen of the Classics was first raced by men 125 years ago, way before cycling was a professional sport and even before the first Tour de France. However, it didn’t gain its infamous nickname ‘The Hell of the North’ until after World War I when Henri Péllisier raced through the devastated northern French fields to win. Afterward, he said: “This wasn’t a race. It was a pilgrimage.”
Winning Paris-Roubaix defines a rider’s entire career. More so than any other one-day race, bar perhaps the World Championships. They could win this race alone – and nothing else – and still go down as a legend of the sport. And they probably would never have to buy a drink in the cycling heartlands again.
Eighty-seven different legends have accomplished this feat, and each one has a shower block dedicated to their achievement in Roubaix. We’re not yet sure what will be done to immortalize the winners of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes, but we’re excited to find out. To win the Queen of the Classics is one thing but to be the first-ever winner will be nothing short of historic.
“If one wants to make the list of great champions, a win in Roubaix is a must.”
- It’s a race like no other
Some (uninformed) people may say ‘but there are cobbles in lots of races. Paris-Roubaix can’t be that hard. There aren’t even any hills!’
Those people are wrong.
There is a reason why this race is known as the Hell of the North: 17 cobbled sectors covering 30 kilometers of hellish pavé await the peloton. Each sector is graded from one to five stars according to its severity and length. The most infamous sectors featured in the women’s race are Mons-en-Pévèle and Carrefour de l’Arbre, both more than deserving of their five stars of sadism. It’s genuinely hard to do justice to how excruciating racing on these cobbles is, but the contorted pain etched deep onto the riders’ faces will give you an idea.
Another peculiarity of this race is that it finishes with a lap and a half around the iconic Roubaix Velodrome. After slogging over the cobbles, the riders need to keep a grip of their mental faculties to tactically approach a sprint on the velodrome – not as straightforward as it seems. The other option is to drop everyone before the velodrome and enjoy a victory lap to rapturous applause.
“The best I could do would be to describe it like this — they ploughed a dirt road, flew over it with a helicopter, and then just dropped a bunch of rocks out of the helicopter. That’s Paris–Roubaix. It’s that bad. It’s ridiculous.”
- It requires special equipment
Road bikes have changed a lot since they were first raced well over 100 years ago. Despite the advances in frame materials, one big question remained, how can a frame be stiff enough to efficiently transfer power, yet compliant enough to limit the bone-rattling impact of rough terrain – and in the Hell of the North we have the roughest roads known to professional road cycling. Enter the Trek Domane.
Paris-Roubaix is the only race on the entire calendar that we race the Domane. A special race deserves a special bike, and our Domane is just that. Nothing makes the pavé easy, but the Domane’s hi-tech IsoSpeed decoupler goes a long way to give our athletes a smoother ride, thus saving valuable energy to pour into racing. In addition to a fast and comfortable ride, it’s important that the equipment can last as long as the race does without incident. To complement the Domane frame, we will also line up with a special version of our Bontrager wheels outfitted with 30mm Pirelli P-Zero tubular and tubeless tires.
“The race is all about surviving, surviving, surviving; I know I didn’t feel great, but maybe others felt worse.”
- It’s unpredictable
Over the years we have seen which types of riders are capable of winning Roubaix. However, in this race there are no certainties. It is particularly hard to predict who from the women’s peloton will take home a cobblestone for their mantelpiece for two reasons.
1: Anything can happen in the Hell of the North: punctures, mechanicals or crashes. Even an ill-timed train crossing can derail a rider’s shot at victory. We’ve seen many favorites in the men’s race lose due to one or more of the above, though of course with our meticulous set up we hope to limit these factors to a minimum.
2: We have no experience of which riders will excel over the brutal cobbles, the Roubaix pavé is unlike that of any other race. Certainly, every rider aiming for the win will have done multiple recons, but there has been no chance for comparison amongst key rivals. While we know who we’re betting on, we don’t envy any amateur tipsters out there.
“Paris-Roubaix is a horrible race to ride, but the most beautiful one to win.”
- It’s been a long time coming
We’ve done our waiting! 125 years of it!
After years of demands for a women’s Paris-Roubaix from fans and riders alike, it was finally announced that the event would debut as the zenith of the 2020 cobbled classics campaign. Cycling fans rejoiced, but a cruel twist of fate appeared in the form of a worldwide pandemic, which put the world on hold.
The race was pushed back again and again, each time amplifying the hype. Since it was announced by the ASO in 2020, the cycling world has been rife with speculation about how the historic race will play out. A host of documentaries have been commissioned to capture the momentous occasion. Finally, it looks as though we will see Paris-Roubaix raced, but we don’t want to jinx it (fingers crossed).
“Paris-Roubaix is bullshit.”