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Why Paris-Roubaix Femmes means more

When the women's peloton finally get their chance to experience the unique flavour of Queen of the Classics it will be long overdue

Robyn Davidson
1 Oct 2021

Paris-Roubaix is a race enriched by a historic legacy. Each race unfolds like an enthralling play; the racers as the protagonists and the mud-slicked pavé as their stage.

I don’t believe the women’s calendar should be a direct copy of the men’s programme. Nor do I believe that one race can instantly lessen the chasm of gender inequality within cycling. But when I stood on the famed and feared irregular cobbles on the course in 2018, all I could think about was how amazing it would be to see the women ride over them.

There have been 117 editions of the men’s Paris-Roubaix. 117 winners have crossed the finish line over 125 years, but innumerable stories have been written with each participant crafting their own tale upon starting. Each of these individual chapters adds to the mystical lore that encapsulates those who cannot have the opportunity to participate.

For too long the women’s peloton have been unable to experience such an event. When a women's Paris-Roubaix was announced back in spring of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced its inaugural edition cancellation. By the time the next year rolled around, it was postponed and rescheduled again.

Like a carrot dangled in front of a hungry rabbit, it almost felt as if we were part of an unfunny joke. Maybe it would never happen?

Yet here we are. Ready to experience history.

There have been photographs taken of Marianne Vos walking through the famous Roubaix showers. The concrete showers are a far cry from the luxury the riders will have earned after a gruesome day in the saddle, but the cubicles double up as a theoretical hall of fame room. Plaques are engraved with the names of winners.

As Vos has won almost everything she has set her mind to, it would certainly be fitting for her to be enshrined into further greatness.

Paris-Roubaix doesn’t always allow teams to stick to the script, which is part of its alluring charm. Anyone and everyone should be marked. When the women take to the start line in Denain on the 2nd of October, and no matter who wins in the Roubaix velodrome, we will all be witnessing history.

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