Lizzie Deignan proved to be the class of the field in the first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes as she held off Marianne Vos to take victory at the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux after a gruelling 116km of racing across the famous cobbles.
Cycling’s elite female riders have had to wait a long time for a crack at the pavé and faced a unique challenge as the devil had left the tap on in a delayed “Hell of the North”. Deignan took a stunning solo victory as Vos’s chase proved in vain as the Yorkshirewoman ultimately showed a greater mastery of the conditions.
After a fast start, Deignan broke away with around 79km to go, on the first cobbled sector, Hornaing à Wandignies, and quickly established a two-minute lead on the chasers.
With the rain starting to fall, the cobbles became even more treacherous. The traditional dust which usually coats the men as they plough through northern France was not a factor; instead the women had to negate a patchwork of muddy puddles scattered across the pavé.
Despite Deignan’s lead topping two and half minutes at one stage, she still had to draw on all her bike-handling skills to plot a path through the cobbles. Ellen van Dijk, Elisa Longo Borghini and Vos in the chasing group behind struggled to get a cohesive effort going, until the 34-year-old Dutch legend broke away in pursuit.
Vos gritted her teeth as she tried to chase down Deignan, but after initially wiping out almost a minute, the Briton was able to hold off her great rival as the kilometres tumbled away.