Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift: Lotte Kopecky sprints to a narrow victory in the velodrome

Elisa Balsamo and Marianne Vos sprint wheel to wheel to the line, but Kopecky flies around on the outside to take victory

Clock15:46, Saturday 6th April 2024
Lotte Kopecky takes victory in the Roubaix velodrome

© Getty Images

Lotte Kopecky takes victory in the Roubaix velodrome

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) narrowly took victory in a nail-biting finale to Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift 2024, just beating Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek), Pfeiffer Georgi (dsm-firmenich PostNL) Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike) to the line.

The Belgian had been a marked rider all day, but refused to be drawn in by numerous attacks from rival teams. After an attritional day of racing over the cobbles, a star-studded lead group of six arrived in the Roubaix velodrome, led by Lidl-Trek's Ellen van Dijk.

Balsamo, Vos, Pfeiffer Georgi (dsm-firmenich PostNL), Amber Kraak (FDJ-SUEZ) and Kopecky opened their sprint with about a lap to go. On the final bend, Balsamo and Vos were in front, riding wheel to wheel. With just the final straight remaining, Kopecky, freed from the back of the bunch, flew around on the outside, just squeezing by to take victory.

After the finish, Kopecky said that this win had been one of her big objectives for the year:

"This was the goal of the season. So to do it is really nice. How much confidence the team gave me, all season, and especially the last week. My teammates tried to make me laugh as much as possible in the last two days. I could really feel how they believed in me. They did an amazing job and then Lorena in the second group was maybe the key.

"It’s always very nervous [on the velodrome]. You’re here with two very fast sprinters in Vos and Balsamo, and you’re never sure. At one moment I thought that I was boxed in but then they had to start their sprints pretty early and I could just keep sprinting."

How it unfolded

On a warm April afternoon, the women’s WorldTour peloton began the fourth edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. Ahead of the start, much was being said of the high wind. Large swathes of the route were due to receive a tailwind, which was bound to change the dynamics within the peloton.

It was a nervy start, with two minor crashes within the first half hour, and a couple of breakaway attempts that were closed down as quickly as they began. Victoire Joncheray (Grand Est-Komugi) managed to establish an early break, but the peloton, helped by that howling tailwind, soon reeled her in.

As the peloton approached the first pave sector, the pace kicked up a gear as teams fought for the front and riders were dropping off the back due to the blistering pace, set by Movistar and dsm-firmenich PostNL.

On the first cobbled sector, Hornaing à Wandignies, a four-star, 3.7km sector of cobbles, world champion Lotte Kopecky was keen to be among the front, as was teammate Lorena Wiebes and rival Elisa Balsamo. Amid a scorching pace, riders were shed from the group behind, one by one. This would be the theme of the day: the leaders rode hard on the cobbles, thinning out the group, then allowed it to regroup back on tarmac.

From Hornaing à Wandignies onwards, the cobbles came thick and fast. Lidl-Trek kept in control at the front, and a selective group of about 20 riders emerged from the front of the peloton. As the cobbles forced the riders into a single-file line, the crosswind blew the peloton apart. The peloton was split into three groups, with many stragglers in between each of them.

Kopecky was steadfast in claiming her position at the front over the treacherous cobbles, calm and collected as had looked all day. In fact, Kopecky confidently dropped back to her team car twice, firstly to make an on-bike headset adjustment, and secondly to pick up some food and have a word with her sports director.

It was approaching Auchy-lez-Orchies, a four-star cobbled sector, when Kopecky formed her first plan to break from the group. Accompanied by Wiebes, Kopecky slid up the side of the group. As soon as the tarmac gave way, Kopecky made her move. Planted on the bike, and riding firmly in the middle of the road, she powered away from the group. Just four riders managed to stick with her: Vos, Schweinberger, Georgi and Wiebes, although after a few seconds, Wiebes lost contact and drifted back to the chase group which had formed behind.

Off the cobbles, the lead four rode hard towards Mons-en-Pévèle, doing their best to extend their lead. However, the chase group, led by Ellen van Dijk and her Lidl-Trek team, were quick to swallow them up. Taking the front of the race, Van Dijk drove a fierce pace over Mons-en-Pévèle, one of the toughest cobbled sectors of the race.

Back on tarmac, the pace relented once again, and the lead group swelled to around 30 riders. Nevertheless, with the leaders using every cobble section to blow the group apart it wouldn’t be long before riders were dropping off the back once again. Reluctant to let her rivals recover, Van Dijk led out two fierce attacks on the tarmac, forcing the riders behind to reel her back in.

Having occupied the front group throughout the race, at long last FDJ-SUEZ found time to make their move. Jade Wiel, former French champion, powered off the front on the next cobbled sector, then solidified her break on the tarmac that followed. Behind, riders were reluctant to chase, and Wiel, who was able to choose her lines through the tight corners, gained over 20 seconds on the group.

Eventually, Kopecky, Vos and Balsamo brought up the pace in the group behind, and Wiel's gap began to shrink, but it was Van Dijk who managed to break from the group and bridge across to leader, Wiel. Again, there was hesitation to chase behind. Amid the hesitation, Kopecky attacked, and only Vos and Balsamo could hold her wheel. Soon enough, the three chasers had joined up with the pair out front, and the group of five headed onto Carrefour de l'Arbre.

On Carrefour de l’Arbre, perhaps the roughest cobbles on the course, Van Dijk led once again, setting such a high pace that her teammate Balsamo was momentarily dropped off the back. As the cobbles wore on, the leaders each took turns to attack the group.

With just 10km remaining, there was a six-strong group of riders on the front, with a large chase group 37 seconds behind. The leaders began attacking each other, but they didn't have the freedom to play with tactics too much. The chasers were closing in, and among them were some of the best sprinters in the world. As the velodrome approved, Kopecky and Vos remained calm as Van Dijk led the race yet again.

Five riders rode into the velodrome, with the chasers still over 20 seconds behind. Van Dijk continued to ride on the front, glancing over her shoulder for her teammate Balsamo. Behind her was Balsamo, Vos, Georgi, Kraak and Kopecky.

The sprint began in earnest on the final lap bell. With Kopecky boxed in, it was Balsamo who flew around on the outside. As the riders entered the final bend, Vos and Balsamo were wheel-to-wheel on the front. Meanwhile, Kopecky, who had freed herself from the back of the group, came tearing around on the outside. On the final straight, she edged past Balsamo and Vos, crossing the line around a bike length ahead of the others.

Race Results

1

be flag

KOPECKY Lotte

Team SD Worx-Protime

3H 47' 13"

2

it flag

BALSAMO Elisa

Lidl-Trek

"

3

gb flag

GEORGI Pfeiffer

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

"

4

nl flag

VOS Marianne

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

"

5

nl flag

KRAAK Amber

FDJ-SUEZ

"

6

nl flag

VAN DIJK Ellen

Lidl-Trek

+ 6"

7

nl flag

WIEBES Lorena

Team SD Worx-Protime

+ 28"

8

fr flag

BERTEAU Victoire

Cofidis Women Team

"

9

fr flag

LE NET Marie

FDJ-SUEZ

"

10

mu flag

LE COURT Kim

AG Insurance-Soudal Team

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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