Kopecky, a rainbow icon on the cobbles

April 6 th 2024 - 17:53

All eyes were on Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) this Saturday, with the rainbow jersey on her shoulders and a status of hot favourite for the 4th edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift… And the Belgian icon delivered a stunning victory in the André-Pétrieux velodrome after an impressive performance all day long. She was the most active rider on the cobbles to make the selection. Eventually, as a group of six favourites entered the velodrome, SD Worx-Protime’s leader, a world champion on the road and on the track as well, made the most of her power to get the better of Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) and Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM-Firmenich PostNL), with Marianne Vos (Team Visma | Lease a Bike) finishing 4th. Kopecky is the first Belgian winner of Paris-Roubaix since Philippe Gilbert in the men’s edition, in 2019. She's also the first reigning world champion to claim the winner's cobble since Peter Sagan in 2018.

Extended Highlights - Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec ZWIFT 2024

The start from Denain, with two loops to open up the race, is marked by strong winds. Already wary of the breakaway after Alison Jackson’s triumph in 2023, the peloton also fear potential echelons.

The tension is high, leading to several crashes including Jackson’s, and the early attackers are kept under control. Victoire Joncheray (Komugi-Grand Est) sets off at km 15 and opens a gap of 1’50’’ after 25km, but the peloton get back to her some 30 kilometres before the first cobble sector, from Hornaing to Wandignies (km 66).

Kopecky unleashed

The tension and the speeds increase as the peloton get closer to the cobblestones. Marianne Vos’ Visma | Lease a Bike, Emma Norsgaard Bjerg’s Movistar and Pfeiffer Georgi’s DSM Firmenich-PostNL are among the teams involved in driving the peloton. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) quickly shows her rainbow jersey at the very front. Lidl-Trek also show their collective strength and participate in the early selection.

Kopecky pushes the pace on sector 15, from Tilloy to Sars-et-Rosières (2.4km, 4*), to make a first selection with 70km to go. The world champion does everything, even fixing her handlebar with an Allen key provided by her team car.

And she goes on to the attack again on sector 12, in Auchy-lez-Orchies (2.7km, 4*). This time, only three riders can follow her, 53km away from the finish: Marianne Vos, Peiffer Georgi and Christina Schweinberger (Fenix-Deceuninck).

FDJ-Suez on the move

Ellen van Dijk (Lidl-Trek) makes sure they’re caught on the iconic cobbles of Mons-en-Pévèle (3km, 5*). Kopecky tries again with 45km to go, unsuccessfully. DSM Firmenich-PostNL, Visma | Lease a Bike and Lidl-Trek take turns at the front of a 30-woman peloton.

Jade Wiel (FDJ-Suez) goes solo with 33.5km to go, just like Elisa Longo Borghini when she won Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift. The Frenchwoman opens a gap of 30’’ but she’s eventually caught on the cobbles of Bourghelles to Wannehain (1.1km, 3*). Her teammate Amber Kraak immediately counter-attacks and Van Dijk joins her.

A thriller until the end

Kopecky accelerates again in Camphin-en-Pévèle (Km 128.6 - Sector 5, 1.8km, 4*) and a group of six riders emerge on the Carrefour de l’Arbre with the Belgian world champion, Van Dijk, Kraak, Georgi, Vos and Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek). Vos and Kopecky attack again and again but they can’t get rid of each other.

As a 10-woman chase group featuring Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx-Protime) gets closer in the finale, Van Dijk sacrifices herself to drive the lead group into the velodrome with a gap of 20’’. Balsamo and Vos open up the sprint but they can’t resist Kopecky’s mighty sprint to claim her spot in the legend of the Hell of the North.

© A.S.O/Thomas Maheux

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