Inside Hell - Behind the scenes at Paris Roubaix Femmes

Cycling Weekly jumped in one of the Drops Le Col team cars to watch the glorious chaos of Paris Roubaix unfold

Paris Roubaix Femmes
(Image credit: Getty images)

Knees bloodied, body bruised face liberally splattered in mud Lizzy Bennett is still smiling. The Welshwoman hasn’t won, in fact she hasn’t even made the timecut at the first ever women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes but if there’s anyone that seems to sum up the mood on this sodden afternoon in northern France it’s her.

“I’m good now, maybe not so much a couple of hours ago,” she says laughing and still wiping the mud off her face. “I was in the front group and maybe on the third sector in I crashed and I’m not saying my day was over from there but I was on the back foot. I ended up crashing three times. It was a mudbath on most sectors to be honest, each time I just lost the front wheel and went down.

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She adds: “I’ve scratched up both my knees and my elbows as well. Looking back now it was a pretty surreal experience, during the race I felt good but because it was wet it was just pot luck if you stayed up.”

We wonder if she thought about quitting, there’s no hesitation in her answer: “No. It's just such a historic race, it's just so cool to say you've done it.” 

Paris Roubaix Femmes

(Image credit: Future)

She was not alone in trying but failing to finish within the 14minutes of winner Lizzie Deignan that was required and yet still pushing on to the Roubaix velodrome. The race may have been a relatively modest 116km long but with 28m of cobbles it had blown the peloton to pieces with more than a third of the starters refusing to give up on their spot in history despite being so far back.

It had taken years to reach the cool sunny morning of the race in Denain. The women’s race only been added to the calendar for the delayed and subsequently cancelled 2020 edition but bike brands, notably Specialized, had been campaigning for it for years before that.  

Some of them have been preparing for even longer.

You can read the full article from Paris Roubaix Femmes in this week's issue of Cycling Weekly magazine, available to buy online. You can also subscribe to the magazine, take advantage of a discount on the cover price and get it delivered to your door every week.