Lizzie Deignan has won the first-ever women's edition of Paris-Roubaix.
The British rider attacked solo with more than 80km remaining, just before the first cobbled sector, and managed to stay away to cross the finish line in the Roubaix velodrome first.
As the rain fell and the mud multiplied, crashes were aplenty, the likes of Ellen Van Dijk falling hard before Marianne Vos eventually attacked the chase group to try and track down Deignan.
It was in vain, however, as Deignan stayed upright despite a couple of slips and gritted her teeth, digging in to enter the velodrome alone and become the first-ever Briton and woman to win the elite edition of Paris-Roubaix.
Vos crossed the line in second place more than a minute later, while Deignan's Trek-Segafredo team-mate Elisa Longo Borghini scooped up third ahead of Lisa Brennauer.
How it happened
After the first 24km of the 116km route, two riders had clipped off the front, Emilie Moberg (Drops-Le Col) and Nicole Steigenga (Doltcini- Van Eyck - Proximus).
When the television pictures finally flickered into view, we were given a glimpse of Lizzie Deignan going off the front on the very first cobbled section, with still over 80km remaining.
Soon, the Brit had just under a minute’s advantage as she sped away up the road, a daring early attack, bringing her gap up and over a minute by the third cobbled sector.
Soon, it was two minutes, SDWorx chasing behind, a crash bringing down Ellen Van Dijk, before Lotte Kopecky lost control, swerving across the road and bringing other riders down in a heap as the rain fell in northern France.
The race was on now and it exploded into smaller groups all over the road, Elisa Longo Borghini and Emma Norsgaard then falling hard, new world champion Elisa Balsamo the next to crash, a Valcar team-mate of hers looking in pain on the side of the road.
Nearing 40km to go Deignan’s gap was holding at two minutes, Marianne Vos, Christine Majerus, Martas Cavalli and Bastianelli, Lisa Brennauer and Audrey Cordon-Ragot forming the chase group behind, before another chase group led by Elisa Longo Borghini, and containing Ellen Van Dijk, regained contact.
Onto sector nine and Deignan’s lead was up to 2-40 by the end of it, Van Dijk again nearly slipping but holding it up.
Two and a half minutes with 30km to go, seven cobbled sectors remained. The likes of Chatal van den Broek-Blaak, Amy Pieters and Leah Thomas had swelled the ranks of the chase group behind, Deignan slipping over the road as her lead started to get eaten into.
Under 20km to go and the chase was stalling as the gap remained around the two-minute mark before Deignan slipped once again, veering from left to right while holding it up once more with great skill.
Van Dijk then fell again, taking down Leah Thomas and Sarah Roy, the latter looking in some pain on the floor.
Marianne Vos then decided enough was enough, going off in search of Deignan on her own, Elisa Longo Borghini following behind.
Onto the toughest Carrefour de l’Arbre sector and Vos was swallowing up Deignan’s advantage, taking it down to around the minute and a half mark by the end of it, knocking another 15 seconds off soon after.
Vos was looking strong but Deignan was holding her off, the gap staying above the minute mark and surviving the final cobbled sector of the race.
Finally, Deignan entered the velodrome, and only as she entered the final lap did she allow herself a smile, followed by a couple of fist pumps, crossing the line to become the first female winner of Paris-Roubaix.
Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2021: Denain to Roubaix (116.4km)
1. Lizzie Deignan (GBr) Trek-Segafredo, in 2-56-07
2. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-17
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-47
4. Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT, at 1-51
5. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé BTC Ljubljana, at 2-10
6. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar, at same time
7. Franziska Koch (Ger) DSM
8. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Fra) Trek-Segafredo
9. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope
10. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) SDWorx, all at same time
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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