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At the thrilling end of a totally captivating third edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Alison Jackson (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) took the biggest win of her career, accelerating out of the final bend on the famous velodrome to outpace her five sprint rivals. The 34-year-old Canadian crossed the line ahead of Liv Racing’s Katia Ragusa, while Fenix-Deceuninck’s Marthe Truyen claimed the final podium place.
The group of favourites was led in a dozen seconds later by last weekend’s Tour of Flanders winner Lotte Kopecky a dozen seconds later. Their pursuit of the leaders had been hampered by a spectacular sliding crash by Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini on the Pont Thibaut to Ennevelin section of cobbles 37km from home, only one rider escaping the domino effect behind the defending Roubaix champion.
That shouldn’t detract at all from Jackson’s victory, though, as the EF rider had gone into the race aiming to be up at the front from the off and combined strength and nous to take advantage of the huge opportunity that presented itself.
This came about after 18 riders managed to go clear after a frantic opening 25km from the start in Denain. Most of the big teams were represented, Jumbo-Visma the most notable exception. British champion Alice Towers (Canyon-SRAM) was there, as was Lisa Klein from Trek-Segafredo, while Femke Markus covered the move for SD Worx.
The group’s lead ballooned to almost six minutes by the race’s halfway point, when the cobbled sections started to arrive thick and fast. Jumbo’s Marianne Vos was an early victim of the pavé, a puncture leaving her chasing for most of the rest of the race as Trek began to set the pace on the front of the peloton.
After getting a gap on the second cobbled sector, DSM’s Daniek Hengeveld pressed on alone for the best part of 30km. As the 20-year-old Dutch rider forged on, Kopecky began to make a move of her own too. Her attack on the four-star cobbled section to Bersée with 51km remaining caused a crash-inducing panic in the group behind her that only a few riders avoided, among them Trek duo Longo Borghini and Lucinda Brand, DSM’s Pfeffer Georgi, Canyon’s Elise Chabbey and Movistar’s Floortje Mackaij.
Soon after Hengeveld had been reeled in by 14 riders, by which point the Kopecky/Longo Borghini/Georgi group had cut its deficit to less than two minutes. But the impetus was completely halted in that chase group when Longo Borghini lost control on a greasy section of cobbles. The Italian slithered back and forth across the pavé, AG Insurance-Soudal's Romy Kasper, who had been on her wheel, the only rider to avoid the pile-up that ensued.
When the chase got going once again, although without Kopecky in it initially, the break’s lead had risen beyond two minutes once more. Jackson was prominent in trying to maintain this advantage. Her pace on the four-star section of cobbles at Camphin-en-Pévèle split the lead group in half, and the Canadian pushed hard again on the following five-star Carrefour de l’Arbre section.
Yet, with a dozen kilometres remaining, the game seemed up for the leaders. A group containing most of the favourites, including Kopecky and the dogged Vos, had closed to within 20 seconds. Jackson kept pressing, though, and even though the gap dropped to less than 10 seconds with 7km remaining, no one was able to make that final bridge across to the seven breakaways.
They held that advantage onto the track in Roubaix, where SD Worx’s final chance of victory disappeared when Femke Markus crashed to the ground just before the bell sounded for the final lap. French track rider Marion Borras (St Michel-Mavic-Auber) took the lead coming into the final bend, but she couldn’t hold off all-action Jackson’s final acceleration which gave Canada its first ever Paris-Roubaix success.
Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2023 results
1. Alison Jackson (Can) EF Education-Tibco-SVB 145.5km in 3-42-56
2. Katia Ragusa (Ita) Liv Racin Teqfind
3. Marthe Truyen (Bel) Fenix-Deceuninck
4. Eugénie Duval (Fra) FDJ-Suez
5. Marion Borras (Fra) St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93
6. Marta Lach (Pol) Ceratizit-WNT at 3 secs
7. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) SD Worx at 12 secs
8. Pfeiffer Georgi (GB) Team DSM
9. Chiara Consonni (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
10. Marianne Vos (Hol) Jumbo-Visma
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Peter Cossins has been writing about professional cycling since 1993, with his reporting appearing in numerous publications and websites including Cycling Weekly, Cycle Sport and Procycling - which he edited from 2006 to 2009. Peter is the author of several books on cycling - The Monuments, his history of cycling's five greatest one-day Classic races, was published in 2014, followed in 2015 by Alpe d’Huez, an appraisal of cycling’s greatest climb. Yellow Jersey - his celebration of the iconic Tour de France winner's jersey won the 2020 Telegraph Sports Book Awards Cycling Book of the Year Award.
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