Can anyone stop Lotte Kopecky and SD Worx? Six contenders for Paris-Roubaix Femmes

It's hard to look past the Dutch super-team, but Trek-Segafredo have been dominant in the Hell of the North

Paris-Roubaix Femmes Contenders
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After two races in a row won by lone riders, it is almost time to see what will happen in the third edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. It has been a spring dominated by SD Worx, who have won every single cobbled Classic, but Roubaix has been a race won only by Trek-Segafredo to date.

Unlike the men's race, Paris-Roubaix Femmes starts in Denain, closer to the finish in Roubaix, but this year's race has been extended to 145.4km. However, there is still no space for possibly the toughest cobbled sector, the Trouée d'Arenberg, but the race does have 29.2km of pavé spread across 17 sectors.

The Arenberg Trench is deemed as too dangerous by race organisers ASO - a full peloton careering into the most difficult of sectors first up would likely be disastrous, but there is hope of its introduction in the future.

With four wins in a row, it is hard to look past SD Worx, especially as the team has Tour of Flanders winner Lotte Kopecky on their team, but Trek bring experience of winning to the table, with wins through Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini meaning they have a 100% record at the 'Hell of the North'.

As it is only the third edition, it is difficult to know how the race will go and who is most suited to the carnage of Roubaix. Just like the men's version, a lot comes down to luck and an ability to surf the chaos of northern France; a mechanical at exactly the wrong moment might ruin everything, and create a winner from left field.

Anyway, once you've taken a look at our guide on how to watch Paris-Roubaix, and our look at the route, here is who the favourites are for the women's race on Saturday.

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx)

Lotte Kopecky at Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lotte Kopecky made history on Sunday, as the first Belgian rider to ever win the Tour of Flanders twice. She also happened to be the first Belgian to win the monument in her home country, and also did won Flanders in consecutive years, so clearly this part of the year suits her.

The 27-year-old has focussed her whole year on Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and now one part of the objective is complete, she can concentrate fully on the Hell of the North.

Her team, SD Worx, is head and shoulders above the others on the WorldTour when it comes to Classics racing, with multiple options showing themselves through the Spring: Kopecky, Marlen Reusser, Demi Vollering and Lorena Wiebes have all won a one-day race in the last couple of months.

Add on Kopecky's immense strength and power, as we all saw on the Oude Kwaremont last Sunday, and it is hard to bet against the Belgian. She also finished second last year, so knows she can win the sprint in the velodrome, if it comes down to that in the end.

Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma)

Marianne Vos at Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Marianne Vos has practically won everything in women's cycling; it is only newer events that have eluded her to date, such as Paris-Roubaix Femmes, only three years old. She has come into both editions as a top favourite, and finished second in 2021, before being forced out of the race with Covid last year.

This time around, her form has question marks around it.

The three-time world champion recently recovered from surgery to correct pelvic artery constriction, which sidelined her from defending her rainbow jersey at the Cyclo-cross World Championships, and delayed her start to the season. 

She will start Paris-Roubaix having done only three races this spring, the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, where she finished 20th, Dwars door Vlaanderen, where she was 3rd and the Tour of Flanders, where she ended 15th.

Her race at Dwars showed glimpses of the Vos that is feared by the rest of the peloton, with the explosive attacks and sprint after a long race both clear to see.

Vos's Jumbo-Visma team is also a bit of a mystery, with good, solid riders present, but not a whole lot of results.

However, the Dutchwoman is the kind of rider who could win in a velodrome sprint or go long, and so should be feared.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo)

Elisa Longo Borghini at Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The reigning champion should never be discounted from a list of favourites, and coming off the back of third at the Tour of Flanders last weekend, it is clear that Elisa Longo Borghini is getting back to her best in time to defend her title.

The Italian Trek-Segafredo winner came into the season in good form, winning the inaugural UAE Tour Women, but then a bout of Covid brought her season to a grinding halt. 

Longo Borghini returned to action at Dwars door Vlaanderen, and her podium finish at Flanders should give her confidence going into the cobbles of Roubaix. Her Trek team remains strong, with Elisa Balsamo and Lucinda Brand (third last year) both solid options.

Trek have won both editions so far with long-range breakaways, so their rivals will be on high alert this time, surely, so the race will have to be won a different way. Or maybe Longo Borghini will just ride away again after all.

Grace Brown (FDJ Suez)

Grace Brown at Paris-Roubaix 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Grace Brown had an electric start to 2023, winning the Australian national time trial championships and overall at the Tour Down Under. It has slowed a bit since then, with her return to European racing a bit more muted - 15th at Strade Bianche being her best result so far.

However, the powerful FDJ Suez rider seems like the perfect kind of woman to surge away from the field on the pavé at Paris-Roubaix, and therefore should not be discounted at the Hell of the North.

Brown will likely be her team's leader on Saturday, in the absence of Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, and could be a Roubaix winner in the mould of Dylan van Baarle.

Floortje Mackaij (Movistar)

Floortje Mackaij

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Strange to be writing a list of favourites for a women's race and to have only two Dutch riders on it, but this is where we are.

Floortje Mackaij is not quite at the same level as her Movistar teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, but was a shrewd signing by Movistar over the off-season, and could just thrive at Roubaix.

The 27-year-old was sixth in last year's edition, finishing in the same reduced group as Kopecky and Lucinda Brand, and is the kind of tough rider that makes the pavé their own.

2023 has been successful for Mackaij, with a win at the Vuelta CV Feminas and third at the Clasica de Almeria, as well as top tens at both Strade Bianche and Dwars door Vlaanderen. 

Her Movistar team, with Arlenis Sierra and Aude Biannic, is relatively strong, but whether it can match SD Worx is another question.

Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM)

Pfeiffer Georgi at Paris-Roubaix Femmes 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the departure of Lorena Wiebes, it was thought that DSM might not pack as much of a punch this season, but with Charlotte Kool, Megan Jastrab and Pfeiffer Georgi, the Dutch team has managed to have a very successful Classics season.

It is Georgi, with her win at the Classic Brugge-De Panne last month, that looks the most likely to grab a result at Roubaix on Saturday. The former British champion was ninth last year, and will look to go better in 2023.

She has been there or thereabouts in all the Classics she has finished this season - fifth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, ninth at Strade Bianche, first at De Panne, 11th at Gent-Wevelgem and 15th at the Tour of Flanders - so she could follow Lizzie Deignan in being a British woman lifting the cobblestone trophy this time around.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.