Going the distance at Paris-Roubaix

'It’s Paris-Roubaix, it’s self-explanatory'

April 6, 2023

Now in its third edition, Paris-Roubaix has made some changes to the route awaiting us this Saturday.

Race organizers have increased the distance from 124.7 kilometers in 2022 to 145.4 kilometers and many of those additional kilometers come early in the race before the peloton hits the cobbles. Team veteran Lauren Stephens prioritized riding this part of the course during our recon as she has a feeling it may prove to be crucial one way or another.

“The sections they’ve added are a lot of big, open roads so we weren’t sure if it was really necessary for us to go and ride that,” Lauren says. “You can see a lot of that on online these days but I really felt like it was important for us to ride those sections because I think there’s a chance the race could be pretty hard in those sections with teams trying to make the group smaller coming into the cobbles. It’s also important to save energy in those sections so knowing the roads, knowing what the roads feel like, and what’s coming up next can help you with saving energy, not only going into breaks.”

Riding her second Paris-Roubaix, Clara Honsinger also believes the extra kilometers coming so early in the race will impact the outcome.

“This year, with the additional 30 kilometers, we’re thinking about how that’s going to affect the race – whether teams are going to use it to break things in the crosswinds or send riders in the break. And it just makes it a longer race in general. Last year it was around three hours and you add an extra 30k, that’s another hour. It’s going to add another layer, another element of difficulty, making it an endurance event. We’ll have to conserve our energy in that first 30 kilometers because the first real hard part starts once we hit the cobbled sectors,” Clara says.

And with 29.2 kilometers of pavé spanning 17 sectors, there will be no shortage of hard parts.

Our team is bringing Zoe Bäckstedt, Letizia Borghesi, Clara Honsinger, Alison Jackson, Sara Poidevin, and Lauren Stephens for the Hell of the North.

Though she’s an experienced classics rider, Canadian Sara Poidevin is racing Paris-Roubaix for the first time in her career. Her teammates with Roubaix experience have been helping her understand what to expect on Saturday.

“The recon has been helpful to know key points for positioning, especially into the early sections, and get a good understanding of where the major splits have happened in the race, where the break has gone in the past. Riding behind teammates is helpful, just getting some advice on tackling some of the cobbled sections but we can talk about that all day. On Saturday, if it’s wet and depending on how the race plays out, it’s more about making good decisions in the moment and following the right wheels. If you can find a moment of respite, then take advantage of it.”

Eighteen-year-old Zoe Bäckstedt is about to experience the intensity of Roubaix for herself for the first time. It is a race steeped in family lore. Having grown up hearing about her father, Magnus Bäckstedt’s Roubaix win in 2004, Zoe has both realistic expectations and big ambitions for the race.

“Hopes? One day to win,” she says. “Dreams? One day to win. Expectations? Crashes, hard racing. It’s going to be fast. There’s potentially going to be some echelons at some point. I expect my hands are going to hurt at some point and my legs. It’s Paris-Roubaix, it’s self-explanatory.”

How to watch: GCN+/Eurosport and FloBikes will have live coverage on Saturday.

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