Women to suffer cycling cobbles hell

·2-min read

The queen of the classics will show its feminine side at last.

Paris-Roubaix, also known as the hell of the north, returns this weekend and it will feature a women's event for the first time.

Cycling's most notorious one-day classic was cancelled last year and then postponed from April because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adding to the anticipation around the weekend's racing, forecast wet weather is set to add to the misery for the riders.

While the terrain for the race is pancake-flat, Paris-Roubaix is particularly tough because of the many cobbled sections along its route in north-eastern France.

The 115.6km women's race will be held on Saturday night (AEST) and feature 17 cobble sections before the famous finish at Roubaix velodrome.

But it will not include the iconic Trouee d'Arenberg, or trench of Arenberg, a crucial cobbled section in the men's race that often features key moves and crash carnage.

The men's race will be over 257.7km on Sunday and it will go through Arenberg among 30 cobbled sections.

In the women's race, Australian team BikeExchange will feature national champion Sarah Roy as a potential contender.

"Paris-Roubaix is a monumental race and having a women's Roubaix is a sign of a new era for women's cycling," she said.

"We have done some great preparation for it with a number of recons and equipment testing.

"I would absolutely love to win this race some day, but being the first ever edition we can't really know what's in store yet."

The BikeExchange men's team will be led by classics specialist Luke Durbridge.

Their team director is Mat Hayman, who joined Stuart O'Grady as the only Australian winners of Paris-Roubaix when he took out the 2016 edition after years of trying.

"Nobody has raced here since 2019, so it will be good to have a mix of experienced riders who can also lead the younger guys," Hayman said of the team.

"We will look to animate the race as much as possible, it's always a hard race and any moment can be important. We will need to be focused and ready to be aggressive."

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