Maëlle Grossetête loved her first Paris-Roubaix, at least as much as she hated it. On October 2, 2021, exhausted and mud-stained, the French cyclist from the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine team had crossed the 60th finish lineme and penultimate participant to have finished on time of the 129 participants in the first female version of “Hell of the North”.
With the rain as a guest, expected but feared, the falls in the 2021 edition -postponed to autumn due to Covid-19- had been numerous and, at the end of an overwhelming ordeal, Britain’s Elizabeth Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) won solo at the “city of a thousand chimneys” velodrome.
This year, the “queen of the classics” has returned to its spring calendar, only postponed by a week compared to the usual pre-Covid-19 calendar, due to the first round of the presidential election. Enough to look forward to slightly more lenient conditions on Saturday, April 16. And Maëlle Grossetête intends to do better on the formidable cobblestones of “the career of your dreams”.
More than 124 kilometers, seventeen paved sections
A month earlier, under a big blue sky, a light wind and a perfect temperature – neither too hot nor too cold – the Haute-Savoyarde and her teammates, Grace Brown, Emilia Fahlin and Marie Le Net, had participated in a recognition of the plot No major changes for this 2022 edition: a route barely extended by eight kilometers -124.7 in total-, from Denain (North) to the Roubaix velodrome, and still seventeen cobbled sectors to “absorb”, between them Mons-en-Pévèle or the crossroads. From the tree.
“Recognition is a very important moment in preparation”insists Stephen Delcourt, CEO of the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the only French women’s team on the World Tour. This is where the final adjustments and hardware tests are done. “Girls want gel under the bar tape? [ruban placé autour du guidon pour bénéficier d’une meilleure adhérence] ? Double handlebar? Gloves ? No gloves? Tire type: tubular or tubeless? »develop.
Paris-Roubaix: bonuses for runners are revalued
ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), the organizing company of Paris-Roubaix, has reassessed the bonuses that will be awarded to competitors in the second edition of the race, on Saturday 16 April.
The winner of the “Hell of the North” will receive 20,000 euros, while in October 2021 the British Lizzie Deignan, winner of the first women’s edition of the event, had received only 1,535 euros.
The total prize pool will reach €50,000, when it rises to €90,000 for the men’s race, including €30,000 for the winner.
The Paris-Roubaix thus joins the Tour of Flanders, whose winner this year received an equivalent sum (20,000 euros), identical to that of the winner of the men’s race.
The Dutch classic Amstel Gold Race has also chosen to align the prize money for the men’s and women’s races, albeit at a lower level: €16,000 for the winners.
These details, viewers do not necessarily take the measure when they watch the race through interposed screens. However, the technical dimension plays a fundamental role in performance, especially in an event like Paris-Roubaix, one of the most demanding races on the circuit. “Cycling is a difficult sport, you have to be tough with evil. The Paris-Roubaix is a very specific race in this sense: you have to be on your bike to endure the length of the cobblestones”summarizes Stephen Delcourt.
Grace Brown, for example, lowered her tire pressure. More comfortable and less tiring, according to the Australian. “Even at a recce like today, there’s going to be blisters, blisters, it’s never nice… But in general, two days later, they want to come back.”laughs his manager. Before relying on a burst of laughter: “Me, I will never be forced to ride my bike on these cobblestones. Even the sports cycle [épreuve ouverte aux pratiquants amateurs]They can wait a long time for me. »
“Milestones in each sector”
The four riders of the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine do not take their first laps on the cobblestones of the North. “We had started, in August 2020, to do a specific route, because we had to run at the end of the season, but it was canceled due to Covid. Last year, we also came in March for a “reco”, then a final reminder just before the deadline. For some, it is the fourth time they have taken the course in these conditions.”says Nicolás Maire, sports director of the team.
However, apart from Maëlle Grossetête, only Marie Le Net has already competed in the classic. In 2021, she had finished 38me. “Having already run Paris-Roubaix brings additional insightargues the young woman. Give benchmarks for each sector. I say to myself: “Here is this corner, remember, the last time how the race happened, other teams passed in front, there, it is important to be placed…” »
On the radio, this March day, the sporting director and his high-performance counterpart, Flavien Soenen, gave the riders details about the duration of the next sectors, their difficulties, indications of course. “It’s a bit like what we do in the race”emphasize the latter.
But, he insists, the particularity of Paris-Roubaix also lies in its psychological dimension. “It’s a race unlike any otherhe continues. It is important that girls know where they are going to put the wheels, that they tell themselves that they have already done it. »
After more than three hours in the saddle, Grace Brown, a new recruit from the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine, is all smiles. “It’s so exciting. The cobblestones here are so different from anywhere else.she breathes. Although it is very uncomfortable, it is a special moment. Now I can’t wait to run forever. »
The young woman knows it, the year 2022 marks a turning point in women’s cycling, with the great return of the Tour de France, at the end of July. “For years, men have had the opportunity to experience the atmosphere that accompanies [le Tour et Paris-Roubaix]. I am so happy that now we can experience them too. »