Otley’s Lizzie Deignan storms to historic Paris-Roubaix victory

OTLEY trailblazer Lizzie Deignan accomplished arguably the greatest victory in even her garlanded career on Saturday, when winning cycling’s Paris-Roubaix.

Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 12:36 pm
Otley's Lizzie Deignan lifts the Paris-Roubaix trophy. Picture: CorVos/SWpix.com.

It was the first ever running of a women’s version of the fabled classic and therefore fitting that it was won by an athlete who has always used her platform, as an Olympic silver medallist and world road race champion, to further greater equality for women in the sport.

The Yorkshire rider conquered the ‘Hell of the North’ with a superb solo ride, taking victory by 77 seconds from Marianne Vos, who had cut almost a minute out of her advantage with a late counter-attack.

Deignan launched her move with a little over 80km to go, on the first of the 17 cobbled sections on the 116km route between Denain and the famous Roubaix velodrome.

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Lizzie Deignan crosses the finishing line at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix race. Picture: CorVos/SWpix.com.

With the ‘unlucky’ number 13 on her back, the 2015 world champion gradually built a lead, pulling a minute clear within 15km of going clear.

That lead nudged towards two minutes as they hit the Auchy-lez-Orchies sector of cobbles a little more than 50km from the finish.

The Trek-Segafredo rider’s rear wheel was skidding in the mud as she battled to stay upright – a fight others behind, including newly-crowned world champion Elisa Balsamo, would lose.

Vos, a three-time winner of the rainbow jersey, launched an attack from the chasing group with 19km to go – the Jumbo-Visma rider’s sudden acceleration on the cobbles causing a crash from which only she and Deignan’s team-mate Elisa Longo Borghini emerged.

Lizzie Deignan in action during the Paris-Roubaix race yesterday. Picture: CorVos/SWpix.com.

Vos cut the gap down to 75 seconds on the last of the major cobbled sections, but could make no further inroads in the final 10km as Deignan soloed to victory.

The 32-year-old began her celebrations early as she rounded the velodrome before collapsing in tears at the finish.

She said afterwards: “I just feel so incredibly proud.

“Women’s cycling is at a turning point and today is part of history. I’m proud to be part of a team that also makes history, and I’m so grateful to everybody behind the scenes.

“Every fan watching this is also part of that history because they’re proving there’s an appetite for women’s cycling and that the athletes here can do one of the hardest races in the world. I’m so proud I can say I was the first winner.”

Though one of the pre-race favourites, Deignan revealed after she was not the designated team leader – surprising herself with how she rode on the day.

“It was really not the plan,” she added. “I needed to be at the front in the first cobbled section to protect my leaders, today I was kind of the third rider.

“I looked behind and saw there was a gap, and thought, ‘well, at least if I’m in front they have to chase me, so I just kept going’.”