A woman in cycling clothing smiles and looks into the distance

The peloton predicts Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Paris-Roubaix Femmes is impossible to predict, so we asked some riders what they think will happen on Saturday.

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 05.04.2024 Photography by
Gruber Images and Cor Vos
More from Abby +

How does one predict a race like Paris-Roubaix? It’s a race where everything has to go right to win, but there are so many opportunities for everything to go wrong. The very first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift was one where only the winner had a good day. Deep in the mud and the blood and the tears, the rest of the race slipped over the cobbles like they were riding on ice. In the two editions since the winner has been a surprise – last year with Alison Jackson more than Elisa Longo Borghini in 2022 – but both outsmarted the pre-race favourites to take victory.

As we approach the fourth edition of Paris-Rouabix Femmes, instead of trying to map out every possible scenario for the race, we turned to the peloton and asked what they think will happen on Saturday. Some put a staggering amount of thought into their answer, some sketched out unlikely – but not impossible! – scenarios, while some just hoped for the best for their team.

There will be a Steven Bradbury moment on the final lap of the velodrome and we’ll see a surprise winner.

Tiffany Cromwell, Canyon-SRAM

Cromwell is referring to Steven Bradbury the speed skater from Australia, not the British cyclist of the same name who rode for SwiftCarbon and Vitus p/b Brother UK.

The context: Bradbury, the speed skater, became Australia’s first-ever Winter Olympic gold medalist when he won the men’s 1,000-meter short track event in Salt Lake City. In the final lap of the final round, Bradbury was up against the best in the sport when they all took each other out, like dominoes. Bradbury, who had been at the back of the five-person field, was the last man standing and walked away with the gold medal.

We don’t want to wait for a group sprint; we will fight like hell for the win.

Amber Kraak, FDJ-Suez

FDJ-Suez has not been shy about taking the fight to the superteams this season. And while this is only the fourth edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, many teams are looking at how the previous editions unfolded to identify the early break as a crucial way to get ahead of the chaos and ensure a presence in the final. So it’s no surprise that Kraak – who won a stage at the UAE Tour out of a 90 km move – is a good option. But she thinks weather may conspire otherwise.

“It will be a fight for the early break, but with the wind a lot of teams will be prepared for echelons, so the chances for the early break are limited,” she said. But they’ll likely still try. Conditions during recon “were really tough, and with the strong tailwind I expect a really fast race with a lot of crashes on the cobbles.”

Kraak said FDJ is in a good position to be flexible and adapt to the race as it unfolds. “We will make it a hard race,” she promised. “It would be nice to get ahead of the race myself, but we have many cards to play for it.”

Amber Kraak holds off the charging peloton to win a stage of the UAE Tour. She's sprinting for the line while just meters behind, Lorena Wiebes among others try to close the gap.
Amber Kraak showed at the UAE Tour that she knows how to win from a long break.

The last French rider winning was Frederic Guesdon and he’s Breton so I made the list of the Bretonnes at the start and will draw a number among them. Let’s hope I draw mine.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Human Powered Health

As of writing, Cordon-Ragot has only one other Breton to contend with: Aude Biannic of Movistar. Biannic is from Landerneau, which sits on the Elorn River in between Cornouaille and Léon. In 2023 Cordon-Ragot was the fifth fastest Frenchwoman at Paris-Roubaix Femmes, behind Eugénie Duval (FDJ-Suez), Marion Borras (St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93), Margaux Vigie (Lifeplus-Wahoo) and Victoire Berteau (Cofidis).

Duval is from Évreux in Normandy, Borras is from Pontcharra in the Isère department of southeastern France, Vigie is from Plaisance-du-Touch also in the Southern part of France, and Berteau is from Lambres-lez-Douai in Nord. Hopefully, all that means the race will be in Cordon-Ragot’s favour.

A fan waves French flags at the Paris-Roubaix peloton as they pass in a blur. He stands in front of a large arched door in a red brick building, with his young son at his feet, a delighted look on his face as he plays the drums.
If it can’t be a Breton winner, maybe a French winner will do.

Zoe Bäckstedt passes over the heads of the group and land into the velodrome alone.

Elisa Longo Borghini, Lidl-Trek

Tour of Flanders winner Elisa Longo Borghini will not be racing across the pavé on Saturday but she did have some thoughts on how the race will unfold.

“In the finale on Carrefour, the front group is made up of all six SD Worx riders plus three from Lidl-Trek. However because a famous energy drink gives you wings, Zoe Bäckstedt [who is sponsored by Red Bull – Ed.] passes over the heads of the group and land into the velodrome alone. As she flies over the group though the wind causes everyone’s helmets to go over their eyes and they take a wrong turn.

“Elynor Bäckstedt is a little bit behind and so she doesn’t go wrong and so she gets second place. The third-place rider was alone behind but has a puncture on the cobbles of Hem and has to wheelie until the velodrome.”

What a wild edition that will be! Hopefully, at least some of Longo Borghini’s predictions come to pass, just for the stories that will be told after the race. This is a sign for any riders reading to tighten their helmets a bit extra.

In this photo illustration Zoe Bäckstedt floats fancifully above riders on the cobbles as she passes "over their heads" to land in the Roubaix velodrome on her own.
Zoe Bäckstedt uses her new Red Bull wings to fly over the cobbles and the competition. (Photo illustration by Jonny Long)

I think Alison is going to win Paris-Roubaix, only because I let her do it so she can have a repeat. I’ll be second and third place will be Letizia. Wait, I’m going to swap out me for Nina. Nina can get second. I’m out.

Coryn Labecki, EF Education-Cannondale

Coryn Labecki of EF Education-Cannondale is hoping her teammate Alison Jackon can repeat the success she had in the velodrome in 2023 but this time with some friendly jerseys alongside her for company.

If the peloton learned anything during last year’s edition it’s that the early break is the place to be, so why not get your whole team up there? That’s one way to have the upper hand going into the cobbles.

Alison Jackon smiles wide as she hugs a teammate after winning Paris-Roubaix. Her teammate has her eyes closed with deep emotion on her face as they embrace.

This race is so unpredictable, but I think it would be amazing to have our whole team in the early break, and surely Leti winning by 10 minutes 😆🤣. She’s on fire at the moment.

Amber Pate, Liv AlUla Jayco

Letizia Paternoster is indeed on fire. In the last three weeks, she’s forced herself into the conversation as a rider to watch on Saturday with a podium finish at Dwars door Vlaanderen and ninth at the Tour of Flanders. Pate thinks she’ll take that form and run with it, 10 minutes up the road.

Letizia Paternoster grimaces as she climbs the cobbles in the Tour of Flanders.

Pfeiffer Georgi’s prediction for Saturday is brief. With the weather leading up to the race, even if the sun is shining, her DSM-Firmenich PostNL kit isn’t going to stay white for long.

Our white DSM Firmenich-PostNL jerseys will be ruined and dirty by sector three.

Pfeiffer Georgi, DSM Firmenich-PostNL
Pfeiffer Georgi digs deep to climb a section of cobbles at the Tour of Flanders. Her white DSM kit is covered in grey-brown dirt and mud.
Georgi’s Flanders kit probably didn’t clean up in the wash…

What did you think of this story?