This is not a race report, because we don’t do that sort of thing. It’s also not commentary on the race itself. Lizzie Deignan won. She broke away early and made it stick. It was an outstanding performance. There is a lot more story here, but the mainstream media folks who do this (not enough for the women) have done it better than I can.
I didn’t even watch this race, or the men’s for that matter, which says everything you need to know about where I am vis a vis pro racing these days. What used to be must-see is now not-interested, and that is a great sadness, particularly in the case of Paris-Roubaix and the Spring Classics generally, which I was once deeply, deeply in love with.
It’s 2021 and the women got to race the Hell of the North finally. That this was the inaugural race is somewhere between a breakthrough and a farce. That it was shorter than the men’s race is a joke. That the prize money was a fraction of the men’s turns the joke cruel. As ardent supporters of EVERYONE who rides bikes, TCI is simultaneously happy for this late, tiny step forward, but also irritated and out of patience with token gestures.
Cycling doesn’t move forward when some riders are second-class citizens.
I will say this, a thing that anyone in the promotion of sports should understand a priori. Sports is entertainment. The athletes are characters. The competition is narrative. It does not matter at all who the riders are, i.e. whether they are men or women or non-binary, or black or white, or anything in between. When those of us who promote sports tell the stories, letting the characters live in the minds of the audience, people enjoy sports. It’s just that simple.
So Lizzie Deignan won Paris Roubaix 2021. She’s English. This was a redemptive win for her. Marianne Vos made the podium. She is a legend. There is a lot for the cycling audience to learn and love about these characters. If you are interested in pro racing, I encourage you to seek their stories. I promise you will be entertained.
Sonny Cobrelli won the men’s race. I wonder if he’ll ever know how it feels to only be mentioned in the last paragraph of a story about it.