Canada’s Alison Jackson won a six-way sprint to achieve the greatest victory of her career in the women’s Paris-Roubaix cycling classic on Saturday.
Italian Katia Ragusa of LIV Racing was second and Fenix-Deceuninck rider Marthe Truyen of Germany was third as outsiders took the top six in a feared racing date known as the “Hell of the North”.
Rain during the week combined with bright sunshine on the day made the road surfaces slick.
EF rider Jackson was one of 18 outsiders who got away in an early escape that managed to stay ahead all the way home.
This was thanks to last year’s champion Elisa Longo Borghini bringing down the entire group of favorites on one of 17 sections of the cobbled mining roads in northern France.
“I could hardly believe it when I got across the line,” said the 34-year-old, who dominated the sprint from beginning to end.
“I’m going to use whatever force I have left to stagger up to that podium, I am so, so ready for this,” said the exuberant Jackson.
Handed a huge cobble gleaned from the unused mining roads near the border with Belgium, Jackson cut an exultant figure hopping up and down as she laughed with nerves.
“It’s unreal, I’m lost for words. It’s a dream come true,” she said.
Kopecky misses double
Recent Tour of Flanders champion Lotte Kopecky lost her bid for the cobbled double when the Belgian was caught up in the crash with Longo Borghini.
The Italian had been leading the race at the time of the big crash and took out most of the top contenders on the 145.4km slog from Denain to Roubaix.
This group lost around five minutes on the escape but as the race neared the end it looked like a heart-breaking reel in was on the cards.
At the five-star danger rated Carrefour de l’Arbre cobbled section with 26km to go the pursuit began hacking into the lead.
And within sight of the Roubaix velodrome the gap had been cut to around ten seconds.
But the favorites failed to form an alliance of fortune with so much at stake as the big guns let the small fry steal the day for once.
This is just the third time the women’s race has been staged but it has gained in length, difficulty and stature since Lizzie Deignan won the first edition in 2021.
So far the fearsome Trouee d’Arenberg, at the Arenberg coal mine has been left off the women’s course.
On Sunday, the men’s race will go over 256km in a race featuring 29 cobbled sections and billed as a duel between eternal rivals Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel.