Can Paris-Roubaix be a locomotive for women’s cycling? – 20 minutes

They impatiently await their first victims, 903 days after the appearance of the last convicts. Cleaned, pampered, sharpened this week, the paving stones of Paris-Roubaix are ready to do some damage this weekend. Especially since
the rain will complicate the whole, which will inevitably delight the amateurs, that is to say everyone, eager for faces emaciated by the effort, the cold, the mud. In short, Stalingrad 1942.

“We have already made reconnaissance, but with the forecast weather conditions, that will change everything,” predicts Jade Wiel, from the FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope team. Because, yes, for the first time since its creation in 1896, a women’s race is on the program of the Queen of the classics. Welcome to the Hell of the North, ladies.

“I even finished in tears”

Before this inauguration with great fanfare, Saturday [la course masculine a lieu dimanche], a whole lot of feelings are mixed among the riders of the peloton: fear, stress, impatience …

Frankly, I have a little apprehension, but I can not wait to see what it gives, explains Jade Wiel. I wonder how the boys manage to finish this race without having bruises all over the place. During the recce, I had the impression of receiving hammer blows at each impact on the cobblestones, at each hole. I had pain that I have never felt. I even finished in tears, this is the first time this has happened to me. “

We immediately stop the low spirits who are getting ready, drooling on their lips, to take out the sulphate. Nothing prepares for Paris-Roubaix. We said nothing. “There are some paved races at the start of the season, but this one is the hardest, much harder,” admits Lucie Jounier, from the Arkea team.

Lucie Jounier, the Arkea cycling team runner. – Arkea cycling team

All in front of the TV

“Whoever wins will be a champion, it will be the first in history,” explained Christian Prud’homme, director of ASO, organizer of the race, on France 3. What is important is that young girls who dream bicycles and cycling experience enthusiasm, there are models. The champions of their childhood will be the champions of their lives. “

By organizing the Paris-Roubaix Annemiek Van Vleuten version, ASO is making a big contribution to the development of women’s cycling in France. “If our Paris-Roubaix takes on the same scale as for the men, if there is as much spectacle, it can clearly make a click, hopes Jade Wiel. In terms of TV audiences, we manage to fight with the guys, sometimes to overtake them. So… ”So, maybe, as the legendary Patrick Montel would say. We therefore want to see you all ahead of France 3 or Eurosport on Saturday, we will read the Médiamétrie counters. Because significant media coverage is necessary to move into another dimension.

More links with the men’s teams?

If Paris-Roubaix feminine will also be broadcast in Japan, Australia or Colombia, there is still a bit of delay in our dear country. “This is the essential problem of women’s cycling,” notes Louis Jeannin, director of the International Women’s Cycling Tour of the Ardèche. ASO has the means for this media coverage, in particular with The team. The more the proofs are broadcast, the more we will advance. “Even if we are on the right track, Jade Wiel slaps the broadcasters a little on the fingers:” It’s a shame that it is often only the last hour of the race that is broadcast, we do not see the work teammates. “

The runner of FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope would also like a better collaboration between the female and male teams within the same structures, see, roughly speaking Nono Démare give all her little preparation secrets for Roubaix: “We should manage to make more regroupings, that we be a little more linked, hopes the champion of France 2019. During the European Championships, we had driven with guys the day before the race it was great. “

An economic problem

Lucie Jounier is lucky, at Arkea, to be a little more in the exchange with her male counterparts: “We have the possibility of doing internships with them, if we need advice, they are there. For Roubaix, we don’t necessarily go into the unknown, we have the basics. ”Let’s not ask for the cobblestone tips of Super Nairo anyway.

Media coverage, closer collaboration, what more to put women’s cycling on the front of the stage? “Organize more races, more competitions, especially among young people”, wishes Jade Wiel. Louis Jeannin is necessarily in favor, even if he points to a first-rate problem:

There is an economic problem, sponsorship of women’s cycling is complicated. Races and competitions in France only take place thanks to voluntary structures. You invest your person, your time, your money. A lot of races stop because of this. “

As a result, the races created by ASO are inevitably seen as an oasis in the middle of the Gobi desert. Paris-Roubaix therefore, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Flèche wallonne and, next year, the Tour de France which will make its comeback. “It will serve as a locomotive for women’s cycling, bring in young people, hopes Louis Jeannin. It will pull all the other competitions up. In ten years, the progress has been enormous. »« The Course by le Tour [organisée un jour pendant la Grande Boucle masculine], it was not huge, but already good, concludes Lucie Jounier. It took a while, but it is developing, we are improving, it will come little by little. A bit like “driving” on cobblestones. At the beginning, we have a hard time and then we end up becoming Johan Museeuw.

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