Jolien d’Hoore fought through the pain to finish the last race of her career

Jolien d’Hoore chose the first ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes for her last race before retirement, but it wasn’t the final bow she hoped for.

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The first ever women’s Paris-Roubaix was meant to be a fun final outing for Jolien d’Hoore (SD Worx) before swapping the life of a professional cyclist for that of a sports director. But when the time came, D’Hoore ended up finishing outside the time cut covered in mud and blood having had no fun at all.

“I asked for a beer but the soigneur didn’t have one for me. No more recovery shakes either,” d’Hoore said after the race. “The new life can start now. There’s a lot of emotions now. There’s fatigue, the pain of the crashes and the end of my career.”

The four-time Belgium national champion was part of a strong SD Worx lineup which was expected to thrive over the iconic cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, but d’Hoore’s race got off to an inauspicious start. From there it went from bad to worse.

“During the local laps, I was already part of a crash which wasn’t a great start at all,” she said. “I needed to switch shoes. By the time I got back we were at the first pavé sector. I was riding near the front at that point and able to do my thing. I made the first cut, featuring in a group of about 20 riders. Then we reached the fourth or fifth pavé sector and there was a new crash. Once again I was part of the crash. Then I knew it was too much. My knee was really hurting a lot. Once again I had to switch shoes because they were broken again. It was a real hell.”

The conditions for the first edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes were less than favourable.

The ‘hell’ all the riders experienced was worsened by the terrible road conditions. Many of the cobbled sectors were covered in greasy mud thanks to persistent rain in the lead-up to the race, ruining what little traction there was already. While race-winner Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) had the pick of the route, it was much harder for those behind.

“When you’re in the top-15 it’s OK but when you’re halfway in the bunch it’s a war zone,” d’Hoore explained. “It was super slippery. The cobbles were really slippery, much more than during the recon we did with Lars Boom. When you touched your brakes you would crash. It’s part of this race. It wasn’t too dangerous. It’s Paris-Roubaix. This is what makes this race so beautiful. When you’re unlucky too many times then you’re without a chance for the prizes and that was the case for me today.”

Jolien d’Hoore and her SD Worx teammates did some recon with Lars Boom (who raced Paris-Roubaix nine times) earlier in the week, notably in much drier conditions…

Saturday’s inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes was the last race in a 14-year career that included no less than 48 victories for the veteran track rider and Classics specialist. D’Hoore has enjoyed success at races similar in character to Paris-Roubaix – most recently Gent-Wevelgem 2020 – so she hoped at the very least to enjoy ‘the Hell of the North’.

“Mentally it was hard because I really targeted this race. I was really good too,” d’Hoore reflected. “My whole body was hurting: my knee, my hip, my back… I knew the only thing that mattered from there was finishing the race. I didn’t want to enter the broom wagon in my last race. There was only one goal left and that was to reach the velodrome, no matter how many minutes behind the leaders. I had to fight through the pain. During the final ten kilometres, I was able to enjoy it.”

Jeanne Korevaar (Liv Racing) offered her respect to Jolien d’Hoore as she crossed the finish line of her final race.

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