British rider Lizzie Deignan won the inaugural women's Paris-Roubaix cycling race on Saturday with a solo breakaway across the muddy, cobblestoned mining roads where many of her rivals suffered nasty falls.
Deignan entered the Roubaix velodrome alone to win the race in 2hrs, 55mins and 3sec, raising her arms in triumph after a courageous 80km solo break on a race known as 'the Hell of the North'.
Dutch rider Marianne Vos was second at 1min 17sec with Italy's Elisa Longo Borghini third at 1min 47sec.
Able to soak up the cheers on the two laps of the velodrome, Deignan, 32, eased over the line in a composed manner, while several of her competitors wept at the finish line.
"I just feel so incredibly proud. Women's cycling is at a turning point and this is part of history," said Deignan before picking up her prize of a mounted cobblestone.
"Every fan watching is also making history. It proves there's an appetite for women's cycling and the athletes here can do one of the hardest races in the world," she said.
"I'm so proud I can say I'm the first ever winner," she said on the eve of the 118th edition of the men's race.
Of the 129 women who embarked on the arduous course, 105 eventually crossed the line with 24 pulling out along the way.
Trek-Segafredo rider Deignan broke away even before the race reached any of the 30 cobbled sections, totalling 29.2km of rough-hewn stones in Picardy, and rode confidently even when her back wheel spun out of control in mud.
With the riders spread out over the course, Dutch star Vos accelerated in pursuit of Deignan with 18km to go, sparking a nasty series of falls among the riders behind her on mud-slick cobbles.
The race itself was originally scheduled for April 2020, then put back to April 2021 only to be postponed a second time due to Covid-19.