Seven months after the inaugural triumph of Lizzie Deignan, the women’s Hell of the North will crown a new champion. Pregnant, the British star will not be at the start of Denain, Saturday April 16, but her Trek-Segafredo team still comes with an armada to crush the cobbles. The American squad had shone with collective strength in the fall. In the spring, they return with Frenchwoman Audrey Cordon-Ragot (8th last year), accompanied this time by the young world champion Elisa Balsamo, who has had a string of successes since joining Trek-Segafredo this season (Trofeo Alfredo Binda, Classic Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem), as well as the powerful Ellen van Dijk (a winner of the Ronde van Vlaanderen) and the cyclo-cross star Lucinda Brand.

Such a strike force seems very necessary to contain the renowned contenders who are rushing to put their name on the list of winners of the Queen of the Classics. Impressive on the muddy cobblestones last year, especially in the Carrefour de l’Arbre and Mons-en-Pévèle sectors, Marianne Vos wants to add more glory to her legend by trying to grab one of the rare major events that has been missing from a winning record recently enriched with an eighth world title in cyclo-cross. The leader of the Jumbo-Visma will face other specialists who had quickly taken the measure of the Hell of the North last year: Lisa Brennauer (4th), accompanied by Maria Confalonieri within the Ceratizit-WNT team; Marta Bastianelli (5th), very consistent this year on the cobbles; the gifted Danish Emma Norsgaard (6th); the young German Franziska Koch (7th), alongside the Dutch sprint prodigy Lorena Wiebes for DSM; and Marta Cavalli (9th), whose partner Grace Brown shone last weekend on the cobblestones of the Tour of Flanders.

Last fall’s top 10 was rounded out by the experienced Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, leader of an SD Worx team that fell slightly short for their first on the cobbles leading to Roubaix. Spring has allowed the Dutch team to once again display their collective strength, in the wake of Lotte Kopecky. After winning the Strade Bianche, the Belgian champion has just tamed the Tour of Flanders thanks to the excellent support of Van den Broek-Blaak. Can they do the same on the road to Roubaix?

24 teams, the main participants

Team BikeExchange-Jayco: Arianna Fidanza (Ita)

Plantur-Pura: Sanne Cant (Bel)

Arkéa Pro Cycling Team: Lucie Jounier (Fra)
Cofidis Women Team: Victoire Berteau (Fra)
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope: Grace Brown (Aus), Marta Cavalli (Ita)
St-Michel Auber 93: Simone Boilard (Can)
Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime: Arianna Pruisscher (Ned)

Canyon//Sram Racing: Elise Chabbey (Sui)
Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team: Lisa Brennauer (Ger)

Great Britain
Le Col-Wahoo: Maria Martins (Por)

Valcar-Travel & Service: Chiara Consonni (Ita)

AG Insurance-NXTG Team: Mylène de Zoete (Ned)
Liv Racing Xstra: Valerie Demey (Bel)
Parkhotel Valkenburg: Femke Markus (Ned)
Team DSM: Lorena Wiebes (Ned), Franziska Koch (All)
Team Jumbo-Visma: Marianne Vos (Ned), Coryn Labecki-Rivera (USA)
Team SD Worx: Lotte Kopecky (Bel), Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (Ned)

Uno-X Pro Cycling Team: Susanne Andersen (Nor)

Movistar Team Women: Emma Norsgaard (Den)

Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad: Tamara Dronova-Balabolina

United Arab Emirates
UAE Team ADQ: Marta Bastianelli (Ita)

United States of America
EF Education-Tibco-SVB: Letizia Borghesi (Ita)
Human Powered Health: Mieke Kröger (Ger)
Trek-Segafredo: Elisa Balsamo (Ita), Audrey Cordon Ragot (Fra)