It was the first ever running of a women’s version of the fabled classic and therefore fitting that it was won by an athlete who has always used her platform, as an Olympic silver medallist and world road race champion, to further greater equality for women in the sport.
Deignan, 32, conquered the ‘Hell of the North’ with a superb solo ride, taking victory by 77 seconds from her great rival over the last decade Marianne Vos, who countered late on but could not live with the Yorkshire superstar.
Deignan launched her move with a little over 80km to go, on the first of the 17 cobbled sections on the 116km route between Denain and the famous Roubaix velodrome.
Despite Vos’s attack, Deignan was able to begin her celebrations early as she rounded the velodrome before collapsing in tears at the finish.
She said afterwards: “I just feel so incredibly proud.
“Women’s cycling is at a turning point and today is part of history. I’m proud to be part of a team that also makes history.
“Every fan watching this is also part of that history because they’re proving there’s an appetite for women’s cycling and that the athletes here can do one of the hardest races in the world. I’m so proud I can say I was the first winner.”
On the solo attack, she said: “It was really not the plan. I looked behind and saw there was a gap, and thought, ‘well, at least if I’m in front they have to chase me, so I just kept going’.”