Cycling: Valentine Fortin and Marie Le Net pass through the ‘Hell of the North’

Wednesday, 12 april 2023

The two women cyclists, Valentine Fortin and Marie Le Net, supported by Banque Populaire Rives de Paris and Banque Populaire Val de France respectively, managed to reach the finish of the most prestigious and most infernal classic bicycle road race: the Paris-Roubaix.

The greatest of the classics

It was the 3rd edition of the women’s Paris-Roubaix bicycle road race. And the 2023 version lived up to last year’s breathtaking event with a titanic struggle between competitors, an awe-inspiring finale, and a series of upsets and surprises that kept spectators and television viewers glued to the edge of their seats! Both Valentine Fortin and Marie Le Net competed in this epic race. The two cyclists, who were both vice-champions of the European U23 Pursuit Championships, shared positive memories of Roubaix having both won medals there. Marie Le Net won the silver medal at the World Track Championships in 2021 and Valentine was crowned French champion this year in the individual pursuit, elimination and Madison events.

Objective: reach the finish line

But this weekend, the race was not on a track but on cobbled roads in a competition typically referred to as the ‘Hell of the North,’ and certainly the most challenging classic cycling event worldwide. The women’s race had 17 cobbled sectors covering a total of 29 km, including Mons-en-Pévèle and the Carrefour de l’Arbre, two segments graded ‘5 stars’ in difficulty that have given the Paris-Roubaix race its ‘infernal’ reputation. The riders had left Denain in northern France and had been riding for about an hour when the peloton encountered its first problem with the collapse of a part of the group. The race was then marked by a series of falls, testifying to the difficulty of this event and explaining the fact that the principal objective of the competitors – including the leading favorites – is just to make it to the finish line! This is what both of the French competitors managed to do, arriving in the 41st position for Marine Le Net, 1 minute and 20 seconds behind the breakaway riders at the head of the race, and in the 82nd position for Valentine Fortin… to the effect that both Marie and Valentine shared in the legend of this unique cycling race!

To date, nearly 220 high-level athletes from throughout all of France are being supported by Groupe BPCE companies, notably through the Performance Pact. The aim is to achieve two closely related objectives: to provide athletes with sponsorship, training and retraining opportunities in order to give them the peace of mind they need to pursue their dual sporting and professional projects and, in the process, to maximize their chances of performing well during the upcoming events, especially during the Olympic & Paralympic Games Paris 2024, of which Groupe BPCE is a Premium Partner.

Photo caption, from left to right: Marie Le Net and Valentine Fortin

“We share the same flame”