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ROUBAIX, France (VN) – The SD Worx team tactics were aimed toward a lead role for Chantal van den Broeck-Blaak and Christine Majerus on a sunny, Saturday afternoon between Denain and Roubaix in the North of France.
Those pre-race tactics were binned when none of the team’s riders were able to mark the move from eventual winner Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) at 32km from the finish. An on-form Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) ended up being the best rider on the team. Kopecky emptied herself for the team, but in the end, the 26-year-old ended up having to salvage the day for SD Worx in the sprint for second place on the famous Roubaix velodrome. She easily racked up that sprint, holding off Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo).
The Belgian champion captured great victories in the Tour of Flanders and the Strade Bianche, and now adds a second place at Paris-Roubaix to an impressive spring season tally.
“My Spring season was great but it hurts to finish as runner-up. It’s nice to be on the podium of Paris-Roubaix but now I’m disappointed because I felt quite good,” Lotte Kopecky said while standing inside the velodrome in Roubaix. When asked if it felt like a missed opportunity she nodded. “Maybe, it is but there’s more chances to come. I’m sure that during the upcoming years I’ll come close or maybe get the victory,” Kopecky said.
Kopecky remained quiet about the team tactics which clearly weren’t in her favor. Despite showing splendid form the last month she had to work in support of van den Broeck-Blaak and Majerus.
“I wasn’t the team leader today. We were aiming for Chantal and Christine. My task was to sneak away earlier. The team told me not to go full gas. It was more about putting the other teams under pressure rather than trying to ride away myself. That worked out really well at first,” Kopecky said about her attack on the pavé sector #12 from Auchy-les-Orchies to Bersée at 54km from the finish.
She was joined by two strong riders: Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADS) and Brand. Bastianelli finished fifth in last year’s Paris-Roubaix while debutant Brand is the 2021 cyclo-cross world champion. There wasn’t a lot of co-operation because Brand sat on the wheels of the two faster riders.
The trio never enjoyed a margin of more than half a minute, and twenty kilometers later, the peloton was back on their heels when reaching pavé sector #8 in Templeuve. That’s when Italian champion Longo Borghini — third at last year’s race — went flat out. She was marked by Elena Cecchini (SD Worx) and Emma Norsgaard (Movistar), two outsiders for the win in Roubaix. Cecchini ended up being the wrong rider to mark that strong move as both she and Norsgaard got dropped before the end of that pavé sector.
“Our breakaway attempt with Lucinda and Marta Bastianelli had just been caught back. Then three other riders went up the road: Elisa Longo Borghini and Elena from SD Worx. Suddenly Longo Borghini escaped on her own. Elena was probably in the best position to follow Elisa there but she was just too strong. Norsgaard is a very strong rider too and she was also dropped. She was just too strong,” Kopecky said.
On the following pavé sector #7 from Cysoing to Borghelles there was a headwind. Longo Borghini already had half a minute on the first peloton when Kopecky opened up the gas. Halfway through that sector, van den Broeck-Blaak took over and the gap went down to 10-15 seconds. But that was as close as it would get. Slowly the bonus of the leader went back up and on the famous pavé at Carrefour de l’Arbre Blaak was dropped from the first chase group where Kopecky set the pace.
“The race was under control and in our hands. In a split second, the situation turned around and we were forced to chase. That’s when we lost the race. At first, I tried to help Chantal to try and close the gap. At that moment I don’t think we wouldn’t get any assistance. We kept the pace high so Chantal could build on it. At one point we heard from the car: Lotte, you don’t turn anymore, you just race for second place. If I would empty myself I would have nothing. Elisa was just so strong we could not get her back. It’s a pity. She was very strong.”
Van den Broeck-Blaak managed to bridge back up and she helped to control the group and lead them to a sprint for second place. Kopecky finished as runner-up and van den Broeck rolled across the line in eighth place.