Lotte Kopecky on SD Worx dominance, what really happened at Strade Bianche: ‘Demi and I were never mad at each other’
Belgian says that she would do the same thing at Strade Bianche if SD Worx found itself in the same situation.
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GHENT, Belgium (VN) — SD Worx has been the overwhelmingly dominant team this spring, bossing almost every race it has been in.
Lotte Kopecky’s solo ride to her second consecutive Tour of Flanders title Sunday was the Dutch squad’s ninth win of the season and fifth at the WorldTour level. The next best team is Trek-Segafredo, which has taken seven wins this year but just two in the top tier.
The dominance shown by SD Worx this season is far from a one-off — the team has been the top-ranked in the UCI standings for nearly all of the last 10 seasons.
With the depth of the women’s peloton growing with each season, just how has SD Worx kept on top? Kopecky believes that it’s because anyone on the team can go for a win at some point in the season.
“I think we trust each other. We’re really good friends together, there is a structure, but there’s also a lot of freedom,” Kopecky told VeloNews. “For me, this freedom really works. There is also the knowledge in the car with Anna van der Breggen, Danny Stam, and Lars Boom. We’re also just very strong individuals together.”
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Kopecky’s career has thrived since she moved to SD Worx from Liv Racing at the start of 2022.
The 28-year-old had already built a good palmarès that included stage wins at the Giro d’Italia Donne, Le Samyn, and multiple road and time trial national championships, but her career has taken off since she joined the Dutch outfit.
In the past season and a bit, she has won two Tour of Flanders titles, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and Strade Bianche. All but two of her WorldTour victories have come in the last 18 months. At previous teams, Kopecky was the sole leader in most of the races she did.
While it might sound enticing to some to have the whole team around you, she has found that the having multiple leaders works better for her.
“You don’t have the pressure like, ‘okay, I’m the leader today and I have to finish this race,” she said. “‘If I don’t do the result, then the whole team worked for nothing.’ In this team, it’s okay to have a bad day, because you know that there are still two or three other riders who can finish the race. If you say, ‘okay, I’m shit today,’ then you just give everything for your teammate. For me, it just helps to relieve the pressure and it’s easier to deal with.”
So what happened at Strade Bianche?
It doesn’t always work perfectly for SD Worx, although even when things do go wrong the team can still win the race.
This year’s Strade Bianche is a prime example of that. Kopecky and Demi Vollering managed to drop the main group of favorites before catching the attacking Kristen Faulkner on the final climb to the Piazza del Campo in Siena.
Once the pair had brought back Faulkner, a team win looked almost certain but nobody knew who would ultimately go for the win, not even the riders. It led to a thrilling contest between the teammates, and one of the strangest post-race moments in a long time.
Vollering thought she had lost to Kopecky and she looked shellshocked when she was told by GCN+ that she had won.
The sprint between teammates led to rumors of bad blood between Kopecky and Vollering, but the Belgian says that it couldn’t be farther from the truth and that the last catch of Faulkner had led to the confusion.
“Miscommunication is not the right word, there was just no communication. But we were behind Kristen and we thought we were going to get her about five or six kilometers to go, but then we were staying on the same gap,” Kopecky explained. “It was like now you have to really just push and make sure we get her so I also understand that from the car they didn’t say ‘girls fight for it.’ Because we only caught Kirsten at 600m.
“If we were there with two kilometers to go then we would have spoken but it just didn’t happen. In the end, we can laugh with it. In the moment at the finish, it was awkward because Demi thought she lost. I didn’t know who won. I was also a bit like ‘what did we just do?’”
“Demi and I were never mad at each other. That’s something I really want to say to the people because there were so many insinuations that we could not see each other anymore and we were angry at each other, but also after the race, we were on the bus and the whole team talked about what happened that day. I think it was the best thing to do.”
While Kopecky would prefer not to relive the awkwardness that permeated the Strade Bianche finish, she enjoyed having a proper battle with her teammate for the victory and she would happily do it again.
“In the end, if we would go now there again, we would do exactly the same. I mean, we would have spoken to each other, but then you have this very nice battle and then after the finish immediately, we can give each other a hug.
“I think it’s good that we had this situation because now we know what to do. If we’re in this situation, I don’t think we will give each other the present. We know that, to a certain point, we will race like we have to and at one point you say ‘okay, now we fight for it’ and I think that’s also nice, too.”
Scared of SD Worx
Not for the first time, SD Worx’s dominance this year has led to questions about how other teams go about cracking them. After Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, Elisa Longo Borghini criticized some teams for not trying enough to bring Kopecky’s attack back while Trek-Segafredo repeatedly attacked in an effort to bridge the gap.
Kopecky thinks that other teams could definitely do more to try and stop SD Worx from romping away with so many victories.
“I didn’t see that [Sunday] but I saw it in Gent-Wevelgem. Marlen went out and I was behind. I liked it for Marlen. But then I didn’t understand the other teams and was like, ‘what are you doing?’ I mean, when this happens, you react immediately. Some teams were three or four riders so then you just try [to follow],” she said. “I don’t understand why [Sunday], there weren’t more attacks at the beginning of the race. Just to show yourself and try to create an opportunity. We are not the team that is going to chase every early breakaway. So for small teams, or just create the situation for yourself.
“The teams wait for us to make our movements. If you wait for us to make a move, then you might be lost, so just try to do it before we do it and then you get in a better position. But it’s also nice to be in a dominant team like this.”