Lotte Kopecky: To win the Tour of Flanders was a dream, to do it twice is very special
The Belgian becomes only the second woman to win back-to-back Tour of Flanders titles after her solo victory.
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Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) became just the second woman in the Tour of Flanders history to win back-to-back titles.
The Belgian soloed away from the pack, distancing her final rival on the Oude Kwaremont with a stinging attack.
After a storming spring that saw her romp to the win at Omloop and destroy her rivals at Nokere Koerse, Kopecky was the hot favorite coming into her home race.
“Going into this race everyone said I was favorite. I mean every article already I had the five stars so I mean that was kind of a pressure, but yeah I knew I was surrounded by a super strong team at SD Worx and that helps to get the pressure off,” Kopecky said.
“It’s a bit unbelievable actually because last year to win the Tour of Flanders was one of my dreams and to win it now for the second time in a row, also after how we did it, it’s very special.”
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There was also a sense of expectation from local media and Belgian fans heading into the race. However, she doesn’t seem weighted down by the burden, instead, it was pushing her on for more.
“I feel that I have a lot of fans and they want me to win, that I have the whole country behind me, and that I just need to try to give the best of myself and that they will be very happy if I can win.”
Kopecky was part of a four-rider group that went clear up the Koppenberg, which included her teammates Lorena Wiebes and Marlen Reusser as well as UAE Team ADQ rider Silvia Persico. However, there was a moment of worry when Kopecky had to dismount on the climb with just Persico and Reusser able to ride the whole way up with the cobbles still slick from the rain of the previous week.
“The team was in a pretty good position going up there and it was drying and I thought the Koppenberg was good compared to our recon, but then there was suddenly it was like a completely wet part,” Kopecky explained. “Liane [Lippert] next to me was on this wet part and then I didn’t really know what happened but I had to get out of my pedal because I had to I couldn’t ride anymore and then there was just like, now I run up. And then we were with four of us.”
Kopecky didn’t panic and she used her cyclocross skills to keep herself in contention. One by one, Kopecky dropped her teammates but she could not shake off a determined Persico for some time. She eventually dropped the Italian, whose fast finish was a big threat to her chance of winning, on the Oude Kwaremont.
With nobody else around her, Kopecky’s second win was quite different from her first, which she took in a sprint ahead of Annemiek van Vleuten.
“When you go solo, I mean, then it’s normally around 5k or three from the finish and you know I’m going to be the winner today. That’s really nice and you think ‘I’ve done it’ so you can already enjoy it for a few kilometers winning in a sprint there’s just so much more adrenaline that you won the race, and you were only sure when you cross the finish,” Kopecky said.
Kopecky’s purple patch has come at a tough time for her personally after her brother died last month, shortly before her Nokere win. Racing has given the Belgian some comfort in that difficult moment, allowing her to leave everything she has on the road.
“Cycling is already basically my whole life and when I’m on my bike I feel free, and I don’t need to think too much. Sometimes it also helps to get the frustration out of the head,” Kopecky said.
With her dominant performance at the Tour of Flanders, attentions have already turned to what she might be able to do at Paris-Roubaix next week. Kopecky was second to Elisa Longo Borghini at last year’s race, sprinting for the runner-up spot from a six-rider group.
If she can harness the form that she’s had over the last month, Kopecky will be a red-hot favorite for one of the best trophies in cycling. There is time to get prepared for that race and she’s not ready to think about it just yet.
“First, I want to enjoy today together with the team. Tonight, we can eat something and be together. Tomorrow for sure, I don’t touch my bike, and then on Tuesday, I will get focused again,” she said.