Lotte Kopecky and SD Worx try to force echelons in slow burn Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne
The Belgian champion plays leadout for Lonneke Uneken as she looks forward to Gent-Wevelgem challenge.
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On a relatively still day in Belgium, a sniff of potential crosswind chaos was enough to spur the peloton into action with just under 40km to go at the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne.
SD Worx was one of the driving forces at the front of the peloton as gusts moved through the peloton from left to right. With two of the strongest sprinters in the pack well ensconced within it, the Dutch team hoped to do some damage.
While the pressure caused some splits, the crosswinds died down and the team could not sustain the gaps. It would eventually come down to a sprint with Strade Bianche winner Lotte Kopecky leading out rising star Lonneke Uneken for fourth place.
Also read: Strade Bianche Donne: Lotte Kopecky, SD Worx deliver tactical masterclass in WorldTour opener
“We wanted to at least try [to make echelons] at least once and if we can surprise someone it’s always good. There was just not enough wind,” Kopecky said at the finish in De Panne. “If there is wind in this race then it’s a really nice race, and I was really sad that there was not enough wind today to get echelons.”
Being able to take a step back from the limelight and work for a teammate is a new experience for Kopecky, who was nearly always the leader when she raced in her past teams. Stepping into SD Worx over the winter means that the pressure isn’t all on her to deliver at a race’s end.
As well as having strong teammates around her, the new environment is working well for Kopecky and she appears to be growing in confidence as a person as the weeks go by.
“I really enjoy being with this team, I feel really relaxed with them, I can be myself and that’s a very important thing for me,” she said.
Already a WorldTour winner this season with victory at Strade Bianche, Kopecky has been on flying form this spring and has thus far avoided the misfortune that plagued her during her 2021 campaign.
She will be stepping back into the leadership role this weekend at Gent-Wevelgem, where she hopes to improve on two runner-up spots in the past two editions. As always, she’s hoping for the Belgian wind to give her a helping hand, but it would seem that the unusually good spell of sunshine is going to continue into the weekend.
“It has been really good. The opening weekend was good for the team but not so good for me but then winning Strade, I came third in Drenthe, and I came second in Nokere so I’ve had some pretty good results so far. I look forward to what is coming,” Kopecky said.
“I’ve been two times second before [at Gent-Wevelgem], and it’s a race that suits me, but in the end, there will not be so much wind. But, we have two times the Kemmelberg and the steep part of it, so I hope that the race can be made a bit hard… You have to be alert until the finish line because if there are crosswinds last 20 kilometers there can be a lot of riders dropped already.”