By Brecht Decaluwé in Kalmthout
World champion Hanka Kupfernagel didn't expect to battle for the victory in Kalmthout where the first World Cup race of the season was held this past Sunday. She ended her road season early, unexpectedly pulling out of the time trial at the World Championships in Varese citing a lack of form. Despite these doubts, Kupfernagel was at the head of the race together with eventual winner and her arch rival for years now, Daphny van den Brand.
"My first three laps were surprisingly good and from then on it started to get more difficult. Anyway, I'm happy with my performance. I hoped to finish in the top six, but now I'm on the podium. Some girls weren't as strong as I expected while I did better than expected, and that with my new bike," Kupfernagel pointed to her Stevens bike. "I only have it for a week but I'm more than happy with it."
Kupfernagel's coach, trainer and friend Mike Kluge told Cyclingnews that he had been checking out special lines on the course. Kupfernagel explained, "Mike advised me to, for example, take some 180-degree corners wider than I would normally use to so I could maintain my speed. Things like that helped to save energy here and there," Kupfernagel said.
This weekend, 'la Hanka' is racing in the next World Cup event of the season in Tabor, Czech Republic and there's a big chance that she'll show up even stronger than today. "We're going to Mallorca this week and we're flying in to the Czech Republic from there," Kupfernagel said. Unlike last year, when she skipped some races to focus on the Olympic Games, Kupfernagel is riding a full cyclo-cross calendar this season. "I would like to show this shirt as much as possible," Kupfernagel said while pointing to her rainbow coloured jersey.