Lisa Brennauer wasn't joking around when she told Cyclingnews that her new team WNT-Rotor would surprise the cycling community during the 2019 season. In fact, they could hardly have gotten off to a better start at the weekend's Setmana Ciclista Valenciana with Clara Koppenburg securing the overall title and WNT-Rotor winning the overall best team classification.
Although Brennauer did not participate in the four-day European opener, Koppenburg was supported by six teammates that included Ane Santesteban, Lara Vieceli, Erica Magnaldi, Aafke Soet, Claudia Koster and Sarah Rijkes.
"The team did such a good job during the whole stage, it was so great to see that we were all committed 100%, it was an incredible feeling," Koppenburg said in a press release after the finale stage 4, a 104km race from Valencia to Sagunt.
"To win the team classification was phenomenal, when I was on the podium alone, I was really insecure, but as soon as my teammates were on the podium with me for the team classification presentation, I felt so much better, it felt so nice to stand with them on the podium and share this victory."
The newly launched Trek-Segafredo dominated the opening two stages with Ruth Winder and Lotta Lepistö taking the stage wins, while Winder put on the early leader’s jersey.
Tables turned, however, in favour of the considerably smaller team WNT-Rotor when Koppenburg won the queen stage 3 on the summit of Xorret de Cati. She went into the final stage with a healthy 43-second margin over Soraya Paladin (Ale Cipollini) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv), and sealed the overall victory thanks to a perfect display of teamwork. Trek's Lepistö won the small group sprint to take the stage.
"It was tough in the last 50km, it was insane especially when the Cipollini girl, Paladin, was attacking me like crazy, and I had to follow every attack so that she couldn't gap me, then Ashleigh attacked, I knew the riders I had to follow, but they wanted to kick me out of the jersey, I could feel it," Koppenburg described the hilly final stage in a blog post on her team's website.
"Claudia looked after herself in the sprint – we decided that if there is someone in the team who has some power left in the final, we can try to help her, but in the end it was so tough, we were all knocked on, but Claudia was able to find her way, which was great for her.
"Lara [Vieceli] and Ane [Santesteban] and I stayed together and tried to keep me safe over the finish line, so that I wouldn’t get such a big gap from the stage winner. I'm quite scared in those hectic finals, especially when it’s so technical. It was nice to see Claudia still go for a good result. At the finish line I was still not sure if I had really won because I was afraid the gap was too big, but yeah it was super great to take this victory."
With early-season success under their belts at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, WNT-Rotor will now head to the kick-off to the Women's WorldTour on March 9 at Strade Bianche. They will unite for a team training camp for six days ahead of the race in Tuscany.
"We all worked so hard for this, and now everyone gets a prize, it's the nicest way to start the season, and we now know we can work together as a team, as one unit. To win the team classification in almost our first race is amazing, it just shows that the team is bonding well together and that we can expect some more results this season."
@ClaraKoppenburg sealed the deal, taking her first race victory and general classification victory this weekend @SetmanaCiclista— WNT-ROTOR Pro Cycling (@WNT_ROTOR) February 24, 2019
“The team did such a good job, it was great to see that we were all committed 100%, it was an incredible feeling.”