Kopecky the first Belgian woman to win Tour of Flanders in 12 years

Lotte Kopecky celebrates after winning Tour of Flanders
Lotte Kopecky celebrates after winning Tour of Flanders (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Lotte Kopecky went into the Tour of Flanders with the weight of an entire nation's expectations on her shoulders.

On Thursday, Kopecky told the press: "Belgium was already crazy, but they went nuts after my victory in Strade Bianche. But it's really nice. I feel the support from all the people much more. Even today, people supported me on the recon, which was nice."

The 26-year-old from Rumst in the province of Antwerp had been on the rise for years, both on the track and road, with Lotto Soudal and Liv Racing but, since signing for SD Worx, has started to fulfil her WorldTour potential this season.

With the backing of the likes of Swiss champion Marlen Reusser, super-domestique Christine Majerus, former Flanders winner Chantal van den Broek Blaak, and the perennially on-form Demi Vollering, Kopecky had one of the strongest teams in the women's peloton behind her.

Today, in front of masses of cheering fans, Kopecky delivered the result they had been waiting for and gave her home country a home Tour of Flanders victory.

After an active final, including the first ascent of the famous Koppenberg for the women, Kopecky found herself in a select group with the other pre-race favourite, Elisa Balsamo, noticeably absent.

When the lead group became Kopecky, Annemiek van Vleuten, and Chantal van den Broek Blaak, the latter performed a 10km leadout for Kopecky who then went head-to-head with van Vleuten in the sprint. It was almost a direct replay of the first round of the women's WorldTour, Strade Bianche. Just as in that race, Kopecky came around the former world champion to take a convincing win, becoming the first Belgian woman to do so since Grace Verbeke in 2010.

"It's quite overwhelming," Kopecky said after the race. "I'm very thankful to my teammates and I think this victory is not only for me but for them."

"Normally I know I'm faster than Annemiek but after a hard race, we also know Annemiek is fast and that you cannot be too confident but still I really...I was quite confident but you're never sure."

Kopecky still seems to be getting used to the attention she is receiving from fans in her home country.

"I get asked for autographs," Kopecky said on Thursday. "I was on a bike path last year, and a car passed, and they wound down the window and said, 'hey, can we have a photo?' I was like, 'right now … because I'm riding', but they wanted to stop up the road for a photo."

However, after taking the win in Belgium's biggest bike race wearing the national champion's jersey, encounters like that are something Kopecky will have to get used to.

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