Belgium's Lotte Kopecky heads into Saturday's elite women's road race at the World Championships as among the top favourites for the rainbow jersey on home ground having hit a strong run of form in recent weeks.
The 25-year-old, who is enjoying her best season with eight wins so far, has only competed at one Worlds previously back in 2016, but stands a real chance of becoming Belgium's first women's world champion on the road since Nicole Van den Broeck in 1973.
Kopecky signalled her pre-Worlds form with a commanding win on the tough finish in Santiago de Compostela at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, also winning a stage of the 2.2.-ranked Trophée des Grimpeurs Vresse-sur-Semois last week.
She said after Wednesday's mixed relay team time trial, where Belgium took seventh place, that the timing of the Worlds is just right from her perspective.
"I think that the World Championships are coming just in time for me," Kopecky said.
"After the Olympics I had a tougher period where I couldn't train as I wanted. Now I think my form has grown week after week. I'm confident for Saturday but I also know that everything has to fall in place to get a nice result."
She'll be joined in the race by five teammates, with Jolien D'hoore, Shari Bossuyt, Kim de Baat, Valerie Demey, and Jesse Vandenbulcke all committed to the cause of helping Kopecky pull on the rainbow bands at the end of the 157.7-kilometre race.
"I have to support and help Lotte," D'hoore said at a pre-race press conference on Thursday. "If we are there as one team, and when you see how she is riding, she can be up there at the finish. I'm here in a supporting role – it's just realistic."
Kopecky acknowledged how vital her teammates would be on Saturday, singling out D'hoore as a key super-domestique on the tough hilly course from Antwerp to Leuven.
"It's important to be supported for as long as possible. Jolien is the right person for that in this difficult race," she said.
"For me, a sprint from a smaller group would be ideal for my chances of winning. This course lends itself to that. We'll wait and see what it will be."
Given her status among the top favourites for victory, Kopecky said that she knows a number of countries will be watching her and her teammates as they battle for victory on home ground but said that there are multiple ways the race could end up playing out.
"I think there are a lot of countries that see me as favourite but there are a lot of scenarios possible. So, it's a matter of making the right decisions."
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content on Cyclingnews and takes on live race text coverage throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Tro-Bro Léon, Strade Bianche, and the Vuelta a España.
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