In 2017 Lotta Lepistö enjoyed her best season to date with six wins but it was also a season of mixed emotions. The Cervelo-Bigla rider won the Gent-Wevelgem and Crescent Vargada WorldTour races, along with wins at Dwars Door Vlaanderen, a stage of the Giro Rosa, and the Finish road race and time trial double.
Although illness and then injury ahead of Worlds limited her potential peformance, the 28-year-old explained she still considers the year a success.
"With regards to results, it was better than ever," she said. "I wasn't too happy with my performance though because it was too up and down throughout the year. I was a little sick in the Spring then had back problems at the end of the season which affected me at the world championships."
Starting the year with 18th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Lepistö then had a series of promising performances but it was her win at Dwars Door Vlaanderen that got the ball rolling and signalled her preparation after a breakout 2016 was perfectly planned.
"My performance in general is good so as long as I train hard I know I'll be at a good level," she reflected. "The preparation for Gent Wevelgem and the Giro was perfect which is why I managed to get victories there. But I was very disappointed at the end of the year at world champs because I wasn't able to go to that top level but I keep reminding myself that it was just one race."
At Gent-Wevelgem, Lepistö got the better of Belgian Jolien d'Hoore and explained her first WorldTour one-day win was a highlight of the season.
"Those races are the highlights of the year. It was amazing to win in Belgium and see what the sport is like when you win there," she said. "You become a hero for a few days and everyone knows you. The media attention is huge, especially when you finish ahead of a rider like Jolien D'Hoore who is a local hero. It was a big thing. Racing in Belgium in 2008 was my first UCI race ever so it was a really good feeling to win those races. Especially winning two in a row."
While Lepistö celebrated her Gent-Wevelgem victory, she explained that her stage win at the Giro Rosa was just as pleasing.
"The Giro win was special because I came back after sickness," she said. "I was in Finland before and came straight from there into the heat in Italy. It's the biggest stage race in women's cycling and it was my first Giro ever. At one point I was ranked third in the world and I couldn't really believe it."
Lepistö added that with her success of the sprint and summer, it helped lessen the blow of her disappointment at the Worlds where she was a DNF in the road race.
"At first I didn't want to talk about it but of course, I had to," she said. "We had a meeting with the team and my coach about what went wrong. It's a good thing to talk through it because you can move on. It's one race in a year and I have to look back at the big races I've won this year so I can't be too disappointed.
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Lepistö explained that having been hesitant about choosing cycling as a career path, she is fully committed to her trade and believes she can better her 2017 results and performances.
"I think I'm in the right team and also have a good coach," she said. "Years ago I wasn't so sure about making a career in cycling but then I found good balance and started realising I might become a professional and I banked everything on it. Cervélo Bigla is all about learning and you're constantly learning new stuff. Having Thomas in the car is the best because you know you have the chance of victory, he is the best. We have the best equipment and a really good environment."
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