As Lotte Kopecky (Liv Racing), and the rest of the women's peloton, embark on the historic first-ever edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes on October 2, she is sure of two things; the cobbles suit her and the race will be epic.
"It will be an epic first edition of Paris-Roubaix. When it was added to the calendar last year, I was really excited. I think we’ve now been waiting long enough to have that first edition and I am really looking forward to it," Kopecky told Cyclingnews.
"I like to ride cobbles and I’m confident that these cobbles suit me. To be honest, though, I have no idea what to expect from the first edition."
Kopecky has had a stand-out season with victories at Le Samyn des Dames and a stage of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, second place at Gent-Wevelgem, and four fourth places at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Nokere Koerse, Brugge-De Panne and Dwars door het Hageland.
She also won the overall classification at the Lotto Belgium Tour, finished fourth in the road race at the Olympic Games, and took stage victories at the Challenge by la Vuelta and Trophée des Grimpeuses.
Crashes on the track at the Olympic Games took her out of contention for a medal in the Madison and Omnium events. After finishing 16th at her home World Championships last week, Kopecky said those performances have changed her perspective on her expectations for Paris-Roubaix.
“I had setbacks at the Olympics. And the World Championships in Flanders did not turn out the way I expected. I went to those races with high expectations. That is why I approach Paris-Roubaix, a highlight for our sport, very differently now: I want to have fun on Saturday. Then I’ll wait and see where it takes me.”
It will also be Kopecky's final season with Liv Racing before moving to SD Worx in 2022, and she said that she would like to give it her best. She will line up with a team that also includes Alison Jackson, Evy Kuijpers, Jeanne Korevaar, Sabrina Stultiens and Valerie Demey.
"I had confidence from the team and they supported me toward the Olympics. I want to end the season with them on a high. I’m going all-in for the end of the calendar," she said.
The women's field will race 115.6km, starting with three circuits around Denain. The route will join the men’s route in Hornaing after 31km and it will follow the final 85km of the men's route into Roubaix.
The women will tackle 17 cobblestone sectors, for a total of 29.2km of pavè, and part of the route includes the two five-star sectors; Mons-en-Pévèle at the 67km mark and Carrefour de l'Arbre at the 98.5km mark, before the famed velodrome finish in Roubaix.
"I have done five or six previews of the route and I think that the cobbles are hard. To be honest, I expected them to be harder. Maybe they will feel harder during the race. I had a positive feeling about the cobbles," Kopecky said.
The cobbles, in and of themselves, might not present the biggest obstacle for a rider like Kopecky, but she did suggest that the first edition of the race will be an unknown, and a new experience for the women's field.
"I think it will be hectic. You can’t have bike troubles because that would affect the race for everyone," she said.
"Materials will need to be considered and perfect. Positioning during the race will be important and knowing the course and where the sectors are will be part of the preparation. I’m really looking forward to it."
It had been raining in the area on Monday and winds from the southwest are expected to blow rain showers across northern France on Saturday, too. This might lead to tailwinds, and even some crosswinds are possible, and we can expect this to add an extra dimension of difficulty to the race. Kopecky said that the weather forecast might lead to a more nervous race.
“I did a recon of the course on Monday morning when it was raining. For now, rain is also predicted for Saturday,” said Kopecky.
“It will be the first time for everyone in our peloton, and everyone has a certain idea of how it will go. In combination with the rainy weather, it’s expected to be an extra nervous race. My job will be to be attentive, stay on the bike and try to avoid equipment failure. I am really looking forward to it.”
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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