While Jumbo-Visma's Wout van Aert repeated his 2019 victory to be crowned Flandrien of the Year on Friday, the women's award was taken for the first time by Lotto Soudal's Lotte Kopecky, who'd been steadily improving in recent years, but enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2020.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the racing season, Kopecky has enjoyed an excellent year, winning both the Belgian road race and time trial national titles and a stage at the Giro Rosa, and taking podium positions at races including Le Samyn, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne.
"I had a consistent season; from the first to the last Classic, I performed at a high level. I think I can say that," the 25-year-old told Het Nieuwsblad after winning her award.
"There's certainly something to getting older. Look at the top riders in international women's cycling: they're all in their late 20s or early 30s," she pointed out. "I also just feel good about myself. At the start of the road season, that first lockdown allowed me to take a solid break, which allowed me to recharge both physically and mentally."
Kopecky explained that she has engaged the services of sports psychologist to help with her progression.
"Many people in cycling, or in sports in general, underestimate the mental aspect a bit," she said. "You can only perform well if you feel 100 per cent good about yourself, and that's the case with me now."
After five seasons with Lotto Soudal, Kopecky will move to Liv Racing – this season's CCC-Liv team – in 2021, and said that she'll be targeting the spring Classics, the Madison on the track with Jolien D'Hoore at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games in the summer, and the UCI Road World Championships, which will take place in various locations in Flanders in September.
"I'd like to win the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix one day; that would be great," she said of her goals. "This season, what would have been the first edition of Roubaix was cancelled, but I've already checked out the cobbles, and I think it's going to be a Classic that will suit me."
Asked about her longer-term future, Kopecky said that she wasn't about to make any predictions: "I'll keep racing until I get tired of it, or until [my partner and I] want children.
"I also want to take part in the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, and continue afterwards," she said. "I know that 2021 will be one of the most important years of my career, and that's precisely why I'm happy that I had a good season, which was great for my confidence."
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