Lotte Kopecky has signed a three-year contract to race with SD Worx through 2024. The reigning double Belgian Champion will depart from her current team Liv Racing at the end of this season and join SD Worx on January 1, 2022.
"It is an enormous challenge for me to be part of the team that dominates almost all races," Kopecky said.
SD Worx CEO Kobe Verdonck, team manager Erwin Janssen and sports manager Danny Stam made the announcement while speaking at a press conference held at the title sponsor’s head office in Antwerp on Wednesday. According to the team, it was important for the Belgium-based company to sign a top rider from Belgium.
"You can see that Lotte has made considerable steps in recent years," said Stam. "She is an all-round star who can handle increasingly tough competitions. She impressed me last spring in the Strade Bianche, where she only lost due to a puncture at a very bad moment. I think Lotte can develop even further in our team. With her, we also have a good core for the Flemish races in the spring of 2022. Next year, with Chantal Blaak, Amy Pieters, Demi Vollering and Lotte, among others, we will spark further success."
The transfer announcement window normally opens on August 1, a rule created by the UCI in part to protect teams, however both Liv Racing and SD Worx agreed to make the announcement early.
"We have an agreement with the former team Liv Racing," Stam said. "We also know that when you announce something like this three months later there is no exposure in it. The window is there, only if you have not agreed with each other. We are happy that Liv Racing agreed that we would announce it earlier."
Kopecky, 25, won the national road race and time trial titles at the Belgian National Championships during the truncated revised late-season calendar last fall. She also netted a stage victory at the Giro Rosa and podium finishes at Le Samyn des Dames, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, and Brugge-De Panne.
Following her road racing success in 2020, Kopecky made the transfer from long-time team Lotto Soudal Ladies to Liv Racing (formerly CCC-Liv) on a one-year deal for 2021, moving up to the Women WorldTeam for the first time in her career. That signing was a boon for Liv Racing, which had lost CCC as a title sponsor after financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic, and team leaders Marianne Vos to Jumbo-Visma and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio also to SD Worx.
Kopecky has gone on to even more success this year 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, and Brugge-De Panne.
"When the best team in the world asks you to join, you feel honoured of course," Kopecky said. "This season I also have a very good feeling with Team Liv Racing, but I also have to look at my future. I know that with Team SD Worx, I will always be surrounded by a strong team. What appeals to me in Team SD Worx is that the team always attacks. It is a team that has a lot of charisma in the peloton. What also appeals to me is that the team does not always go into the races with a fixed plan, but often adjusts its tactics according to how the race develops."
Kopecky also said that joining SD Worx means she will have more support in the finals at the Spring Classics next season.
"It’s important. I’ve been a lot of times alone in the finals," she said. "This year was better but if you don’t have all the riders at SD Worx against you, it will be a bit easier. If you are on the strongest team you can play the racing in more ways than I can do at this moment."
Double world champion Anna van der Breggen is set to retire this year and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will retire next spring. The team is focussed on building their young talent, and has already seen the rise of Demi Vollering. Stam said that signing Kopecky adds to the team's future.
"Chantal and Anna are retiring and we want to look to the future and stay on the top level. With Lotte and Demi we have potential riders that can handle it," Stam said.
Kopecky is a versatile athlete; a strong road racer, time trialist, and she competes on the track for the Belgian National Team. She won the gold medal at the 2017 UCI Track World Championship in the Madison alongside teammate Jolien D’hoore, and the pair are focussed on competing in the Madison at the Tokyo Olympic Games. D’hoore, who also races on the road for SD Worx, is set to retire at the end of this season.
"Lotte is only 25 years young and proves to be very versatile in cycling," Stam said. "That offers opportunities. For example, this summer she will compete in the points race at the Tokyo Olympics together with Jolien D'hoore, who is currently defending the Team SD Worx colours but will retire at the end of the season. I am happy that we have been able to bring Lotte to our team, both in terms of sport and publicity for our main sponsor SD Worx, because various other teams have also shown an interest in her."
Kopecky said she will continue to race opportunities on cyclo-cross and track but that she is unsure if she will focus on the track at 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
"There is a possibility to do track, road and cyclo-cross racing. For now, I don’t know what I want exactly but I think after the Olympic Games and the World Championships, we will see together and discuss. I want to go where the team wants to go with me."
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