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SD Worx launch Kopecky to Strade Bianche victory with aggressive attacks

SIENA ITALY MARCH 05 Lotte Kopecky of Belgium and Team SD Worx celebrates winning the race on the podium ceremony after the Eroica 8th Strade Bianche 2022 Womens Elite a 136km one day race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo 321m StradeBianche on March 05 2022 in Siena Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Lotte Kopecky of Team SD Worx wins Strade Bianche (Image credit: Getty Images)

Three times Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) found herself off the front of the peloton at Strade Bianche Donne, twice with Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), the eventual runner-up. On her third foray to the front of the race, Kopecky won the sprint for the finish against Van Vleuten, taking her biggest victory to date.

Using aggressive tactics, Kopecky was joined by her SD Worx teammates as they launched attack after attack, animating the race in what at first appeared to be more of a scattergun approach to determine their strongest rider rather than a coherent plan.

“This was actually the tactic,” Kopecky said in her post-race conference. “I said before the race that I was confident that I could do this on the final climb. It’s an explosive climb, and punchier finishes really suit me. When Annemiek could not lose me on Le Tolfe [the penultimate climb], it was very good for my confidence.”

The experience of her teammates, Kopecky revealed, also helped build her confidence, allowing her to choose which attacks to follow.

“Chantal [Van den Broek-Blaak] told me so many times in the race, ‘Just stay calm, let them do the work, relax, and don’t waste energy,’”Kopecky said. “If it comes from a rider like Chantal, it really gives you confidence and you stay easy. When there are attacks, they are covered [by the team] and you know that you only have to be there when you have to be there.”

Indeed, every attack that Kopecky herself made was carefully planned in advance. With 20 kilometres still to race, Kopecky opened a small gap back to the peloton ahead of the penultimate gravel sector which contained gradients as steep as 16 per cent, but was caught shortly after this steep section.

“It was planned to go there; if I went there I wouldn’t need to go so hard on the next climb because of course Annemiek was going to set the pace there,” Kopecky said. “I could really keep my own pace and when we got past the steepest part, they came up to me and so I didn’t have to push too hard.”

On the final climb, Kopecky did not have to build a buffer in order to stay with van Vleuten’s pace as she grimly held onto the Dutchwoman’s wheel and then passed her on the final corner. 

Recalling her conversation with van Vleuten after the race, Kopecky added, “She said that I was really strong today but that the last corner was a bit tricky. Maybe I’ll have to see it again but in my opinion, I don’t think I did anything wrong, it’s just a hard corner to take. For sure when you come with so much speed it’s just a sprint and I’m not going to brake; she was also not going to brake.”

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Issy Ronald has just graduated from the London School of Economics where she studied for an undergraduate and masters degree in History and International Relations. Since doing an internship at Procycling magazine, she has written reports for races like the Tour of Britain, Bretagne Classic and World Championships, as well as news items, recaps of the general classification at the Grand Tours and some features for Cyclingnews. Away from cycling, she enjoys reading, attempting to bake, going to the theatre and watching a probably unhealthy amount of live sport.