Lotte Kopecky: “I now count myself in the top five of the pack”

Interview

24 hours after her impressive victory in the Tour of Flanders, Lotte Kopecky has to admit that she hardly slept last night. Not that there was a wild party. Only with the team there was still a nice meal until about ten o’clock. But all the emotions and impressions of her triumphant march in ‘Vlaanderens Mooiste’ continued to haunt her all night long. “I think I can count myself in the top five in the women’s peloton at the moment,” she responds to the question where she places herself now.

With the impressive victories in the Strade Bianche and Ronde van Vlaanderen in barely a month, Lotte Kopecky has become a star in Belgium as well as in the peloton. Some Belgian newspapers even opened their stories about the Tour of Flanders with the women’s race before paying attention to the men. A unique one. “Yes, that did surprise me,” Kopecky admits. “Although it is nice to see. It also indicates that women’s cycling in Belgium is increasing. That women’s cycling has undergone an enormous evolution in recent years.”

How do you deal with all the attention?
“I have to say that I have to get used to all the attention. I’m not really used to a press moment like this one. As long as it’s all fun stuff, then it’s okay.”

Do you have an explanation for the big step you took last winter?
“I think this is a process of a number of factors. I’ve gotten a little older and stronger. Have more experience in the big games. Two years ago I realized that I could become a good cyclist. I won a stage in the Giro Donne and two weeks later I beat Jolien D’hoore in the Belgian championship. Those achievements opened my eyes. Those were key moments in my career. Especially in my head I have taken steps every year. Cycling is not just fast cycling. There is much more to it. And my transfer to the strongest team, Team SD Worx, is a golden move in my career. So many good riders around me gives me more peace and confidence.”

How different is it at Team SD Worx than at your previous teams?
“In recent years I was also played as a leader in many races. However, then I was the only one of the team who had the role of putting down a short result. That wasn’t easy. It gives me a lot of peace now that I know that there are other teammates in my team who can win matches. That the pressure isn’t just on me. That gives a lot of peace of mind and makes a big difference in how you dare to race in the race.”

photo: Raymond Kerckhoffs

How did the adjustment process go with the new team?
“I have to say I was quite nervous when I went to the first training camp in December. You go to a team with so many good riders, then you always have to wait and see how you fit into that group. Especially since the team was already formed. Marlen Reusser and I were the only newcomers last winter. I had signed for three years, so I had to start feeling at home here. Otherwise I had a problem. The first meeting went very well and from that moment on I felt at home in the team. I immediately clicked with various riders. During training you can immediately see who is good and what they have to offer. And if you can finish it that way in the Strade, you gain even more confidence from the other riders of the team.”

Yet it remains special how various big names and in particular Chantal van den Broek-Blaak sacrificed themselves for you in Flanders.
“I realize that this is very special. I have a good relationship with Chantal. We got into a situation after the Paterberg where we knew I was the fastest of the three. My sprint gave us the biggest option to win. I have a lot of respect for the fact that she completely ignores me.”

What was your plan for this spring last winter?
“I always want to start the season with good form and work on that. That’s why the Strade Bianche was my first goal. The victory in the Strade has only given me wings and even more confidence. Certainly towards this Tour of Flanders. Those two classics were my big goals this spring. If you manage to win both of them, then you have a perfect report.”

photo: Cor Vos

How do you view the future?
“Rose. It is currently running great. I hope I can maintain this level, maybe even improve it. The switch to Team SD Worx has been an important step. I will be with this team for at least the next three years, so we can still achieve great results together.”

And what are your goals for the coming period?
“My next race is Paris-Roubaix, which we will explore on Wednesday. Then I drive the Nations Cup on the track, after which I have a rest period. Then I will build up towards the Giro Donne and the Tour de France. In the latter part of the season I will focus on the World Championships on the road in Australia.”