Lotte retained her Tour of Flanders title in Oudenaarde this year, pushing on solo from the Oude Kwaremont to the finish line on a testing day. In doing so, Kopecky joins a select group of riders to have won the race more than once including Mirjam Melchers, Judith Arndt and Annemiek van Vleuten. Her teammate Demi Vollering followed in 2nd place to make it another 1-2 for the #1 ranked Women’s team.
The women’s race started off quietly with only a couple of short-lived moves going off the front of the bunch. By the time 50km was done and we started to hit the first hills the bigger teams began to look more interested. It was however Ally Wollaston of AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step who went clear first. We went just before the Wolvenberg and got a gap that proved tough to close. Repeated the gap came right down before it eeked back out to around 45 seconds over and over. She was bridged across to by Elise Chabbey and Elinor Barker.
The trio held off the chasers for a long time and were only caught on the slopes of the Koppenberg. On the way there though, there was a crash out of nothing for Annemiek van Vleuten. The world champion struggled to get her chain back on and the bike change proved to be so slow that all of the race convoy had flown past by the time she was able to get racing again. On the back foot, she would never see the front of the race again – eerily reminiscent of her experience at Omloop het Nieuwsblad this season.
The top of the Koppenberg saw chaos, however. Liane Lippert, Lorena Wiebes and Lotte Kopecky all slipped on the muddy surface and on the steep slopes forcing almost the entire peloton to get off their bikes. A few riders at the front snuck through like Marlen Reusser and Silvia Persico who rode on and formed a break. Kopecky, who’d ran the final bit of the Koppenberg quickly joined them with Lorena Wiebes. Suddenly it was 3v1 at the front of the race.
The winner of Gent Wevelgem, Marlen Reusser, kept the pace high and sacrificed herself fully for the chances of leader Lotte Kopecky. Despite being in a strong position on the Koppenberg, Lorena Wiebes soon felt the climbs in her legs and dropped back. Once Reusser, her job done, drifted back as well suddenly the situation was a bit more even with Lotte Kopecky vs Silvia Persico the state of play at the front of the race.
The pair reached the bottom of the Oude Kwaremont together and it was no surprise when Kopecky set an infernal pace up to the village that Persico eventually could not sustain. With her rival dropped, Kopecky’s gap grew and grew. On the Paterberg, the chasers were visible behind her but it already looked like the race was in the books of the Belgian. The second group on the road picked up Persico and bar the odd attack from Niewiadoma and Labous on the road to Oudenaarde, they were content in their position.
Demi Vollering outsprinted her rivals for the 2nd spot having been able to just follow wheels since Kopecky had gone clear on the Koppenberg. 3rd was Elisa Longo Borghini who’d spent the whole afternoon being dropped out of that group only to claw herself back into it once the climbs were done.
“This is really special. I did not expect it. It was very difficult. On the Koppenberg it was very slippery and I had to put a foot on the ground. The question then was whether we should continue driving or whether it would be better to wait. However, Marlen Reusser indicated that she was no longer feeling well. She just decided to speed up and on the Kruisberg I was left alone with Silvia Persico. When you go to the line with Persico, you are never sure. I still wanted to get rid of her.
After that, it was still very difficult. The last part was with a headwind and I couldn’t pedal the power I had in mind. I wasn’t sure of winning either. I had no idea of the lead and you need certainty. The fact that we are 1 and 2 again today with SD Worx is really perfect. It’s a successful day.”Lotte Kopecky
“Lotte was really super strong today, but I was too far on the Koppenberg myself. I do worry about that. We came close after that, but Lotte eventually stayed ahead. I hope to return there one day to win. It is a super cool race and it suits me well, but I really need to gain more experience. It is important to become stronger and to fight even more for your position. I was good on every climb today, except for the Koppenberg. I do worry about that. I felt very strong and managed to fight my way back into the race, but it is a good point to take with me to next year.”Shirin van Anrooij
2023 Tour of Flanders Women result
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