In today’s stage of the Simac Ladies Tour, Belgian cyclist Lotte Kopecky proved herself to be the fastest in Leuven. She finished the 7.1-kilometre time trial the fastest, beating Riejanne Markus by a mere two seconds. Young British talent Zoe Bäckstedt also made a mark by securing the third position for her new team Canyon SRAM, while renowned cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten, racing in what will be her last time trial, settled for 24th place.
In an unprecedented move for the Dutch cycling race, Stage 2 of the Simac Ladies Tour was organised in Belgium. Leuven, which hosted the World Championships in 2021, was chosen as the backdrop for this historic 7.1-kilometre time trial. Among the challenges awaiting the riders were notable small inclines like Keizersberg, Hoge Berglaan, and Vital Decosterstraat.
One of the first to set a quick time was 20-year-old Dutch rider Daniek Hengeveld from Team dsm-firmenich. She clocked in at 9:40, notably faster than fellow competitors Neve Bradbury, Eva Buurman, and Femke de Vries. However, she had little time to savour her achievement; the formidable time trial specialists were yet to race. Georgie Howe from Jayco AlUla was the first to eclipse Hengeveld’s time, completing the course in 9:18. Following her, British Elinor Barker and Australian Anya Louw lodged times that landed them between Howe and Hengeveld.
The leaderboard kept changing. Jayco AlUla’s Georgia Baker, too, exhibited commendable speed, finishing one second faster than her teammate Howe. However, it was Austria’s Christina Schweinberger who stole the show momentarily by clocking in at 9:12, three seconds quicker than Baker. All eyes were on Annemiek van Vleuten as she took to the course, but she finished with a time of 9:28. Conversely, British rider Zoe Bäckstedt managed an impressive 9:10, although her compatriot Anna Henderson and Dutch cyclist Demi Vollering slightly trailed behind.
Local favourite Lotte Kopecky, racing in the Belgian national time trial champion colours instead of her world champion rainbow jersey, reportedly shattered all expectations. She set a scorching time of 9:02, briefly sitting atop the leaderboard. However, with the likes of Riejanne Markus, Lorena Wiebes, yesterday’s winner Elisa Balsamo, and Charlotte Kool yet to race, the win was still uncertain. In the final results, Markus came close to Kopecky’s time but fell short by two seconds. Kool, the last to race, couldn’t challenge Kopecky’s dominance and finished more than 30 seconds behind on the 7.1-kilometre course.
Consequently, Kopecky reportedly bagged two accolades and now leads in the overall standings with a two-second advantage over Markus. British riders Henderson and Bäckstedt, along with Wiebes, complete the top five positions.
After her triumphant finish, Kopecky expressed her joy at the victory but shared some reservations about the yellow jersey. She said that she would’ve preferred racing in her rainbow jersey. The win in Leuven surprised even Kopecky, who revealed that she doesn’t usually spend much time on her time trial bike. Speculation is rife about whether Kopecky can maintain her lead in the upcoming hillier stages but she will probably be the GC favourite now. The Belgian cyclist reportedly remains optimistic, stating that the weekend will be an interesting challenge, and she’s eager to see what unfolds.
2023 Simac Ladies Tour Stage 2 result
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
Main photo credit: Sportfotonl