UCI Road World Championships: Lotte Kopecky hoping to find Strade Bianche-winning form in road race

The 26-year-old will lead the Belgian team at this weekend's road race in Wollongong.

Photo: Dirk Waem/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images

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KIAMA DOWNS, Australia (VN) — Lotte Kopecky is hoping to find the form that took her to Strade Bianche glory in this weekend’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships.

The 26-year-old shoulders the burden of the Belgian women’s hopes in Australia as she looks to secure the country’s first medal in the event since Patsy Maegerman’s silver medal in 1994.

The course has a few more climbs than Kopecky would usually want with the Mount Keira ascent early on followed by the back-to-back climbs of Mount Ousley and Mount Pleasant on the local laps, but she’s shown this year that in her best form she can hang onto some of the best climbers over punchy terrain.

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Indeed, she hung onto Annemiek van Vleuten on the final tough climb to the Piazza del Campo before kicking clear to victory. If she wants to take home a medal Saturday, she may need to channel that ride as she tries to keep in touch with those that want to dispense with the climbers before the finish line.

“That would be very nice,” Kopecky said. “I saw the course already and it’s pretty hard. This long climb starts with a very steep part and then it’s more rolling. It’s still eight kilometers, so it’s still a long climb. Then it is the local lap, which is very steep. I just have to wait and hope for the best possible legs on Saturday. We will see. I start without pressure, I don’t feel pressure from the federation, which is nice. I will see where it brings me.”

Kopecky’s build-up to the worlds has been fairly busy with a brief return to the track at the European championships in August sandwiched between the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.

She had a successful time at the Europeans with victories in the elimination and points races. She then returned to the road at the Vuelta earlier this month and showed some good form. Though she was unable to notch up a victory, she managed four top-five places across the five stages.

Kopecky had initially planned to skip the world championships in Australia after a busy season, but her performance at the European championships saw her change her mind.

She kicked off her worlds with the individual time trial last Sunday but she chose to rest up and skip the mixed team relay. Despite being a former national time trial champion, this year’s world championships are the first time that Kopecky has raced the TT at the competition.

Kopecky managed a ninth place, in the end, finishing 1:50 behind the winner Ellen van Dijk, and is looking to the road race now with some confidence.

“When I saw the participants, I was thinking that maybe I could get top 10 so I think I can be happy with the performance,” she said.

“I’ve just tried to take all of the positive signs from the Vuelta and from [Sunday], just to get my head with as much confidence as possible because I know that preparation was not ideal. I’m happy with this, and I hope I can just stay relaxed as possible.”

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