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The then-Belgian national champion found herself distanced over the Muur van Geraardsbergen and never regained contact with the front of the race. One week later, though, she came out top in a head-to-head battle with Annemiek van Vleuten at Strade Bianche before going on to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen wearing the Belgian colors.
“I learned a lot from it last year, because it was a miscalculation, actually. So with that in mind, I think that normally I should survive the Muur van Geraardsbergen” Kopecky said on the eve of this year’s race, her first of the season.
Now in her second year at SD Worx, Kopecky revealed that she does not feel pressure to replicate the successes of her 2022 season.
“Actually [I feel] more relaxed,” she said. “I mean, I also noticed that having all this pressure doesn’t help at all. I also said already that even if I’m in the same shape as it was last year [that] doesn’t mean that I will win the same races. A lot is depending on how the race situation is. I think we need to race as a team again and I think that if we do and everybody is at the level that she needs to be then I think, in the end, what has to come will come.”
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With the addition of sprinter Lorena Wiebes to the team a lot has been made of the potential clash of interest between the two riders. But Kopecky insists that in the event of a bunch kick, Wiebes is their woman.
“Lorena is one of the fastest girls in the bunch. And she’s faster than me so, of course, we have to see how she’s feeling but I think nine out of 10 times we will try and lead her out,” she said.
With her track commitments and the team’s calendar Omloop will be Kopecky’s first race of the season, but she is confident in both her own form and that of her teammates.
“I think we had a very good training camp. I think everybody’s ready for it. But of course, we did not race yet. So, there is of course, some uncertainty,” she said. “But I think if I saw everybody at the last camp then I think we are in good shape and then we can be confident that it’s not too bad for us, it’s just our first race. We had a lot of race simulation in the training camp so I think that will not be a problem.”
The rider to beat, Van Vleuten, may have looked as if she was not quite on form at last week’s Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, where she finished off the podium, but Kopecky is still wary of the Movistar rider.
“We have to see. She just came from Colombia, from altitude. I think we shouldn’t underestimate this part. And now we are a week later, and she had some competition. So, I think she will be much better than she was last week,” she said.
“With Annemiek you never know and you can never be sure that last week she maybe was not 100 percent. I think tomorrow we will have a very strong Annemiek again. At least that’s what I think.”
The 27-year-old pointed to Van Vleuten’s Movistar team, as well as Trek-Segafredo and FDJ-Suez as ones to watch but remains confident in her own team’s chances at winning the first Classic of the season.
“I think I feel pretty good at the moment. We have a super strong team at the start. So, we have a lot of options that we can play tomorrow. I hope I just can have the good feeling in my legs and that with the team we can win the race.”