Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The spring classic featured for the first time as part of the Women’s World Tour circuit and offered equal prize money for men and women.
The 27-year-old Belgian SD Worx rider powered forward at the Muur, the famous cobbled climb in the city of Geraardsbergen. She left the competition gasping for air and bridged up with Arlenis Sierra (Movistar). On the following Bosberg climb she dropped Sierra and completed a 12km long solo that led to a very impressive first road win of the season. A dozen seconds later, European champion Lorena Wiebes convincingly won the bunch sprint ahead of Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ), making it a 1-2 for the SD Worx team.
- Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Classics late bloomer Dylan Van Baarle kicks off spring campaign with impressive win
- Lotte Kopecky on Omloop Het Niewsblad chances: I learned a lot from last year, I made a miscalculation
Kopecky and Wiebes are both new members of SD Worx, joining the Dutch squad respectively from Liv Racing and Team DSM. Kopecky won Strade Bianche and Ronde van Vlaanderen and finished as runner-up at worlds in 2022 while Wiebes seemed unbeatable in the bunch sprints.
There was some speculation as to how the two top guns would be able to cooperate. “There were some doubts but today showed what the benefit can be for our team,” Kopecky said. “If my attack wouldn’t have reached the finish then we still had a big chance to win because Lorena was in the chase group. I noticed she was going very well on the climbs. We’ll be able to help each other a lot this season. I’ve got the feeling that the team is sticking well together. Within the team it’s a matter of give and take and for sure in the future it’ll be for her.”
She did knock on the table before the race to claim a leading role at the Omloop. “During training I was going well and before the race I stated that I felt good. If that’s the case then I’m not going to hide away. There’s still a lot more races to come but if there’s a chance to win a race like this then I will try to take it. At the end of my career I want to tick as many boxes as possible.”
She surely is going well. Winning a road race solo isn’t a common thing to do for Kopecky. She usually captures her wins in the sprint, both on the road and the track; Kopecky won the elimination event at the European championships earlier this month. She’s discovering new capabilities in her new team.
“It was pretty hard,” Kopecky said after completing her solo. “I’m a bit surprised but it seems I can do more than just sprints. I felt strong on the climbs but didn’t have the intention to attack on the Muur. I just wanted to go at my own pace and actually I wanted to go on the Bosberg. Luckily for me Sierra was still there and we rode together to the Bosberg; I went from there. I’ve never done a solo attack so I had to find out how I would be able to maintain my effort. I’m not going to neglect my sprint because it’s a powerful weapon. Maybe I’m becoming a more complete rider.
Part of this change is a new approach in her diet. “I wasn’t too heavy but there was room for improvement. I didn’t have to leave too many things out of my diet. Maybe it became easier because I got a bit older,” Kopecky explained.
She added that she’s still capable of riding the same power numbers. It should help her on the more demanding courses. “Last year I learned that I can win big races. That gives me confidence but there’s also pressure because I have to prove myself. Today’s performance certainly is boosting my confidence ahead of the Strade Bianche,” Kopecky said about last year’s victory at the Italian race in a sprint against Annemiek van Vleuten.
The prize money at the 2023 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for women was brought to the same level as for the men’s race, 40,000 euro with 20,000 available for the winner and 10,000 for the runner-up. During the post-race press conference, Kopecky was asked about this modification. “Last year the organizers already did it in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Nokere Koerse. It’s a nice move from organizer Flanders Classics to do it in all their races. If you take last year’s prize money, divide it with the teammates and deduct taxes then there’s not much left. We have to work very hard for it too. To some people, we don’t deserve it because we’re not doing the same distance as the men. I think we’re different sexes but we’re doing the same effort,” Kopecky said.
The next goals for Kopecky are the spring classics where one race is the most important for her. “There’s no doubt about that: Paris-Roubaix. That would be nice,” Kopecky said. Last year she finished as runner-up, winning the group sprint behind Elisa Longo-Borghini.