Lotte Kopecky feeling ‘no pressure’ in Strade Bianche defense

Belgian star favorite to repeat on white roads of Tuscany after blazing win to open classics at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

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There’s no better way to take the pressure off one’s shoulders than by winning.

Lotte Kopecky, hot off a big victory to open her 2023 season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, carries momentum but no pressure into her title defense Saturday at Strade Bianche Donne.

“Thanks to my win in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, I will arrive at the start of Strade Bianche with no pressure,” Kopecky said. “Winning the same race twice in a row is difficult, but I’m going to try anyway.”

The 27-year-old became the first Belgian rider to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last week to open the classics season. Her victory last year at Strade Bianche was a breakout performance that’s put her on a higher level.

“It will always remain a special victory for me,” she said of Strade Bianche. “It was my first win of that calibre. That and especially the way I won makes this race so special for me. My first season with Team SD Worx was simply great. The second has already started well.”

Annemiek van Vleuten is the only repeat winner at Strade Bianche Donne, but Kopecky will be among the favorites to win and join the two-win club.

She can count on a deep SD Worx team, which has won three of the past five editions on the white roads of Tuscany.

Kopecky will have to do it without last year’s third-place finisher Ashleigh Moolman, who moved to AG Insurance-Soudal-Quick-Step for 2023. SD Worx rider Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, a former winner and experienced helper, is also not starting.

Kopecky might have the legs to go all the way. Her winning ride at Omloop marked by her stinging attack on the Muur van Geraardsbergen put her rivals on notice.

“It’s true that I’ve never been better. Although we did factor in that the real super form should only come in three to four weeks, so there should still be room for improvement,” she said.

“The opening weekend could not have been better for Team SD Worx. My victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad tastes like more,” she said. “After this win, the motivation for the Strade is very high. I will go full steam ahead. The confidence is there. Strade Bianche suits me. I like the course. My form is good and I am part of a super strong Team SD Worx.”

(Photo: Tim de Waele/SD Worx)

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