Going into the 2023 Women’s Tour of Flanders, all eyes were on the powerhouse SD Worx team. And with good reason: as it turned out, there wasn’t much anyone could do to prevent Lotte Kopecky from notching a repeat win.
But where last year played out as a three-up sprint, Kopecky left nothing to chance this time around, breaking up the race on the Koppenberg and then going clear on Oude Kwaremont to take a solo win. Behind, teammate Demi Vollering led home the chase to make it the third 1-2 finish so far for SD Worx.
Kopecky clearly felt the eyes on her. “Everyone was giving me five stars [as a favorite], so there was pressure,” she said.
The race was relatively quiet in the opening hours, broken up by lone attacker Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step).
The crucial moment didn’t come until partway up the Koppenberg, when slick cobbles on the steepest pitch forced a number of racers – including reigning World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), who was perfectly positioned despite an earlier crash that caused some drivetrain trouble – off their bikes and opened a split right behind the leading riders.
In the chaos that followed, Gent-Wevelgem winner Marlen Reusser snuck clear with SD Worx teammate Lorena Wiebes and Silvia Persico of UAE-ADQ, and the trio were quickly joined by Kopecky. Behind, a chase formed, led by Trek-Segafredo’s Lucinda Brand, Elisa Longo Borghini, and Shirin van Anrooij.
But with SD Worx’s Vollering present, once Wiebes fell off the pace on the Taaienberg, the racing turned defensive and Trek couldn’t gain ground. Kopecky then used her superior power to simply ride clear of Persico and Reusser on the Kwaremont.
“If you go to the finish with [Persico], you are never sure,” said Kopecky of the Italian’s finishing speed. “So I wanted to go solo.”
Van Anrooij’s attempt to go clear on the Paterberg came to naught, sealing Kopecky’s second straight victory, and as Vollering led the small group home in second she punched the air in emphasis.
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