Lotte Kopecky will bring the form of her life into the first-ever combined UCI World Championships, where she will aim for multiple world titles across three track events and the road race in Glasgow.
The Belgian turned heads with an opening stage victory in Clermont-Ferrand, wore the yellow jersey for six days, climbed with the best to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet, and then stormed to third place in the time trial in Pau.
She closed out the eight-day race winning the green points jersey and second overall behind her SD Worx teammate Demi Vollering.
“I surprised myself a lot, especially yesterday [stage 7 on the Col du Tourmalet], also with being one of the better sprinters and, in the end, one of the better climbers, also a good time triallist …,” Kopecky said in the post-race press conference while wearing the green jersey.
“This tour was amazing for me. Before, this was not really how I approached this Tour de France. Everything went really good and I recovered every day super good. It’s nice to be second in this Tour de France, winning the green jersey, and also having an amazing team around me.”
Kopecky admitted that the performance that surprised her the most was finishing sixth on the Tourmalet. She formed part of a select chase group that formed over the Col d’Aspen and up the base of the Tourmalet. After Vollering made her winning attack, Kopecky said she settled into a rhythm to see how far she could go surrounded by the best climbers in the world.
She crossed the finish line 3:32 behind Vollering while also ahead of her were only Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal-QuickStep) and Juliette Labous (Team dsm-firmenich).
Although Kopecky had lost the yellow jersey to Vollering on that climb, she went into the closing time trial in fourth overall. However, her performance against the clock, where she finished third behind teammates Marlen Reusser and Vollering, saw her leapfrog both Niewiadoma and Van Vleuten to secure second overall.
“I was quite sure that yesterday I would lose the yellow jersey. This morning, I was fourth in the general classification, but I was thinking that the podium was not impossible,” Kopecky said.
“If I am to be honest, before this Tour, I was not aiming for the GC or thinking about this, so I was like, whatever happens today happens, and I have nothing to lose.
“There was no stress before the time trial, I was just trying to focus on what I had to do and try to give everything I had left.”
Tour de France victory in the future?
Kopecky has revealed in several interviews during the Tour de France Femmes that she is pleased with her role at SD Worx and that she does not wish to be the sole leader of another team.
Asked if she felt she could one day win the Tour de France Femmes, Kopecky did not rule it out in the future but said she still has ambitions in the Classics.
“It’s not something that consider at the moment. I’m happy with the kind of rider that I am at the moment. I love the Classics and that is still my main goal. That is what I love the most,” she said.
“I’m not going to change into trying to be another kind of rider. I mean, not for the coming years, but maybe after I will give it a try, I don’t know. So far, I’m happy with what I am at the moment.”
Kopecky has ignited a massive fan following across Belgium, noting in the post-race press conference that her phone was blowing up with messages across social media about her success at the Tour de France.
“I heard a few things, but my social media on my phone in my back [pocket] has been vibrating the whole time. I think I don’t realise it, but they are going pretty crazy,” Kopecky said, noting that the Tour de France Femmes has helped to elevate women’s racing as a whole.
“We already saw this last year that it’s one of the biggest races there is. Having this live on TV every day, we didn’t see any boring stages, every day was exciting and had nail-biting finishes. This is really good for women’s cycling and hopefully inspire young girls.”
There is no rest for Kopecky, who will board a flight to Scotland on Monday, which will give her enough time to train in the Velodrome and prepare for the first track events next weekend at the World Championships.
“I fly to Glasgow tomorrow, and I start my first event on the track next Sunday. I will try to recover as good as possible from the Tour de France, and I hope I stay healthy.”