‘We lost control’ - SD Worx-Protime on back foot on altered Dwars door Vlaanderen course

Lotte Kopecky isolated, settles for fourth as key climbs taken out after stoppage

Clock19:35, Wednesday 27th March 2024
Lotte Kopecky came across the line in Waregem in fourth at Dwars door Vlaanderen

© Getty Images

Lotte Kopecky came across the line in Waregem in fourth at Dwars door Vlaanderen

It’s a rare situation to see only one SD Worx-Protime rider in the decisive move of a big Classic, but that’s what happened in the women’s Dwars door Vlaanderen, with a mid-race stop and an altered route shaking up the Dutch team’s plans for dominance.

SD Worx had been aggressive in the bunch before the stop, but once the race restarted, they were soon caught off guard by Lidl-Trek, who pushed on with a small group and forced Kopecky to bridge alone to the front. Kopecky then couldn’t follow the decisive attack from Marianne Vos and Shirin van Anrooij, and had to settle for fourth on the line.

A disappointed Kopecky did not stop to speak to the press and the finish, but her teammate Mischa Bredewold shed some light on a difficult day for SD Worx.

“We did lose control there. It was a weird situation,” Bredewold told GCN, reflecting on being on the back foot in the tough Flandrian race.

“Before they had to stop the race, we were really in control, it was going very well. And then the situation was the same for everybody, so it’s not an excuse but after the stop we kind of lost control, and I think Demi had a flat. We were for sure not in position, and Lotte being there in the breakaway alone is not an ideal situation at all.”

After a wheel change for Vollering, SD Worx did try to maintain some control in the peloton behind, but unsurprisingly did not find much cooperation in keeping the gap small.

“I don’t know what was happening in the breakaway, but we tried to keep the group rolling a little bit so that maybe there was an opportunity to jump. But it was not our best race, I would say.”

The neutralisation – which was caused by an incident ahead of the peloton in the men’s race convoy – saw the riders completely stop for 25 minutes, and as a result, the Knokteberg and Hotond climbs were taken out of the route.

As well as the effects of stopping riding for almost half an hour in chilly weather, the route change was substantial, with the back-to-back Knokteberg and Hotond section arguably one of the hardest parts of the race on a normal day, and where a rider like Kopecky could make the most difference.

“As I say it was the same for everybody so it’s not an excuse but we were all very cold and it takes some of your focus away,” Bredewold said.

“For me personally, the uphill parts were going very well but on the cobbled sections – and I think now the race was more determined on those cobbled sections because they took so many climbs out – I had some trouble on those parts. So that was why I was not in the break. The race changes a lot if they take these two climbs out.”

As well as the impact of the stoppage and changes, the race scenario was also undoubtedly the result of a strong, attacking ride from Lidl-Trek, who used their strongest riders to isolate Kopecky, almost distancing her completely, and then attacking her in the finale.

For Bredewold, the competition from Lidl-Trek – which has been more threatening than ever this year – is nothing to complain about.

“I think it’s nice actually. It’s good for women’s cycling and they’re riding very well. And if they have two girls in the breakaway, then I understand that they’re not going to ride with us behind."

Though SD Worx were beaten on Wednesday, they remain favourites for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, where Lotte Kopecky will no doubt find extra motivation as she chases her third successive win in Oudenaarde.

“The shape is good. I think I needed this race to get a little bit of rhythm with the cobbles and everything, so I’m hoping Sunday will be a bit better for us,” Bredewold concluded.

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