At the press conference the day before stage 1 of the UAE Tour Women, world champion Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) was cautiously noncommittal about her GC chances, only saying that she wasn’t in Tour de France form yet but would try her best.
Three days later, Kopecky stood atop the podium on the Jebel Hafeet after having beaten all others, won the queen stage, and taken the overall lead.
“I set myself this stage as a goal, but it’s early in the season, so it’s always the question where exactly the form is. I had hoped for a really good result and also hoped to win this stage, but I also knew that it would be very hard to do, so I’m very happy with the win,” Kopecky was reassured by her own performance.
The 28-year-old all-rounder had prepared for the Jebel Hafeet by checking out the profile on Strava and Veloviewer before the stage and making notes to use during the climb.
“It was very important to know how this climb is. I had gradients of the climb, kilometre by kilometre, so I knew on which parts I could recover a bit and which parts would be really hard for me,” she said.
“It was good to have this in mind and also be prepared mentally.”
When Neve Bradbury (Canyon-SRAM) attacked, Kopecky chose to stay with Mavi García (Liv-AlUla-Jayco) and Gaia Realini (Lidl-Trek) instead of jumping after the Australian right away, and this decision almost cost her the stage.
“I made a bit of a mistake there because I think I could have followed immediately. I thought she will come back by herself, but in the end, she was really strong. I had to go myself, and after a while, I came closer again and started to believe that I could still get the victory,” Kopecky said, describing the last 3km.
After bridging to Bradbury on the final kilometre, Kopecky took the lead and sprinted away on the final uphill kick to the finish line.
Despite wearing the red leader’s jersey now, Kopecky will again perform lead-out duties for double stage winner Lorena Wiebes, as she did on the first two stages. Wiebes repaid the favour by setting the pace on the first part of the climb, and Kopecky was thankful for that.
“That’s how it is within this team. We know that sometimes we need to make sacrifices for each other,” Kopecky said. “We did a really good lead-out the last two days for Lorena, and then today she said ‘Let’s go from the bottom, I will give you a lead-out on the climb for as long as I can’.
“That was really nice, big thanks to Lorena and my other teammates.”