Lotte Kopecky’s 2023 season couldn’t have gone much better: It started with a win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad followed by a second Tour of Flanders victory before a Tour de France Femmes overall podium and culminated in three world titles in the same week at the UCI World Championships in Glasgow.
Speaking to the press ahead of the 2024 season, Kopecky is pragmatic about the probability of repeating her previous successes: “I think it was an amazing season and I think for me the most important thing I have to take with me in the next season is to stay calm and not to start to expect that every race will be the same as last year because it will not be,” she says.
Her aim, she says, is to enjoy racing in the rainbow jersey and “choose my moments to get in the right shape and maybe pick a little bit more the races I want to be good at.”
The 28-year-old will begin her season at the second edition of the UAE Tour Women in two weeks before focusing on a targeted Classics campaign which sees her sights set on a Flanders-Roubaix peak.
“Last year, I managed to get actually on a very high level through the whole spring but now I [will] try to maybe peak a little bit later, more in the period of [Tour of Flanders], Paris Roubaix, Amstel, Liège,” she explains. “Because if you are already at the real top of your game in Omloop then it’s hard to keep this form for two months. So yeah, I took things a little bit easier this winter, to get on my best form in the beginning of April and try to hold it the whole month.”
A win at Paris Roubaix is the goal, with the cobbled Classic having eluded the Belgian rider thus far. The unprecedented dynamic of the 2023 edition as well as bad luck in the form of crashing meant that she missed out in 2023.
“You cannot really predict those races before,” she reflects. “It’s really how the day goes. Last year was really special for women’s cycling, I think we had a break of like 17 riders, more or less. That’s something we do not see often. For sure not in a classic race. So yeah, we just have to be prepared for all scenarios.”
Although the Hell of the North is clearly a target for the Belgian she is reluctant to put pressure on herself for the one-day Classic:
“It’s a race I just really like. I mean, it’s fighting through to every cobbled section. It’s also… your weight doesn’t matter at all. I mean, not like other races. It’s also the kind of efforts I really like and it’s just a heroic race. It’s a very cool race and I just hope I can win it one day. But I also realise that it’s really hard to say or dangerous to say I want to win Paris Roubaix or put all my cards on that race because the race can be over before you know it,” she says.
“That’s why I say more the month of April is for me the most important because then you know, I mean, if you’re good in Tour of Flanders then you’re also good at Paris Roubaix and you’re also good in Amstel. So it’s more of a period I try to target and not really just that one race, although it would be nice if I can just win that race. But we’ll see. It’s a special race, it’s a nice race and I just try to go there without too much pressure. And I think that still works the best for me.”
The World Champion is also reluctant to solidify her plans for the season post-Classics as she gears towards the Paris Olympic Games where she will compete in both the road and track events. With the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift coming hot on the heels of the Olympics, Kopecky retains that she is still unsure as to whether she will make it to the start line in Rotterdam in August.
“First I focus on the Classics because those are also very important to me. I just hope that I can make a good Classics season and just go with good vibes towards this build-up to the Olympics. And then I think with the combination of track and road I already proved that this is something I can do, and it doesn’t really affect track or road races for me” she says.
“So I’ll finish the classics season in Liège and after that, I’ll really make a completely detailed programme towards the Olympics. And also the Tour de France is just right after. That’s also something we will discuss later if I will do the Tour de France or not.”
“That’s something I really want to start to really get completely planned or organised after the Classics. Then we have a full vision of how I am at that moment. I think it’s best for me to plan it pretty late.”
For now, though, she is already itching to get her 2024 campaign underway: “I’m actually happy I can start in UAE Tour because I really want to start racing,” she says.