Ahead of the 2023 season, the transfer of Lorena Wiebes from Team DSM to SD Worx had been much discussed.
How would the move impact the chances of Lotte Kopecky, who had been the team’s designated sprinter until now? Might the team that often had spread itself thin with many leaders and not enough support riders have gone a step too far – or would this make a squad that was already a superteam virtually invincible?
By taking first and second place in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the traditional season opener for the classics campaign, the team have given their super-domestique Christine Majerues a special birthday present and silenced their critics for now.
From a peloton that was chasing lone attacker, Movistar’s Arlenis Sierra, Kopecky attacked on the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen, bridging to the Cuban and dropping her on the Bosberg to solo to victory.
“This was kind of the plan, it’s a dream that it turned out like this. I had seen on our training camp that Lotte was super strong. She was so strong uphill and won a training race in our team. For me, it’s no surprise,” Demi Vollering explained how the team’s race plan came true.
On almost any other team, Vollering would be the undisputed leader; at SD Worx, she had something of a super-domestique role in the Omloop.
“She said yesterday in the team briefing: ‘I have confidence in the Bosberg’. When Lotte says something like that, it will come true. She said that last year in the Strade Bianche and the Ronde van Vlaanderen [and won both races – Ed.] – then you know that she can do it,” Vollering continued.
As Kopecky was soloing towards the finish, her teammates ran interference in the chase behind, safe in the knowledge that should the race come back together, they had the strongest sprinter in Lorena Wiebes.
In her characteristic, quiet but serene style, Wiebes was satisfied with the result.
“This is a very good start to the classics. I saw that Lotte got over the hills easily, how strong she was and that she should get her chance. What she did was very good,” Wiebes said before turning to Sunday’s Omloop van het Hageland where she will go for a sprint victory herself.
The European champion more than held her own in the race, being in the first chase group of ten over the Muur and in the wheel of Movistar’s Liane Lippert on the Bosberg.
With a fast finisher like Kopecky able…
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