Lotte Kopecky rarely reveals emotions, highs or lows, publicly, but the tears that streamed down her cheeks after winning her third rainbow jersey at the Glasgow Worlds gave us all a glimpse, and perhaps some understanding, into just how difficult her season has been and how much she has had to overcome on her path to becoming the best cyclist in the world.
“It’s been an amazing year but also a hard year. I don’t know what keeps me pushing,” said Kopecky, who paused for several moments between words and sentences as she wiped tears from her eyes and thought about what to say to the press.
There was a sense of triumph, relief, loss and sadness all in one short but honest statement.
It is now widely known that Kopecky’s older brother Seppe died suddenly and unexpectedly in March. He was 29 years old. He raced as a junior and then for seven years, and he was an inspiration for Kopecky’s highly successful career.
She would have been forgiven for taking time away from competition following her family’s tragedy this spring, but she lined up at Nokere Koerse just days later and smashed the peloton taking a solo victory. Her SD Worx team requested that the media and public respect her privacy and let her continue to race.
Everyone grieves in their own way.
“I was tremendously strong. It seemed like we were riding together. I hope I was able to make my brother proud. The past few days weren’t easy, but there’s no point in letting my head hang down and sitting at home on the sofa. I am someone who needs to be able to take my mind off things,” Kopecky said following her brother’s death.
She repeated similar feelings in the post-race press conference following her victory in the road race in Glasgow.
“It’s hard to really answer this question. It’s been a hard year, but I’ve also been working really hard. I mean, already for years, but this winter was a really hard winter,” she answered a journalist’s question on the subject.
“It can go two ways; you can just stay home, or you just get out and get the work done. I chose the second.”
The form of her life
Since March, Kopecky has gone on to secure 11 victories on the road, including the Tour of Flanders, Lotte Thüringen Ladies Tour, and double road and time trial national titles in Belgium.
But perhaps her most impressive block of racing this year was at the Tour de France Femmes, where she won the opening stage, wore…