Lotte Kopecky (Lotto Soudal Ladies) got her season off to a winning start with victory in the inaugural edition of the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana Feminas. The multi-discipline rider took a clear victory in the sprint finish, beating Canyon-SRAM’s Alice Barnes by almost a bike’s length, with Kopecky’s teammate Thi That Nguyen taking third.
Kopecky has been working hard on the track over the winter months, winning the Madison event with Jolien D’hoore at the penultimate round in Cambridge, New Zealand, and finishing second in the event in Hong Kong last month. Her main focus is the Track World Championships in Poland in March, but her track form has clearly transferred to the road.
Three years after reviving the men’s stage, organisers introduced a one-day women’s race to take place ahead of the final stage of the men’s event. Many of the top teams will not be starting their European season until the separately organised Setmana Valenciana stage race later this month, but the event still attracted some big hitters, including home team Movistar, Canyon-SRAM, Lotto Soudal and Bigla Pro Cycling.
The close to pan-flat 88.5km course, which would be the same for the men later in the day, took the riders from Paterna on the North West of Valencia, away from the city before returning for four laps around Valencia itself.
With the parcours, a sprint finished seemed a formality and the major teams looked to control the racing. On home roads, it was Movistar that did much of the work, with assistance from Lotto Soudal. There were some attempts at getting away, but nothing came to fruition. The one major mid-race skirmish was for the intermediate sprint with Ale Cipollini’s Jelena Eric taking the full points ahead of Silvia Zanardi.
Ultimately, the predicted sprint finish came with Kopecky converting her track form into a victory on the road, the first for the Lotto Soudal team this season.
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