By Owen Rogers
Lotte Kopecky dominated the Muur van Geraardsbergen on Friday, winning the final stage of the Lotto Belgium Tour and with it the general classification.
The Belgian national champion had been active all day, but was able to follow a move at the bottom of the final ascent of the climb, attacking two others with around 200m to go, to finish alone. Better known as a cyclocrosser, Yara Kastelijn (Plantur-Pura) was second, with Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) third, moving up a place into second overall after a combative week.
Kopecky’s performance was strong all week, she was fourth in the opening day prologue, and while she was tenth on the bunch kick first road stage after working for national team-mate Jolien D’hoore, she was third on stage two.
As a whole the race did exactly what it said on the tin. Though it did not head to the west of Belgium, it visited the eastern part of Wallonia, West and East Flanders, provided crosswinds, and the cobbled climbs we all know and love in Belgian cycling.
How it happened
After Thursday’s extremely challenging second road stage, the final day was also set to test a peloton already reduced to 111 from the original 150.
Starting and finishing in Geraardsbergen, the route had to be shortened due to overrunning roadworks, removing a cobbled section from the course. The 94.9km route took on two longer opening laps, before two further shorter ones, all four circuits including the feared Bosberg and finishing on the Muur van Geraardsbergen.
Indeed the stage was the first race to finish at the top of the Muur, the line right by the famous chapel and making for the prospect of a tough, fascinating day’s racing.
DSM’s sprinter, Lorena Wiebes began the day with a two second lead on Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky, riding for the national squad, with Trek-Segafredo’s Ellen van Dijk a further seven seconds down. With time bonuses available it wasn’t just the route adding spice to the general classification.
With such a hard finish in prospect, the peloton might have been expected to stay together, but three women got away in Geraardsbergen only to be caught at the top of the first ascent of the Muur. There Trek-Segafredo’s Trixi Worrack countered, soon getting a lead of 35 seconds, working for team-mate Ellen van Dijk who began the day just nine seconds behind the leader.
After the second ascent of the Bosberg a group of five women set off in pursuit, catching Worrack with 55km remaining, leaving DSM to control the front of the race.
Worrack, Jolien D’hoore (Belgium), Catalina Soto Campo (NXTG), Anne Ysland (Norway), Janneke Ensing (Bike Exchange) and Valentine Fortin (France) built a lead approaching one minute.
However, on the approach to the Muur Fortin was was distanced as the gap to the peloton was reduced. And when the cobbles and gradient took their toll Van Dijk made her move, attacking the fast thinning group and taking Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), who started the day only two seconds down on GC, with her.
The pair bridged to the front group, making seven at the front. On the climb though, the race leader Lorena Wiebes struggled, putting her DSM team on the back foot, though with the gap over 40 seconds as the race entered the closing 25 seconds, Canyon-SRAM came to help.
At the foot of the Muur for the penultimate time once again the gap was down to 10 seconds, but on the cobbles through the town Van Dijk went again, cresting the climb with only Kopecky, and Ensing for company.
The three leaders worked well together, but though they had nearly 40 seconds lead over the Bosberg, with eight kilometres to go that had been halved, and when Van Dijk sat up, keeping her powder dry, and the trio were caught with six kilometres to go.
The race was now set for 40 women to contest a cobbled, slow-motion sprint up the Muur to decide who would won the overall.
Into town and the foothills of the climb and DSM came to the front, Brit, Pfeiffer Georgi working for Wiebes, but when a Team Norway rider hit a kerb and crashed Wiebes went down too and her hopes of defending her jersey were gone.
Lotto Belgium Tour 2021, stage three: Geraardsbergen - Geraardsbergen (94.9km)
1. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Belgium
2. Yara Kastelijn (Ned) Plantur-Pura, at 7 seconds
3. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
4. Annemarie Worst (Ned) Plantur-Pura, at 14s
5. Shari Bossuyt (Bel) NXTG Racing, at same time
6. Amber van der Hulst (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg, at 18s
7. Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM
8. Mischa Bredewold (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg, all at same time
9. Marie Le Net (Fra) France, at 21s
10. Anna Kay (GBr) Team Rupelcleaning, at 23s
Final general classification
1. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Belgium, in 8-54-09
2. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 20s
3. Lorena Wiebes (Ned) Team DSM, at 56s
4. Lourdes Oyabide (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-13
5. Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Canyon-SRAM, at 1-24
6. Jolien D'Hoore (Bel) Belgium, at 1-38
7. Shari Bossuyt (Bel) NXTG Racing, at 1-40
8. Marie Le Net (Fra) France, at 1-48
9. Amber van der Hulst (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg, at 1-52
10. Mischa Bredewold (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg, at 1-53
Seven men jailed for stealing bikes worth £70k from Rutland Cycling shop
Police caught the gang of thieves who had stolen 23 bikes from the chain store in Grafham Water
By Ryan Dabbs •
These are all the teams applying for WorldTeam and Women’s WorldTeam status next year
Qhubeka-NextHash miss the first deadline, as five women’s teams apply to step up to the top level
By Alex Ballinger •