It is probably too early to say what the best transfer of the year was, the racing has not even started yet for the women's peloton. Yet Lotte Kopecky's move to SD Worx has the hallmark of being the best piece of business.
The Belgian champion admits herself that she does not enjoy moving teams, despite this being her third team in three years. With a three-year contract in her jersey pocket, she thinks she can show herself "100%" in her new kit.
Kopecky might not have won too many top races in her career so far, only two Women's WorldTour events, but is one of the coming forces in women's cycling. She was fourth at the Olympic road race last year, and won eight races, four for her squad Liv Racing. It won only eight races during 2021.
With her move to SD Worx, she will not be the sole leader at a team for the first time, something she sees as a positive.
Speaking to the media at her team's launch, she said that she didn't think she would have to change her mindset to fit in, "cos in the end I want to win as many races as possible".
"I think that for me, there was always a kind of pressure that I would finish it off," Kopecky explained. "I was there a lot in the in the final of races, but to finish off the race was quite hard for me, because I didn't always have the team around me. With this team, you know that you will not be there alone in the final, and that they can help you. But that you also have to help them.
"I think the strength of this team is that they want each other to win the race, I think that's necessary in order for you to win races yourself. It's like don't be selfish. Yeah, I wish them the best of luck to win the race, then I'm sure that this will come for myself as well."
The "big difference" that the Belgian puncheur will have this year is a "very strong team" around her, she argued.
"I'm not the only person who can win the race. I think that's a very big difference. I dream of winning the Tour of Flanders. But it's not like sure that I will win it this year. I want to win it once in my career.
"Big towards Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this year. The only thing I can hope for is that everything falls in its place, and I'm there when I have to be."
Her best result at Flanders was third in 2020, where she finished behind her new teammates Amy Pieters and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. She suggested that her illustrious teammates would now be working on her behalf.
Asked about the fact this would be her third year with a different team, Kopecky said that "it's not easy".
"I don't like it, to switch teams, honestly. I stayed five years with Lotto, because I really felt good in that team, [there was] a lot of confidence from the team, a lot of opportunities to develop myself."
She explained that she was happy to be at SD Worx, because so many riders stay there for much of their career, and are succesful for a long period. Anna van der Breggen was there for five years, this is Van den Broek-Blaak's eighth year with the team, and has signed for three more, Christine Majerus has been there since 2014.
"I think if you see all the riders, or most of the riders, they don't leave the team anymore. They stay here until the end of their careers. So it must be really good here. The atmosphere is good.
"That really convinced me to sign for three years, because if I want to do good here, then I have to be completely myself and be able to show my strengths, but also my weaknesses. When you're in a team for at least three years, then it's easier to show yourself 100%."
Demi Vollering, one of SD Worx's other stars, who will be with the team until at least 2024, said that herself and Kopecky were similar riders, and that the team can use this. Kopecky agreed.
"I think that's somewhere an advantage that we we are quite similar," she said. "And that I'm not the only fast rider within the team. So it's not that when we're in the final that everybody immediately will think that I'm the sprinter, because Demi is also fast.
"I mean, we can do other things, we can play within the team, and I think that's a very big advantage."
The strengths of the team go beyond the riders, with Van der Breggen joining as a directeur sportif for this year. The team have been at the top of the sport for many years now, and Kopecky knows she now has good support to make it work.
"It will not be the team on the bike only," she said. "I think also with Danny [Stam] in the car, with Anna in the car, with Lars [Boom], that we also have a really good team behind the team. They are all very smart riders and very smart sport directors."
For a Flandrienne, it is a bit of an adjustment at the team: "because they are Dutch, you know, they are very direct". However, Kopecky seems at home, and ready to win big races and help her competitive team too. She might be the woman to beat in the classics.
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