By Owen Rogers
Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky took her first win of the year for Liv Racing at Le Samyn des Dames on Tuesday. The 25 year-old was aggressive all day but was still able to time her sprint to perfection, coming from behind to win the sprint in Dour.
Riding for Emma Norsgaard, Movistar had seemed in control in the closing three kilometres, but the Danish champion was forced to open her sprint with over 200m remaining. Chloe Hosking (Trek-Segafredo) pounced on her wheel but was unable to come past, and it was the clever and patient Kopecky who came over the top in the last few metres.
After finishing in the same place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the weekend, Norsgaard picked up second place, with Australian Hosking third.
Movistar had seemed set for success late in what was a hugely entertaining affair, coming to the front and confidently dictating the pace into the finish town of Dour. However, they ran out of numbers leaving Norsgaard in the wind too early.
Kopecky had been in an early break with the Danish rider, and had been off the front later on too, but she is hugely talented and was clever in her sprint, lurking on wheels until she had to commit.
The win repays tireless work from her Liv Racing team-mates, who closed down numerous attacks when she herself was not off the front.
How it happened
The 10th edition of the 1.1 classified event started in Quaregnon, in the northwest corner of Belgium’s French-speaking Walloon region. The route first looped south west, around the finish town of Dour, before joining the closing circuit half way round, after 16km was raced. The entire bunch crossed the finish line for the first time after 38km, then embarking on two full laps of the 26.8km circuit.
The action began on the first full lap, on the brutal cobbled farm roads the race is known for, the peloton covering a total of 8.3km of pavé before the finish. By the time they hit the Chemin de Wiheries after 50km the race was split in two, the leaders setting a furious pace and nearly one minute ahead.
However, on that lap the race split further under pressure from SD Worx, who placed both Jolien D’Hoore and Amy Pieters in a group of five, with Belgian champion Lotte Kopecky (Liv Racing), Danish champion Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) and Marlen Reusser (Alé-BTC Ljublijana) leading by 30 seconds.
Other than Swiss rider Reusser, who was second at the world time trial championships, this group included four of the race’s best sprinters, but they succumbed to Trek-Segafredo and Jumbo-Visma, the two squads combining to bring the break back about 22km from the line
This regrouping initiated a period of manic, entertaining, attacking racing.
Over its 10 years the race has been dominated by what is now SDWorx who won the race four times as Boels-Dolmans and were in the mood to dominate, attacking repeatedly along with Kopecky’s Liv Racing team.
With Hosking in their team, Trek-Segafredo took much of the responsibility for bringing these attacks back, French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot doing much of the leg work.
All the attacking made for an attritional final 20km, and only around 40 women emerged from the penultimate cobbled section, the uphill Côte des Nonettes, nine kilometres from the finish.
On the last cobbled stretch, the Rue Belle Vue with three kilometres to go, Reusser upset a brief hiatus in the action, taking four others with her, but once again Cordon-Ragot closed the gap before Movistar came to the front to control the closing two kilometres.
Riding for her new Jumbo-Visma team, Anna Henderson was the best of the Brits, finishing eighth after a last kilometre bid for glory was brought to heel.
Le Samyn des Dames, Quaregnon - Dour (92.5km)
1. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Liv Racing, in 2-20-04
2. Emma Norsgaard (Den) Movistar
3. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Trek-Segafredo
4. Gladys Verhulst (Fra) Arkea
5. Marjolein van't Geloof (Ned) Drops Le Col
6. Amy Pieters (Ned) SDWorx
7. Laura Tomasi (Ita) Alé-BTC Ljubljana
8. Anna Henderson (Gbr) Lotto-Jumbo
9. Amber van der Hulst (Ned) PArkhotel Valkenburg
10. Romy Kasper (Ger) Jumbo-Visma, all at same time
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