Lotte Kopecky continues winning ways at Milan-San Remo Donne
There is no women’s Milan-San Remo. There once was, of sorts, called the Primavera Rosa, which ended in 2005. Whether the women’s peloton wants MSR, and how it would fit in with spectacular races like Trofeo Alfredo Binda, is still very much up for debate.
What isn’t up for debate is that the finale of Milan-San Remo is one of the most unpredictable and exciting in all of pro cycling. So we ran a little thought experiment: If you threw the current women’s peloton at MSR, what would happen?
Despite impressive late-race attacks from Annemiek van Vleuten and Elisa Longo Borghini, Lotte Kopecky proved unstoppable in the finale of Milan-San Remo on Saturday. Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) held on to the Belgian national champion to finish second with Kasia Niewiadoma rounding out the podium in third.
The race kicked off to light winds and sunny weather in the seaside town of Imperia. A few failed attempts at early breaks as the race ran north were thwarted before the race hit Le Mànie 60 km into the race. The biggest climb of the day split the peloton apart, but the top teams were able to regroup as the race headed back down the coast towards San Remo.
An attack by Marlen Reusser, who has spent a copious amount of time representing her new SD Worx team in breakaways so far this season, was joined by Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Sara Poidevin (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), Liv Racing Xstra’s Valerie Demey, Demi de Jong of Parkhotel Valkenburg, and Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ). The six escapees were kept on a short leash by SD Worx and Trek-Segafredo and never managed to get more than 90 seconds advantage.
As the race approached the two crucial climbs of the day, with 40 kilometres to go, García set out with only Reusser for company. Brown was close behind the two but was caught up by Van Vleuten, who took advantage of the series of Capi climbs to attack the peloton.
Van Vleuten and Brown closed in on the two out front but behind the peloton organized to chase down the former world champion.
On the penultimate climb, the Cipressa, Van Vleuten attacked again, leaving Brown, Reusser and García behind. A light tailwind looked like it would work to the advantage of a solo Van Vleuten and a group of pre-race favourites set out ahead of the peloton to close her down. Trek-Segafredo’s Elisa Longo Borghini initiated a move that was followed by Elise Chabbey and Niewiadoma of Canyon-SRAM, Vos, Kopecky and two of her teammates Niamh Fisher-Black and Demi Vollering, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, and Liane Lippert of Team DSM.
Vollering and Fisher-Black were quick to take over the pacemaking and the pace and pressure meant Lippert and Uttrup Ludwig started to crack. Fortunately, the descent offered a much-needed reprieve and allowed a chasing group to join the selection hunting down Van Vleuten. With 20 kilometres to go, the Movistar rider had just 12 seconds with a determined chase behind.
Trek-Segafredo’s Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Ellen van Dijk, along with Riejanne Markus, closed in on Van Vleuten and managed to catch her on the long, flat run between the Cipressa and the Poggio that is so often the end of climber’s chances. The catch came at 13 km and one climb to go.
As the race approached the Poggio, Chabbey took to the front to launch Niewiadoma at the base of the climb. The Polish rider’s attack was followed by Longo Borghini, who used the momentum for her own move. The Italian national champion was able to distance Niewiadoma but behind the fight to stay in contention kept the speed too high for Longo Borghini to gain any kind of significant advantage.
Vollering, with Kopecky close behind, closed in on Longo Borghini, and with 6 km to go they had the Italian in their sights. Niewiadoma, Van Vleuten, and Uttrup Ludwig were no help to Vollering and Kopecky as they chased the Trek-Segafredo rider. As the race crested the Poggio, Longo Borghini’s advantage was mere seconds. On the descent, Vos was able to work her way back to the group with Kopecky.
The finale was set: Longo Borghini hit the Via Roma with a narrow gap. Behind her, Vollering, Kopecky, Vos, Niewiadoma, Van Vleuten, and Uttrup Ludwig.
With 3 km to go, as the road started to flatten out, Vollering and those on her wheel closed in on the lone leader. An attack from Niewiadoma under the flamme rouge was followed closely by Kopecky and Vos. The injection of speed brought the group within meters of Longo Borghini, who kept her head down and refused to look back.
Anticipating a sprint from Vos, Kopecky kicked early and the speed of the Belgian could not be matched. Kopecky won by a wheel-length, with Vos taking a close second and Niewiadoma following the two to take third. A few seconds later Uttrup Ludwig and Vollering crossed the line to take fourth and fifth.