Lorena Wiebes: “I think it will be hard to have more victories than last year”

The sprinter checks in after a high-profile move to Team SD Worx.

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When it was leaked during the Tour de France Femmes last year, Lorena Wiebes’ move to Team SD Worx raised a few eyebrows, but how does she feel about joining the top-ranked team?

“I directly felt at home here in the team and I had directly a good feeling with the team,” Wiebes said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “The first training camps were really nice for me and we had some good training. So yeah, I enjoyed it.”

In switching teams, Wiebes left behind a well-oiled leadout train at Team DSM — Pffeifer Georgi, Franziska Koch, and last-woman Charlotte Kool — that had delivered her to 21 victories in 2022 alone (which make up part of her tally of 59 total career victories on the road.) 

Forming a successful lead out train is no easy feat, and the move raised question marks over whether Team SD Worx, with their multiple leaders, would be able to support her in the same way.

“In the December camp and the January camp, we practised the lead out and I have a lot of trust in the girls, and I think we will have a really strong lead out next year,” Wiebes said in response to any doubts.

“Like Barbara Guarischi she’s super experienced in sprinting also and I feel already that I can trust her,” she added. 

“We did different orders in lead outs. And I think during the season we can have the different orders also because we have a lot of strong riders who have the engine to be in a lead out. I think for now I really like to have Barbara as my last lead out and that’s how we start the season also.” 

She won’t have to wait long to test the new dynamic in a race. Her season opens at the newly-established UAE Tour starting February 9, where, she said, “we will really find out how it works but anyway we are really motivated for it.” 

Wiebes says that she knew what moving to SD Worx meant for her individual chances at victories. “The moment that I signed for this team, I knew that it’s a possibility,” she explained. “And anyway, I think it’ll be hard to have more victories than last year.”  

Now, the 23-year-old’s approach is one of quality over quantity. “If it’s still victories with a lot of quality in it then I’m also completely fine with it. And as long as I see myself developing, then it’s a good sign. I like it more to win also bigger races that are a bit harder,” she said. 

In crossing over to SD Worx, Wiebes joins her sometime former rival, Lotte Kopecky, who is herself a fast-finisher. Much has been made about the clash of interest that Wiebes’ arrival might have raised, but both are adamant that their goals are distinct. Indeed, Wiebes says, she is looking forward to helping Kopecky in the Classics as the Belgian enjoys more of a free role within the team. 

“Lotte and me, we were good together, and I think that will not be a problem next year,” Wiebes insisted. “And if she has a goal for Paris Roubaix I will fully support her and the other way around if she will fully support me in my bigger goals.” 

“I had it already last year in DSM that I was sometimes a bit more in a support role. And I think that makes me stronger as a rider. For example, if I do races like Amstel Gold or Paris Roubaix and I can be in a support role, it gives me the experience to be maybe a final rider in a few years. And I think it’s also nice to give the girls sometimes things back. If they work hard for you. It’s nice to help them out.”

The Dutch rider is undisputedly the fastest woman in the peloton and few come close to her in a flat-out sprint, but she has not grown complacent. 

“I think with a new season it’s always possible that someone is coming closer,” she said of her rivals. “Also with Charlotte Kool I don’t know how she will be if she is really sprinting against me and you also don’t know how like Elisa Balsamo is doing now. And Chiara Consonni, she has a stronger team now around her. I have always a feeling with a new season it’s a fresh start. And we have to find out the first races.”  

In order to maintain her edge, Wiebes revealed that she has been working with a new coach: “and he gives me a lot of freedom in that to have a bit of self input in the trainings. I have the feeling that I am still growing in my sprint so I hope it’s really like that in the races also.”

Does she feel the weight of expectation to win at every opportunity given her track record? 

“I feel a little bit of pressure because I ended the season without really losing a sprint,” she said. “And of course that pressure is like, I don’t know how the other sprinters are developing this winter. I only know what I did this winter and it feels good. I have the feeling I made some steps. And yeah, we will find out directly in the UAE Tour.” 

One thing that hasn’t changed with her move to Team SD Worx, however, is her enjoyment on the bike. “For me it’s really important to have fun in what I do,” she said. “And I think this is also the perfect team for it. On training camp we had also lots of fun with each other, we challenged each other in the trainings and, for me, it’s important to have sometimes a bit of a race in off season to keep the fun in it.”

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