Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) won the women’s Nokere Koerse just four days after the death of her brother, Seppe Kopecky.
Kopecky wasn’t meant to be on the start list but was announced to ride the one-day race on Tuesday.
A stunning solo break from the Belgian with 6km to go proved to be the decisive moment of the race and she won by 28 seconds from SD Worx team-mate Lorena Wiebes, with UAE Team ADQ’s Marta Bastianelli in third.
“I had made the choice to race today, last week,” said Kopecky. “I really wanted to race no matter what.
“It was our goal to make it a hard race and I think we did.”
Asked about what went through her head when she attacked alone, Kopecky answered: “Not really a lot.
“These were not easy days. It’s just no use to let your head hang. I just wanted to race and I’m happy it worked out. I think today, I raced with my head too.”
An aggressive Kopecky launched her first attack with 84km to go on the Tiegemberg but the move was soon brought back.
She went again with Jumbo-Visma’s Anna Henderson, only for the peloton to catch them. More attacks followed from various riders and on the cobbled Lange Aststraat, Kopecky went for a third time.
Lotte Kopecky of Belgium and Team SD Worx celebrates at finish line as race winner during the 4th Danilith Nokere Koerse 2023, Women’s Elite a 129.1km one day race from Deinze to Nokere
Image credit: Getty Images
Kopecky was joined by Eleonora Gasparrini (UAE ADQ) as they caught leader Aude Biannic from Movistar.
Then, Kopecky showed her strength and rode away to take an emotional win, crossing the line with her head bowed.
Merlier wins the men’s race
In the men’s race, there were multiple crashes in the final kilometres, with Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quick Step) emerging to beat Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) in a small bunch sprint.
Milan Menten (Lotto–Dstny) was third with Timo Kielich (Alpecin–Fenix Development Team) in fourth. Britain’s Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ) finished fifth.
“The second two laps was full gas racing,” said Merlier. “It was hard to control but my team was so strong today and kept everything together.
“They also did a great lead-out for me. It was top class, almost indescribable. I’m really happy to give back value to the team for the fact they signed me. It’s great to have all of this success so far.
‘That was a close one!’ – Merlier times move perfectly to take win at Nokere Koerse
“For myself it’s the second time I won my home race so it’s beautiful.”
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