Kopecky sprints to victory in Flanders' finest
Belgian champion Kopecky was one of the favourites before the race and lived up to that role. She sprinted to victory in the Tour of Flanders in Minderbroedersstraat, ahead of Annemiek van Vleuten and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak.
At 1:23 pm the women start the 19th edition of the Tour of Flanders. 139 riders start on the Markt in Oudenaarde for a 158.6 km race with 6 cobbled sections and 11 hills, with of course the Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg duo as the absolute troublemaker in the final. Already in the first hour of the race a leading group of four is formed: Baril (Valcar-Travel & Service), Honsinger (EF Education - Tibco - SVB), Van Rooijen (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Martins (Le Col Wahoo).
Four riders form a chasing group: De Roeck and Popelier (Bingoal-Chevalmeire Van Eyck Sport), De Clercq (Massi Tactic Women's Team) and Cromwell (Canyon//SRAM Racing). They follow at 2'30", the peloton at more than 3 minutes. Finally, Kathuntseva (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad) and Ivanchenko (UAE Team ADQ) also take their chance. They join the chasing group, which now consists of 6 riders. On the cobbles of Kerkgate there is a first shift in the front. The duo Baril - Honsinger remains in the front. Cromwell and Ivanchenko think it's going too slow, they join forces and start looking for the leaders.
When the peloton reaches the Molenberg, Brand (Trek-Segafredo) thinks it's time to shake things up for the first time. For Cromwell and Ivanchenko the counterattack is also over soon, they are caught by the peloton again. Meanwhile, the duo at the front defends a lead of almost 1'30" after the Valkenberg. The lead diminishes to 20 seconds after several accelerations. Until 3 riders can make the crossing: Alessio (Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team), Raaijmakers (Human Powered Health) and Van der Duijn (Le Col Wahoo). The lead grows again: 1'40".
And then it's off to the first ever passage on the Koppenberg. There Honsinger has to let go in the front. In the peloton it is Van Vleuten who sets the pace on the Bult van Melden. There are no fractures. It's waiting for the Taaienberg. Van der Duijn goes off alone at the front. In the pursuit, Vollering from SD Worx takes over. At the end of the Taaienberg the escapees are caught and it is all over again.
Soon after, a front group of 11 is formed, including Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) and Majerus (SD Worx). At 26 km from the finish line, Reusser (SD Worx) makes the crossing. While the heavens opened in the meantime, Reusser showed herself again on the Oude Kwaremont. In the chasing group it is Van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) with Kopecky (SD Worx) and Van den Broek - Blaak (SD Worx) in her wheel who are leading the forcing. Henderson, Bertizzolo and Niewiadoma are also closing in.
On the Paterberg everything comes back together and it is Van Vleuten who decimates the group with a final acceleration. Reusser and Kopecky, the SD Worx duo, are the only ones who can follow the Dutch 2021 winner. Niewiadoma, Chapman and Van den Broek-Blaak can also join and the latter immediately goes on the attack. Van Vleuten has to close the gap, with Kopecky in her wheel.
The three of them ride to Oudenaarde. Kopecky is supported by team mate Van den Broek-Blaak and is able to get out of Van Vleuten's wheel at the finish, on her way to her first victory in the Tour of Flanders. After the Strade Bianche, the Belgian champion also won the Tour of Flanders.