Lotte Kopecky didn’t come into the four-day race with a stated goal of winning the overall classification at the UAE Tour Women. However, on the eve of the penultimate and GC-deciding stage 3, the SD Worx-Protime rider has revised her ambitions and now aims to give the top climbers a run for their money on Jebel Hafeet.
“I want to try my best against the climbers,” Kopecky said following stage 2, won by her teammate and overall race leader Lorena Wiebes.
The World Champion initially felt the third stage might be too difficult and warned that she was not in the same shape as she was at last year’s Tour de France Femmes.
Last July, she won the opening stage of the Tour, wore the yellow jersey for six days, climbed with the best to the summit of the Col du Tourmalet, and then stormed to third place in the time trial in Pau. She closed out the eight-day race by winning the green points jersey and taking second overall behind teammate Demi Vollering.
“I will see how far I can go,” she said of Jebel Hafeet, a 10km ascent with an average gradient of 9% and sections as steep as 11% on the way to the finish line.
Kopecky is currently sitting in fourth place overall, 17 seconds behind Wiebes, but more importantly, five seconds ahead of GC favourites: defending champion Elisa Longo Borghini and teammate Gaia Realini (Lidl-Trek), Mavi García (Liv AlUla Jayco), and Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ), to name a few.
Last year, the climb decided the winner when Longo Borghini won the stage alongside teammate Gaia Realini, but many believed that the latter was the stronger climber of the two that day. It will be interesting to see how they play their tactics this time around.
“We are ready to play our cards the best we can,” Realini said after stage 2. “Replicating last year’s script would be fantastic, but every year is different. We will see how the other girls are doing, and I will give my best.”
Longo Borghini said that tactical decisions would likely be played out on the roads toward Jebel Hafeet. “I am always happy to let Gaia go if she drops everyone. But this is a decision that the team leader is making, and it’s not up to me to decide.”