‘Lotte Kopecky is not a princess’ - The human side to the Paris-Roubaix champion

Inside one of the the SD Worx-Protime rider's biggest wins

She collapsed onto the grass with a mixture of elation and exhaustion, a smile beaming wide across her face, shaking her head in disbelief. The white skinsuit might have been stained with mud, sweat and dust but there was clarity in Lotte Kopecky’s raw, unfiltered expression: she was delighted. A Paris-Roubaix win was different. It meant more.

It’s rare to see the world champion show emotion like she did under the grey, overcast sky in the Roubaix velodrome today. To many, Kopecky is an enigma: her expressions often remain stoic in the face of probing questions from journalists, her victory celebrations when she wins are short and sweet, the Belgian doesn’t like to gloat, often guiding the conversation on to the next goal, the next race, the next victory. Paris-Roubaix showed a new side to the SD Worx rider, though, it was a small window into the sacrifice, hard work and pressure that she carries on her shoulders each time she takes to the start line in that sparkling rainbow jersey.

“Lotte is down to earth, she’s happy with small things, she's not hard to coach or help,” Lars Boom, a close friend of Kopecky and Team SD Worx sports director, told Rouleur a few minutes after the 28-year-old had accepted her cobblestone trophy in the Roubaix velodrome. “There’s some other riders that are more like princesses, she’s not like that. That makes it easy to work with her and makes her a nice rider to have in the team."

Image: Zac Williams/SWpix

What Kopecky gives SD Worx-Protime by being so humble and grounded, they give back to her in the form of full support in the races that she loves best: the chaotic, one-day cobbled Classics like Paris-Roubaix. There was never any discussion about whether the world champion would be her team leader in the Hell of the North; Paris-Roubaix and the Olympics are Kopecky’s key targets for the 2024 season. When she sets her mind to winning something, it’s hard to stop her.

“This win gets a special place. The World Championships last year is the biggest thing I achieved, but winning Roubaix in this special jersey, that comes pretty close,” Kopecky beamed in her post-race press conference, her demeanour relaxed and friendly. “I got confidence today from my team, once you come to this velodrome you need to be confident and believe in yourself that you’re capable of winning.”

While Kopecky had personal conviction in her sprint today, her sports directors in the team car behind also had full faith in the Belgian rider to pull it off in Roubaix.

“She could relax a bit in the wheel in the last kilometres, spin the legs, and get some fuel in the stomach and in the mouth, then it was just hoping she could do a good sprint,” Boom explained. “Lotte has ridden a lot on the track. This sprint in Roubaix is not at such a high speed. If you go, you feel like there’s resistance on this track – if you’re strong like Lotte you can make it and win it. We just made her crazy on the radio and said we trusted her and that she could do it.”

Kopecky’s final sentence as she ended her interviews after Paris-Roubaix today summed it up. There were no talks of her next goal or target, there was no guarded answers or stern expressions. 

“I just want to enjoy this moment,” she smiled.

Cover image: Thomas Maheux/ASO

Shop now