Kopecky takes decisive win in penultimate stage of UAE Tour on Jebel Hafeet

Reigning world champion is new GC leader going into final day in Abu Dhabi

Lotte Kopecky wins Stage 3 of the UAE Tour Women on Jabel Hafeet on Saturday, February 10, 2024. UAE Tour
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After paving the way for her teammate Lorena Wiebes to win the first two sprint stages of the UAE Tour, it was Lotte Kopecky’s turn to take the spotlight on the penultimate stage on Jebel Hafeet on Saturday.

The Team SD Worx Protime’s Belgian world champion won the 126.5-kilometre Stage 3 ahead of Australian Neve Bradbury (Canyon//Sram Racing) and Spain’s Margarita Garcia (Liv-AlUla-Jayco) to take a commanding position in the general classification.

“This is my first mountain top finish victory. It's crazy. I was very motivated for this stage. I dreamt of this and I hoped for it but I first had to see how deep I could go,” Kopecky said.

“I went kilometre by kilometre, knowing that legs hurt on this climb. In a few seconds it could turn from having it into blowing up. I was in a little bit of panic when the Canyon girl [Bradbury] attacked.

“But I found my rhythm. I came closer and I was confident I could make it. I came here for preparation for the Spring classics. It's important for my confidence to get to know that the shape is already good enough for winning a stage race.”

Gaia Realini, the runner up last year, was the first to draw an elite group away from the rest of the bunch, but when Bradbury attacked with just under three kilometres remaining, only Kopecky was able to go with her.

She went past Bradbury with 800 metres remaining and pulled clear of the Australian for her first victory of the 2024 season.

Realini finished 32 seconds behind the winner in fourth spot and her Lidl-Trek teammate and reigning UAE Tour Women champion Elisa Longo Borghini was a minute and nine seconds down in seventh.

UAE Team ADQ’s lead rider Silvia Persico finished eighth, one minute and 29 seconds behind the GC leader, and is also in eighth spot in the GC.

“It’s nice to be back on stage for celebrating a victory. I never get tired of that,” Kopecky said later at the post-race conference.

“It’s true that this is my first win outside of Europe, but wherever it happens, a victory is a victory and it feels very good. As a team, we had a super good season last year and we start now with two victories of Lorena (Wiebes) and one for myself.

“It couldn’t be a better start of the 2024 season. I made a bit of a mistake when Neve Bradbury attacked. I could have reacted immediately and I didn’t. Then I thought she’d bounce back because of the wind, but she was really strong.

“I had to believe I could still go for the victory and I did eventually. Teamwork, that’s how it is really in this team. Sometimes we have to sacrifice ourselves to each other.

“I led Lorena in the past two days and it was her own idea to give me a lead out from the bottom of the mountain today. She did a great job but let’s not forget the work of the other teammates before.”

Sunday’s final 105km stage is around the city of Abu Dhabi, starting from the Louvre and finishing at the Breakwater.

Stage 3 results

1. Lotte Kopecky (BEL) Team SD Worx Protime, 3 hrs 22 min 15 sec.

2. Neve Bradbury (AUS) Canyon/Sram Racing at 3 sec

3. Margarita Garcia (ESP) Liv-AlUla-Jayco at 32 sec

General Classification

1. Lotte Kopecky (BEL) Team SD Worx Protime, 8hrs 49min, 18sec

2. Neve Bradbury (AUS) Canyon//Sram Racing at 13 sec

3. Margarita Garcia (ESP) Liv-AlUla-Jayco) at 44 sec

Updated: February 10, 2024, 4:07 PM