Kopecky battles down sensational Bradbury on Jebel Hafeet

Written by: Felix Mattis
Posted 2 months ago

A sensation was in the air, but in the end it was the favourite who won the queen stage of the 2nd UAE Tour Women on top of Jebel Hafeet. Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx – Protime) hunted down solo leader Neve Bradbury (Canyon – SRAM Racing) with 700 meters to go and then beat the young Australian with a hard acceleration on the final kick towards the finish, 1.025 meters above sea level.

Behind Kopecky and Bradbury (+ 0’03), Spanish Champion Mavi Garcia (Liv – AlUla – Jayco / + 0’32) cam in in third place, whilst Gaia Realini (Lidl – Trek / + 0’43) finished fourth ahead of another young sensation: 19 year old Marion Bunel (St Michel – Mavic – Auber93 / + 1’00) climbed with the best on the infamous slopes of that 10.8 kilometer climb at the border to Oman.

After the finish line it was all smiles: Kopecky celebrated her first victory at a big mountain top finish, Bradbury seemed over the moon with her performance and also Garcia couldn’t stop smiling about her third place.

“Of course I set my goal here, but it’s early in the season, so it’s always a bit the question, where exactly the form is. I hoped for a good result, or somehow also hoped to win this stage. But I also knew it would be very hard. So I’m very happy with this one”, stage winner Kopecky said to Pro Cycling Women after the podium ceremony. Her key to win the stage was to know the climb from intense inspections on Strava and Veloviewer.

“It was very important to know, how this climb is. I had kilometre by kilometre the gradients of the climb marked. So I knew where I could recover a bit and on which parts it will be very hard for me. It’s good to have this in mind and be mentally prepared for it also”, she explained.

Jebel Hafeet is 10.8 kilometres long and averages a gradient of 5.4% – but at several points it ramps up to 12% or even more. Those steep bits made Kopecky struggle at least a bit, and that’s what Bradbury tried to use to her advantage,when she attacked out of the group of the last four remaining riders in the last very steep ramp with three kilometres to go. Bradbury immediately got a good gap and stretched it out to almost 15 seconds, before the road flattened out a bit and Kopecky started her chase, in which she first dropped Realini and then also Garcia.

She is the strongest rider, she should be riding in front anyway

When Kopecky then reached Bradbury with 700 meters to go, just before a short downhill section interrupts the climb before the last kick up to the finish, the Australian swung off and almost stopped pedalling to force Kopecky into the lead. A smart move, but not enough to beat the World Champion who was just a bit stronger with her acceleration on the last rise to the final corner and the finish line.

“I could’ve just kept going, but I saw that the third rider had a pretty good gap. So I thought I may as well sit on her. She is the strongest rider, she should be riding in front anyway”, Bradbury smiled cheekily, when talking to Pro Cycling Women about the finale of the race. Being beaten by the World Champion was no disappointment for her at all: “I’m super happy. I honestly couldn’t be more stoked with 2nd. I gave it a good crack and in the end Lotte was just too strong”, she said.

With her victory Kopecky also conquered the Red Jersey as overall leader of the UAE Tour Women. She needs to defend 13 seconds against Bradbury and 44 seconds against Garcia to take the overall victory of the four day event on the final flat stage in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Kopecky’s SD-Worx-Protime-teammate Lorena Wiebes still leads the points classification and will wear green on Sunday, whilst Bradbury is the new best young rider and owns the White Jersey. The Black Jersey for the best rider at the intermediate sprint belongs to Kopecky, but will be worn by second placed rider Daria Pikulik (Human Powered Health).

How the race unfolded:

Before the race exploded on Jebel Hafeet, it was the day of a three rider breakaway: Although Aude Biannic (Movistar) and Marie Le Net (FDJ – Suez) tried it with a solo each in the opening kilometres and Le Net took the first intermediate sprint, it was then Spanish rider Idoia Eraso (Laboral Kutxa – Fundacion Euskadi) who initiated what was the group of the day with roughly 75 kilometers to go. Linda Zanetti (Human Powered Health) and Gladys Verhulst-Wild (FDJ – Suez) bridged across to her ten kilometres later and the trio then built a lead of more than six minutes, before the peloton started to accelerate in the run-in towards the final climb.

Verhulst-Wild won the second intermediate sprint shortly before the road started to ramp up and then also dropped Zanetti and Eraso early on the climb. But behind her in the peloton Gaia Realini started to do real damage already very early with her first acceleration with eight kilometers to go. Her pace let the group of the favourites melt down to six riders very soon and they overtook Verhulst-Wild.

Realini and Garcia now shared the pace in the group with Kopecky, Bradbury, Bunel and defending champion Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl – Trek). With six kilometers to go it was again Realini who attacked, but she could not drop any competitor – despite her teammate Longo Borghini. But shortly after also Bunel began to struggle, as Garcia set the pace again and lead the four leaders towards the steep hairpin with three kilometers to go, where Bradbury opened up the finale.

Share this article:
Download our App for:
© ProCycling Women 2024