UAE Tour Women, Stage 3: The Reactions

Written by: ProCycling Women
Posted 2 months ago

Although the UAE Tour Women is only in its second edition, the queen stage to the summit of Jebel Hafeet has already become a fixture. Today’s third stage saw a surprising victor, albeit one many quietly anticipated. After Lotte Kopecky had already highlighted her ambitions in the overall standings earlier this week with her activity in the intermediate sprints, she now confirmed her place among the world’s best climbers. 

At the summit of Jebel Hafeet, Pro Cycling Women caught up with the victorious world champion and the numbers two, three and four on the stage.

Lotte Kopecky

For Lotte Kopecky, the summit finish at Jebel Hafeet was a journey of discovery. How far is she in terms of shape and where does she stand compared to the competition? Well, those questions have certainly been answered. “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,” knew Kopecky beforehand. And, on the slopes of the climb, victory seemed far away when the climbers fired up the race. “Gaia set the pace – which was really strong. Then Mavi took over and also set a really hard pace. Then Neve Bradbury attacked and in one moment I thought: Okay, she is too far gone.”

Kopecky kept her own pace and sticked to the plan she made, which was one of thorough preperations for the hardest task of the week: “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.”

The plan worked out. “Then I tried to bridge it [the gap] and I had the feeling I came closer and closer and from that moment on I started to believe in the victory.”

Gaia Realini

Last year, Gaia Realini had to concede victory to her teammate Elisa Longo Borghini, although it was a grand celebration for the Lidl-Trek friends on the summit. This year, the Italian climber proved to be clearly superior of the two. Yet, there were three other riders who were stronger. “It was the first test after a long time without a race and I think it was a good performance – from me, from my team – and the season is long.” Realini took the lead early in the climb and set a high pace, something that was part of the Lidl-Trek-race strategy. “The plan was, that I am in the front at the beginning of the climb for a good pace and to drop the other girls. But Kopecky is really, really strong at the moment – congrats to her!”

Kopecky is really, really strong at the moment – congrats to her!

Mavi Garcia

Mavi Garcia took over the lead from Gaia Realini and led the thinned group for most of the climb. All to shake off the World Champion. “I knew, if I don’t set the rhythm, then Kopecky will stay with us all the time and in the finish she is so strong! In the sprint it is impossible with her. But, I don’t know, she is really, really strong now and it’s impossible to drop her. I did my best, but for me the third place is perfect.”

With a strong podium finish the Spaninsh champion, who celebrated her 40th anniversary last month, confirmed a more than solid form in early season. “I did not expect anything, because I didn’t know what my shape was, as it’s the beginning of the season. But today it was really good. This climb is really, really hard, but I like that. I was never here before, but for sure I will come back!”

Neve Bradbury

Only one rider was able to attack from the elite group that formed after efforts from Wiebes, Realini and Garcia. Neve Bradbury from Canyon//SRAM Racing attacked just under three kilometers to the finish. “I was also waiting for Realini to go and she didn’t go. So I was like, okay, I’m gonna go anyway. I might die trying, but I gave it a shot and it worked.” It worked, to a certain extend. Bradbury shook off Garcia, Realini and Kopecky, albeit the last one only temporarily. “I was expecting it, to be honest. I thought maybe she [Kopecky] would wait and then just drill it on the flatter section and come back.”

When Kopecky found Bradbury’s wheel again the Australian rider tried to play the game tactically, by letting the Belgian do the work in the final 700 meters. “I thought I may as well sit on her. She is the strongest rider, she should be riding in front anyway.” Kopecky was the strongest indeed, but Bradbury finished closely behind her and is very happy with her own performance. “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. So it is what it is.”

Sunday brings us the final stage of the UAE Tour Women. After the mountaintop finish the peloton will be back on flat roads from the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, the UAE Louvre dependance where you can gaze to paintings from Édouard Manet, Gustave Caillebote and Paul Gaugin amongst others, to Abu Dhabi Breakwater.

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