Will our Julie Lotte lead Kopecky to World Cup gold?

Will our Julie Lotte lead Kopecky to World Cup gold?
Will our Julie Lotte lead Kopecky to World Cup gold?

Julie Van de Velde finished 22nd at the World Time Trial Championships in Wollongong, Australia last weekend. Tomorrow Saturday she will be on the road at the start of the World Cup. The Aartrijkse has to assist the leader Lotte Kopecky as long as possible. We were allowed to put Julie on the schedule extensively before her departure to Australia.

29-year-old Julie Van de Velde finished seventh at the European Time Trial Championships and also wanted to achieve high tops against the clock at the World Championships. She hoped for a top ten place, but ended up disappointingly 22nd. The victory went to the Dutch Ellen Van Dijk. The Plantur-Pura rider must turn the switch quickly, because tomorrow she must try to guide Lotte Kopecky to the world title in the road race.

Hi Julie, how did you actually get into the cycling world?

“I was involved in athletics, but I was very prone to injury. In 2016 I was in the rag basket for the umpteenth time. I was starting to get tired of constantly watching from the side. They couldn’t find the underlying cause and I had completely given up hope. The race was always on at our house and my mom often went on long trips. I was looking for a new sport and so I started cycling. I still don’t regret it to this day. It’s the best job in the world.” (laughs)

What were the early years of your career like?

“I started cyclo-cross because I thought I could make a difference in the running lanes. But nowadays there is hardly any running in the cross. I had no technical baggage at all. I defended the colors of Gaverzicht and also rode on the road after the cyclocross season. That suited me much better and my performance was noticed by Lotto. I was 23 at the time. I entered a completely new world.”

You started cycling quite late. A drawback?

“Yes, I do. I had never ridden in a platoon before. You learn that when you are young, but I never gained that knowledge. I’m still having a hard time with positioning. It’s immensely important to pull up a climb in the front ranks, but I’m usually at the back of the pack when it gets important. I lose a lot of energy moving forward. If I could start in a better position, I could get some nicer places of honour.”

What are your strengths and what areas can you still work on?

“I am a good climber and I also hold my own in the time trial. I think it is a pity that there are few real climbing races. In Norway, we got a real mountain ride before the wheels and I came into my own. In training I try to ride uphill as much as possible, but in Belgium that is difficult. If I go on an internship, I will.”

Ever become Belgian champion, so will it be difficult?

“It is indeed frustrating. I have little to no chance on flat courses. Last year I crossed the line in second place. But there was little that could be done about Kopecky. If I ever want to put on a Belgian jersey, I will have to do it in the time trial.”

Lotte is completely unbolted. She is ready to become world champion

You left the Jumbo-Visma stables for Plantur-Pura this season. Is the way of working the same?

“It is professional for both teams. They hold women’s cycling in high regard. I hardly notice any differences. I feel really good at Plantur-Pura and hope to be able to stay there for a long time to come.”

How did your passion for time trial come about?

“You don’t have to take anyone else into account and I like that. It’s a constant battle with yourself. When I was still riding at Gaverzicht, I had the chance to participate in a test time trial and that was not too bad. Since then I have been sold. I feel that I still have a lot of progression margin in the time trial. I get better every year.”

Let’s talk about the World Cup. Is it the first time you’ve been on a plane for that long?

“I’ve only made a long trip once. Last year I participated in the Tokyo Olympics. But this is really crazy. First it is a 6.5 hour flight to Dubai and then another 20 hours to Australia. I can’t sleep on a plane. That is not pleasant.”

Are you afraid of jet lag?

“Yes. In Tokyo I had no problems. I did try to prepare. By going to bed a little earlier in the last few weeks before departure. Hopefully I will reap the benefits.”

Did you have to arrange specific things yourself?

“I had to apply for a visa. The rest was arranged by the union. They ensure that all our material arrives safely.”

Annemiek van Vleuten is the top favorite for the road race. How strong is she? Can you estimate that?

“If Annemiek has a cavity, you won’t see them again. It’s really impressive. I remember a ride in the Giro a few years ago. Immediately at the foot of a climb she attacked. I looked at my wattage meter and panicked. I couldn’t sustain a full ascent. Those are the moments when you realize she’s alien. She wouldn’t look bad in the men’s peloton either. You can only admire it.”

What are your ambitions for the World Cup?

“As a team, we want to win with Lotte Kopecky. She stands head and shoulders above the rest. I also like the track. There is a long climb before we start the local rounds. I hope it gets extended there. For me, the first selection may take place there. Then we can fight for the title with a smaller peloton.”

Has Kopecky boosted women’s cycling in Belgium with her victories in the Strade Bianche and the Tour of Flanders?

“Absolute. She is an example for many young girls. We draw on her. It’s great to see that she’s completely de-husked. Lotte is ready to become world champion.”

Besides the World Cup, the first edition of the Tour de France Femmes was a big goal for you. How bad were you that you were not selected in the extreme?

“That was a big disappointment. But I kind of felt it coming. At altitude training in La Plagne the focus was on the sprint train and I was not part of that. So it was no surprise that I fell short of the selection, but of course that hurt a lot. I followed the two last stages of heavy mountain stages on television. I had a hard time watching because I would have loved to be in that peloton. I wanted to know where the ship was going to run aground. But the first rides were extremely hectic. That’s not for me.”

That Tour is really unique, isn’t it? It will only gain popularity, I think.

“My teammates say it’s very impressive. I hope to be there next year. It is up to me to prove that I deserve my place in the squad.”

Do you think the Tour de France Femmes should also last three weeks or do you think it’s okay?

“I think three weeks is too long. The Giro lasts ten days and I think that’s ideal. I might start with two weeks first. But the Giro doesn’t have a rest day, I do need that.” (laughs)

What else do you want to achieve?

“I want to put in a good performance at the World Cup. In the long term I hope to win a WorldTour race one day. It won’t be easy, but you can always dream. A top ten place in the Flèche Wallonne and/or Liège-Bastogne-Liège would also be a nice bonus. But a Belgian title in time trial is my big dream. If I have a super day, I can do it Lotte (Kopecky, ed.) make it very difficult. At the last BC I came fifth. I had worked hard for it, but three days before I fell for training. I couldn’t go deep on the day itself.”

Good luck in advance!

“Thank you. Hopefully we will get a Belgian world champion for both the women and the men. That would be fantastic. I already believe in it!”

The article is in Dutch

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