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Julia Kopecky has won Leidedal Koerse in a rather dominant way. The 18-year-old Czech rider of the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step U23 team raced aggressively and finished it off convincingly. In Festival Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg, Ally Wollaston of the elite team sprinted to a second place in the opening stage.

Leiedal Koerse is a race in the Flemish Ardennes with famous climb like the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg and Knokteberg. After an uneventful first part, the race started in earnest in the hill zone. On the Oude Kwaremont the peloton split and a group of ten riders attacked.

“I was in that group with four riders of Human Powered Health,” Julia reacted after the podium ceremony. “It would be hard to beat their numbers but I was of course going to try it. We raced without radio communication so when the team car came up to me at 30 kilometers from the line, Chris told me not to wait for a sprint. I didn’t and eyed one corner in the last lap to launch my attack. It was only two kilometers from the line but I made it to the finish with just a meter to spare.”

Julia’s win in Leiedal Koerse is the second win for the U23 team this season after Eline van Rooijen won the Zuiderzeeronde. This is however the first win in a UCI-race and that meant sports director Christian Kos needed to get his razor out of his bag.

“We had a bet with the team that Chris would shave off his beard if we would win a UCI race and that’s today,” Julia laughs. “So, the beard had to come off. We did it straight after the finish and had a good laugh.”

In a peloton with World Tour, continental and club teams, the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step youngsters with Julia, Yuli van der Molen, Mirre Knaven, Jade Linthoudt and Maureen Arens really showed themselves.

“The team was really strong,” Julia continued. “We were constantly racing at the front and covering moves. They protected my attack well. I didn’t expect I could win a UCI race at 18 years old but it feels great. This morning I felt a bit nauseous but the past days I felt strong. I had studied the course on Veloviewer and knew that on paper it would suit me. I felt strong on the climbs but I never dreamt of actually winning it.”

In the first stage of the Festival Elsy Jacobs, Ally Wollaston sprinted to a second place behind Marta Bastianelli. The New Zealand champion was also racing aggressively and didn’t only bet on her sprint. She attacked in the final with a small group but they were caught just before the line. Ally did stay focused and managed to sprint to second after that effort.

Ally, Mireia Benito, Gaia Masetti, Marthe Goossens, Maud Rijnbeek and Anya Louw race the second and last stage tomorrow.