CyclingPub Interview - Clara Koppenburg: I can be one of the best climbers if I believe in myself
Apr 18 2019 06:17 pm CET

CyclingPub Interview - Clara Koppenburg: I can be one of the best climbers if I believe in myself
CyclingPub Interview - Clara Koppenburg: I can be one of the best climbers if I believe in myself
Photo of Clara Koppenburg © Mary Cárdenas / CyclingPub.com

Clara Koppenburg of WNT-Rotor could barely believe it when she won the queen stage of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in February, clinching the overall victory the next day as well.

It was a sunny day in early February, when the 23-year-old from Germany surprised her opponents and - most of all - herself by taking a more than convincing victory on the famous Xorret de Cati climb in Alicante province.

Beating strong opponents such as Asleigh Moolman Pasio proved Koppenburg's qualities as a climber, and gave her confidence of what is yet to come in her career.

CyclingPub asked Koppenburg how she experienced her first ever victory as a professional, and what this means for the way she looks at herself in the peloton.

How do you feel now about getting your first professional win in Valencia?

I’m really happy and proud about it. Winning the stage was already one of the best feelings and it took quite some time to realise what happened but then also winning the General Classification and to share this victory with my teammates by winning also the team classification was a wonderful experience which I definitely would like to have again. The whole race gave me a lot self-confidence and the desire to improve more to be able to 'play' more in races and not just hanging in and trying to survive.

Can you describe the last few kilometres of the Xorret de Cati stage? When did you realize that you could win this?

I actually can’t remember so much because it all went super-fast. My teammates did an amazing lead out into the climb and quite soon we were only a group of about 5 riders. There was still a breakaway with around 15 riders in front so we caught riders constantly. But I never knew how many were still in front so it was kind of an insecure situation. After a while, it was only Ashleigh Moolman, my teammate Erica Magnaldi and me. To have Erica with me gave me a lot of confidence because I knew that we could play our cards because she’s super strong.

I also know Ashleigh super well, because we’ve been teammates for the last four years and she was always an idol for me. To climb next to her was such an amazing feeling which gave me some extra wings, I think. When we caught the last two girls of the breakaway, I just went full gas. I didn’t realise for a long time that nobody could hold my wheel, I just looked forward and talked to my self not to give up. On top of the climb, I turned and realised I’m first, so I was already super happy but still insecure about the whole situation. I told myself to take the descent down to the finish line carefully because that would have been a typical “Clara-Move” crashing in the last corner.. So I descended a bit conservative and sprinted the last 300m to the line. I only realised after the finish line, that I just won my first race.

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Clara Koppenburg (WNT-Rotor)

What does your performance in that race tell you for future stage races?

It showed me, that I can be one of the best climbers if I believe in myself. Also, that I have to stay calmer in the races and not wasting energy showed me that I can go way further. Defending the leader jersey on the last day was super exciting but also a bit stressful for me. But I had to keep always in mind, that I have my teammates behind me and that I’m super strong and with this know how I had extra power in my legs.

Do you think your position in the team will change after this win, or has it already?

Of course, it changed a bit, because nobody (not even me) knew that I can be this strong but in WNT-Rotor we have so many strong girls and we are all on the same level, so we will have more options in races. So far, we don’t have ONE leader, because we see from race to race who’s the strongest and I think everyone should get their opportunities. I think it’s really good for the team spirit to “change” the leading riders because one day I will work as hard for my teammates as I can and I know it will come back the other day.

Did moving to this team play a role in your ability to perform so well in Valencia?

I learned so much the last four years in Cervelo Bigla. Actually everything, and I’m really thankful for this. But I think it was time for a change. Changes are always good to get some new challenges. So, I think the team change was essential for my victory. I’m also feeling super good on the team. The girls, staff and also all the sponsors and partners are amazing. We`re like a family where everyone helps and trusts each other, and everyone wants to constantly improve which is a great background for performing well.

Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get into cycling?

I started quite late. I was always sportive, I tried lots of different sports like athletics, gymnastics, football, horse riding, skiing, basketball... After being a good runner, I got some injuries and had to take a break from running. My dad who worked for Team RadioShack at this time as a team doctor took me to the Tour of Colorado and I was totally impressed by this sport. I decided I want to become a professional cyclist, so I started to train. After one year (I was 19) I got the contract with Cervelo Bigla which was amazing. I was really lucky because I didn’t have any results or experience. From there on everything went quite fast. And now I’m here

Do you have a rider - current or past - that you're looking at as an example to follow?

I was always impressed by Annemiek Van Vleuten (she was my teammate and first roommate ever in 2014). Also, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio was a big idol for me. We`re really good friends and she taught me so much. And even now I know she would always help me and be happy for me, which is a good feeling.
Another rider is Kasia Niewiadoma. I absolutely love her style of racing. She’s always so aggressive and would take every single opportunity to create the race. I think that’s really inspiring.

What kind of races are you looking at for the future? Where do you think you can perform well?

I really like hilly stage races, including a TT as well. So, I think if I keep on progressing I can do well in races like the Giro Rosa, which is a wonderful and exciting race.

One of your goals for this season (as stated on the team's website) was to win a race. You've done that now. Another goal is to be nominated for the World Championship. Do you think your chances of that have improved now?

Of course, after this victory, I got more attention. But the World Championships are only in September so still quite far. SO much can happen until then but of course, I will give everything to be nominated and if so, to do a good race.




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