Lotta Lepistö learnt something about cycling after winning in Belgium
Lotta Lepistö enjoyed the best year of her career with World Tour victories in Gent Wevelgem, Giro Rosa and Crescent Vargada. In the interview below, Lepistö shares her experiences from those races but also her disappointing moments and what she’s learnt from them.
Are you happy with how your season has been in general?
With regards to results, it was better than ever. I wasn’t too happy with my performance though because it was too up and down throughout the year. I was a little sick in the Spring then had back problems at the end of the season which affected me at the world championships.
Despite the up and downs, how did you manage to still get such quality results?
My performance in general is good so as long as I train hard I know I’ll be at a good level. The preparation for Gent Wevelgem and the Giro was perfect which is why I managed to get victories there. But I was very disappointed at the end of the year at world champs because I wasn’t able to go to that top level but I keep reminding myself that it was just one race.
It sounds like the disappointment at world’s really affected you. As an elite athlete, how do you deal with disappointments?
At first I didn’t want to talk about it but of course I had to. We had a meeting with the team and my coach about what went wrong. It’s a good thing to talk through it because you can move on. It’s one race in a year and I have to look back at the big races I’ve won this year so I can’t be too disappointed.
When you physically have to get off the bike in the middle of a big race you were targeting, what emotions are you feeling?
I think about everyone else first, the director in the car and the soigneurs and my coach. I feel really bad that I have to stop. Of course I was also crying like a baby.
Ok, let’s talk about happier things. When you think back to the spring classics and winning Dwaars Door Vlaanderen and Gent Wevelgem, what do you remember?
Those races are the highlights of the year. It was amazing to win in Belgium and see what the sport is like when you win there. You become a hero for a few days and everyone knows you. The media attention is huge, especially when you finish ahead of a rider like Jolien D’Hoore who is a local hero. It was a big thing. Racing in Belgium in 2008 was my first UCI race ever so it was a really good feeling to win those races. Especially winning two in a row.
Does being a team leader come naturally to you?
No, it’s a learning thing. Year by year I get better. Lisa [Klein] told me Stephanie [Pohl] and I were the main role models to her and thanked me so many times for guiding her this season. That was nice to hear. I’m learning how to communicate. Sometimes I’m too straight forward and sometimes that’s good but other times you have to read the situation. It’s a team and most of the time we should have fun. Of course we need to be professional but we should be happy and have fun. Cycling is such a good learning school for the future life, it makes you tougher.
The team was excited about Gent Wevelgem because it was the first World Tour victory ever but then you backed it up with more WT wins in the Giro and Sweden.
The Giro win was special because I came back after sickness. I was in Finland before and came straight from there into the heat in Italy. It’s the biggest stage race in women’s cycling and it was my first Giro ever. At one point I was ranked third in the world and I couldn’t really believe it.
Could you have imagined being ranked third in the world four year ago?
No, definitely not.
So what are the steps you’ve taken to get you to this point and put you on the right track.
I think I’m in the right team and also have a good coach. Years ago I wasn’t so sure about making a career in cycling but then I found good balance and started realising I might become a professional and I banked everything on it. Cervélo Bigla is all about learning and you’re constantly learning new stuff. Having Thomas in the car is the best because you know you have the chance of victory, he is the best. We have the best equipment and a really good environment.