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Featured Stories,Stories,Race Report

Silvia Persico. The Lioness of Flanders.

The most exciting moment of Flanders 2022, told through the eyes of the Colnago team.

Sunday 2 of April. 4.35 PM. Just before the Koppenberg.


In the UAE Team ADQ car, Davide Arzeni, sports director of the team, follows with apprehension the group’s approach to the Koppenberg, the toughest climb of the Flanders lap - 600 metres ascent with peaks at 22%. 


The previous day, Colnago’s team had already said: "To overcome it you won’t need good legs, but good shoes", predicting that many women would be forced to walk up such a narrow, steep and slippery climb.


The road is not wide enough for cars to pass by. Thus, the cars are diverted to an alternative route.
Davide Arzeni sees four cars in front of him, the tail of the group turn left towards the town that anticipates the climb. 
He follows the other cars and straightens. Instinctively, he turns up the volume of the Race Radio. 

The news is fragmented, the speakers giving updates screaming in the microphones. "Forcing of SD Worx" , "An athlete in the front of the peloton has slipped" "Some athletes in the front are climbing on foot", "The peloton stopped", "Half group climbs on foot" ,"No, the whole peloton climbs on foot, except two athletes".

It is at this moment that the other radio in the car - the one that connects the sports directors with the UAE Team ADQ athletes - begins to croak.

A girl is screaming:

"What the hell? Guys! What do I do?" It’s Silvia Persico.

"Two athletes in the lead," says Race Radio. "Only two athletes made it to the top of Koppenberg without stepping on the ground: Marlen Reusser and Silvia Persico. The peloton is far behind."

Here the Ronde Van Vlaanderen turns from race into epic. In the television images the silver ace of clubs shines under the mud deposited on Silvia’s Colnago V4Rs. Marlen and Silvia look at each other.

Lorena Wiebes and Lotte Kopecky join them. The rest of the peloton is still far behind. Of the leading four, three are from the same team - SD Worx. The fourth, Silvia Persico, of UAE Team ADQ, is in a tactical nightmare: alone to face three riders of the same team.

The situation gets complicated as each km passes. Each climb is made at full effort. Silvia is at the limit - you can see it from her face, from how she pushes on the pedals using her whole body.

Galeria home

Then, the twists begin. 

Lorena Wiebes is dropped. She can’t keep up the frantic pace imposed by her companions. 
Marlen Reusser also raises the white flag. 

Then there were two: Silvia Persico and Lotte Kopecky, the winner of the previous edition. 


5.25 PM. Paterberg

In cycling, victories excite but sometimes it is the losers who most win the sympathy of the public. 
The eternal epic: David against Goliath, the outsider against the starting favourite. 
Goliath often wins, but supporters, sympathy, hopes are for the underdog David. 

Lotte Kopecky fears Silvia Persico. She knows that she could be faster in the final sprint. 

On the last wall of this Flanders - the Paterberg - Lotte opens the gas. It is the last great challenge. 
Silvia tries to keep the pace. The rear wheel slips and loses traction on a stretch that’s still wet.

It’s the key moment. Silvia breaks away and Lotte flies by herself towards victory. 

The race behind is anarchy. 
A group of three athletes catch Silvia. The legs are finished for all of them. 
Other athletes fall into this group, including Elisa Longo Borghini (winner of the 2015 edition on a Colnago bike).

Fast forward a few kilometres.

Lotte Kopecky crosses the finish line with arms raised. The sprint for second place is won by Demi Vollering. An exhausted Silvia Persico uses all the energy left in the tank but is beaten by Elisa Longo Borghini. She will settle for fourth place. 
A result, a number, that alone does not express the greatness of her race. 

The tenacity of an athlete who - physically and mentally - never gave up, always able to give 110%.

A lioness. The true lioness of this Flanders.


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