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Tour de France Femmes

Anna van der Breggen to Demi Vollering: ‘You should always keep on fighting because you never know what happens’

During the Tour de France Femmes, the champion turned-DS has one responsibility: motivation.

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LE MARKSTEIN, France (VN) – Now in the front seat of the car instead of at the head of the race, much has changed for Anna van der Breggen since becoming one of SD Worx’s sport directors.

However, one thing remains the same: “Annemiek is the strongest on the climbs.”

If anyone knows how Van Vleuten can climb, it’s Van der Breggen, who was often one of the only rivals who could match her 39-year-old compatriot. Nevertheless, Van der Breggen has been shaking off questions from journalists all week about whether she wishes she were riding in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, perhaps as a direct challenger to Van Vleuten.

The answer is a resounding “no.”

On Saturday, the day the race finally climbed into the mountains, Van der Breggen said there was only one thing on her mind.

“It’s to motivate Demi,” she said.

Vollering, like Van Vleuten, had stayed relatively quiet in the peloton before the final weekend of climbing in order to fully come alive in the mountains. And come alive she did, the only rider to follow Van Vleuten’s attack near the base of the Petit Ballon and stay with her well into the second pitch up the Col du Platzerwasel.

Van Vleuten’s next-level climbing skills would eventually prove too strong for Vollering, but the 25-year-old never gave up, even when she was dropped before the summit of the Col du Platzerwasel leaving her to ride the lonely kilometers of the flat valley before the final climb alone.

Retired ace turned-DS Van der Breggen knows how to manage a stage race.

Van der Breggen had nothing but praise for her rider.

“In the beginning, she was going well and it’s good to see,” Van der Breggen said. “You could see that it was getting harder on the second climb just over the top, motivated to stay on her wheel and to try to be with Annemiek until the top. If you do that valley alone it’s more difficult. She tried very hard but she just didn’t make it to the top. It’s fighting against the road and yourself. She did great, second place is very good. Tomorrow is another day.”

Van der Breggen said that the team would wait until Sunday morning to assess Vollering’s recovery before deciding on the approach for Sunday. The eighth and final stage of the Tour de France Femmes is also punctuated by three mountain climbs, although none are as long or come in close succession as Saturday’s.

With Van Vleuten at a three-minute advantage over Vollering in the GC and the apparent legs to keep climbing forever, some might say Sunday is a foregone conclusion.

Not Van der Breggen.

“You always need to try it but I think it is clear that tomorrow is similar with hard climbing, and if nothing happens, and Annemiek is the strongest on the climbs, then we should focus on the place that Demi has now and on the good performance she is doing,” she said. “You should always keep on fighting because you never know what happens.”