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Anna van der Breggen: Dutch won’t be haunted by Olympic mishap at road world championships

Anna van der Breggen will retire after the world championships. She's unsure if she will defend her time trial title but wants to help her team to gold in the road race.

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What happened in Tokyo stays in Tokyo.

Defending champion Anna van der Breggen says the Dutch team won’t be haunted by the confusion and miscalculation that marred the Olympic women’s road race for the team when it lines up for the worlds road race next week.

The women in orange took home a silver medal from Tokyo with Annemiek van Vleuten but initially thought they had won gold after failing to realize a final member of the breakaway — Anna Kiesenhofer — was still up the road.

Also read: 2021 road world championships routes, riders, schedule: Your ultimate guide for the week

“It’s totally a different setting, and we are with a bigger team. And it might be something, of course, where you think about sometimes, but we’ve learned from it,” van der Breggen told VeloNews in a video call. “Of course, you can make changes, so it won’t happen in this way again but it’s also totally different. It’s a course in Belgium, still no communication, but there are more people on the side of the road. So now that’s something we forgot already.”

Van der Breggen will be one of eight riders lining up for the Netherlands in Antwerp next week, along with her three Tokyo companions Demi Vollering, Marianne Vos, and van Vleuten. The nation has one extra spot due to holding the top position in the world rankings and having the defending champion in van der Breggen.

Also read: Anna van der Breggen leaving us wanting more in her final season

It is the same for the time trial, where the team has an extra two spots due to van der Breggen and van Vleuten being the world and Olympic time trial champions respectively. After feeling off-form at the recent Challenge by La Vuelta, van der Breggen isn’t sure if she will contest the time trial.

As her place can not be given up to anyone else, van der Breggen will wait as long as possible to consider her participation.

“I have my own spot and that’s the same for the road. I have my own spots. So, I will see what’s possible and how I get back and in which shape? I can decide on the final moment whether I do the time trial or not,” she said.

Bowing out

For now, the road race is the main thing on van der Breggen’s mind. It’s a chance to say farewell to the sport as an athlete, but also an opportunity to bid goodbye to national teammates and for her family to watch her one last time. The worlds road race will be the final one in her racing career as she begins work as a sport director in 2022.

Van der Breggen is a favorite for the title in Flanders and she wouldn’t refuse it if it came her way, but she’s unsure how she’ll be going, and she would like to help the team and pay it forward.

“Of course, if it’s possible, I would never say no. But just if I look to how I was riding in Spain, I think that that’s pretty far away,” van der Breggen told VeloNews. “I’m happy already when I can do a good race with the good feelings and if I can help them.

Also read: As the Anna van der Breggen era nears its end, SD Worx lays foundations of future domination

“If I just can be helpful, that would be really nice but also just to have a race where you can say goodbye, not only for myself, but also for my family as they know this is the last time they can see me racing. So, it’s just nice to have a moment that you say, goodbye and this is it.”

Van der Breggen’s build-up to the worlds has been somewhat disrupted after an unexplained dip in form. After a difficult ride at Challenge by La Vuelta, she decided to pull out of the European championships last week – her spot was taken by Floortje Mackaij.

She has undergone blood tests to try and pinpoint what is behind the recent dip in form and she’s awaiting the results.

“I’m feeling fine. I’m not sick or anything. It’s just there’s something I don’t understand why I’m not as well as could be,” she said. “I think it’s good to have some time to figure out how to be good at Worlds again and Floortje was in great shape, and she could do good at the Europeans. So, for me, it’s nice to make this decision and to train well here.”

The Dutch will be the team to watch in Flanders with several riders that can win in different scenarios but there are several nations in the same position — including Italy, Great Britain, USA, and others. Having multiple options could pay dividends as most competitors are predicting a raced that is difficult to control.

“It’s different than, for example, last year in Imola. There you needed to be a climber but in this race, of course, you need to be a good climber but it’s different climbing, it is shorter. Position is probably more important. The wind can also be a big factor if it’s really windy – and it can be there, in Belgium. Echelons, I don’t know,” van der Breggen laughed.

“It’s more a classic race and many of the Dutch team can do a good classic race. Amy [Pieters], Chantal [van den Broek-Blaak]; and Lucinda [Brand] is preparing for cyclocross, but she is probably in good shape already because the season is starting close after. If you are in the right position at the right moment anything can happen. There are many possibilities not only for the Dutch team but also for different countries and I think that’s actually that’s nice on the worlds’ course.”