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Anna van der Breggen on retirement: ‘I never felt it’s too early or I made the wrong decision’

Anna van der Breggen on adjusting to life after racing and why it isn't just an adjustment for her but also for her whole family.

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Anna van der Breggen has no regrets.

The Dutch megastar brought the curtain down on her illustrious career at the world championships in September.

Her retirement was a long time coming after she announced it in May 2020, but it gave van der Breggen an opportunity that many riders don’t get. Not only was she able to go out at the top of her abilities aged just 31, but she could also fully savor the final moments of her career.

Also read: Farewell Anna van der Breggen: Dutch superstar closes curtain on career with worlds ride

It also gave her a chance to question if she was doing the right thing, and the answer was a resounding yes.

“Sometimes you have some moments that you realize okay this is it. Like in Spain [the Challenge by La Vuelta], which was the last race with SD Worx. I would not say emotional but I think it’s something I will remember. It was the last moment that you do it and I did it for so many years,” van der Breggen told VeloNews in a Zoom call.

“If you end something which you did for a long time, it will be strange to change things and to have a new life. But I’m looking forward to it and I never had the feeling like it’s too early or I made the wrong decision. I think it’s really the right moment to do it and I’m mostly happy about it, so that’s a good thing. I was not crying in every race.”

Life after professional racing will not only be an adjustment for van der Breggen but for her family as well. As with many in the sport, van der Breggen’s family have been wholly invested in her career as a rider and have supported her in each and every race — whether that be in person or from the sofa in front of the television.

Also read: No rest for Anna van der Breggen as she slots into DS role at Paris-Roubaix Femmes

Supporting her in her new venture as a sport director will be a very different feeling for them as she’ll be in the team car behind rather than at the front of the race. For her family, the 2021 season has also been a year of lasts.

“It’s something it’s not only for me that I that is my last time my husband also needs to get used to it that next year it will be different,” van der Breggen said of her season.

“My grandma has been watching every live stream, every televised race, and my parents sometimes go with the camper to follow the races, it’s also the final season for the people around me.”

Going out on top

Van der Breggen’s final year as a pro was not a victory parade for the Dutchwoman. Wearing the rainbow bands of road race and TT world champion following her astonishing Imola world championship double, van der Breggen wanted to add to her palmarès before the curtain fell.

She opened her account immediately with a win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February and followed that up with a podium at Strade Bianche the following month. Her seventh Flèche Wallonne win kick-started a run of form that went all the way to June with wins at GP Ciudad de Eibar, Durango-Durango, the Vuelta a Burgos, and the Dutch TT championships.

Also read: From Anna van der Breggen to Ruth Winder: Six riders who are retiring in 2021

Van der Breggen then romped to her fourth GC title at the Giro d’Italia Donne in a commanding fashion. While the second half of her season didn’t quite go to plan, 2021 was still a resounding success.

“I think it was a really good year for me with many victories,” van der Breggen told VeloNews. “The period in May was very good. I won all the races in that time and then the Giro came after. I cannot complain, really. The good thing is, I really enjoyed it because I think I also kept in mind that it’s my last year and every race is the last race. So, if it works out and you still can win in races, that’s nice.”

The 2021 season also gave van der Breggen an opportunity to work with some new teammates and get to know how they worked and what their capabilities were before she finds herself directing them from the team car come next year.

“I’m happy that I could still race with some girls I didn’t know yet,” van der Breggen said. “As a sport director, you sit in the car, you’re right behind the bunch, and you can see many things. Also, if you watch television or live stream, you can see many things, but if you’re riding in the bunch, it’s different.

“If it’s tough for myself, then then you know if it was a hard race or not, how your teammates are doing, and how they communicate. I really could help them in the race sometimes and it’s information you don’t get if you’re right behind in a car. I was really happy to be able to do it this year, and I really enjoyed it. I’m also looking very much forward to next year just to stop with [racing] and to get in the car and try to coach the girls in different ways, but not on the bike.”