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Anna van der Breggen on retirement: ‘It’s not the medals but the learnings that stay with me’

Van der Breggen reflects on both the highs and the lows after calling time on her illustrious racing career.

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Anna van der Breggen has no regrets as she heads into retirement.

The former Olympic and double world champion hung up her wheels at the age of 31 this winter, putting a stop on a short but spectacular career.

Van der Breggen may have put a stop to her time as a racer while still in her prime, but she’s not been sitting thinking “what if?” since her last race this fall.

“I have not yet thought for a moment, ‘am I doing the right thing?'” van der Breggen told NOS while they filmed her running on the Ameland beach in the Netherlands.

“I now just have a lot of fun doing new things,” she said. “Before that was not possible. Then I would look to the side and continue with training. The goal of every day is now just very different.”

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Van der Breggen’s final season saw both huge highs and deep disappointments.

Victory at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, a seventh win at La Flèche Wallone, and a fourth Giro Rosa title came as a precursor to an Olympic road race derailed by malfunctions and miscommunications in the Dutch team that opened the door for Anna Kiesenhofer to grab gold.

A rainbow jersey-clad van der Breggen went on to finish her career with a series of victory laps of the Leuven world championships course after fatigue saw her lose her luster through the summer.

Van der Breggen said the highs were just as important as the lows now that she looks back.

“In the end, it’s not the medals or trophies that stay with me, but more what I’ve learned through cycling,” she said. “Also through the victories I achieved, but also because of the victories I missed. That just makes who you are I’m very grateful that I was able to do this. And I’m taking that with me into what I’m going to do now.”

Van der Breggen said the Olympic upset still stings, even five months down the road.

“Tokyo was disappointing for me. The process was nice, but in terms of performance, the road race was a disappointment. My form was also less,” she said.

“I don’t think you can point to one thing that went wrong [for the Dutch team] it was a combination of several things,” she continued. “Letting a group drive away for eleven minutes is too much, I now understand that. It was also not clear who would do what, what the roles were. And it was a lack of knowledge of Kiesenhofer, underestimation of your competitors.”

Van der Breggen’s departure will leave a hole in the pro peloton, though she won’t be out of the scene altogether. She will now take on a role as sport director at her long-time SD Worx team in 2022.

She’ll have plenty of learnings to impart.