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BERGEN, Norway (AFP) — A year ago Chantal Blaak was digesting the biggest disappointment of her career as she was left out of the Dutch Olympic squad.
But 12 months on and the 27-year-old is both national and world champion having put more illustrious team-mates, Marianne Vos, Anna van der Breggen and Annamiek van Vleuten in the Norwegian shade.
But rather than linger on that Rio snub, Blaak pointed out that being a member of the strongest national team in women’s cycling has both advantages and disadvantages, as she now knows after winning the women’s world road race title in Bergen on Saturday.
Asked if her career would have been different had she not been born Dutch, Blaak said: “Probably a little bit but also then this opportunity (would) never (have) come today.
“I should (have been) at the Olympics, maybe, that’s one thing. (But) I’m proud to be a Dutch rider so I don’t want to jinx (it).”
Vos was the Olympic champion in 2012 in London and is a three-time world champion and Van der Breggen won Olympic gold in Rio and claimed victory in all three Ardennes classics in the spring.
Van Vleuten, who looked set to win Olympic gold last year until a spectacular crash on a breakneck descent left her concussed and with fractured vertebrae, is the world time-trial champion. Added to that, there are Kirsten Wild, the road race silver medallist last year, and Ellen van Dijk, the time-trial champion in 2013.
But now Blaak has added her name to the list of Dutch global champions, even though her success took her by surprise.
After the medal presentation, she gave her victory flowers to her mother.
“I was really happy she was here; she was here with my sister, my brother and my nephew — the four of them,” said Blaak. “It was the first time that they’re watching me at a world championships and, honestly, I said before: ‘make a really nice trip out of it because Norway is beautiful and don’t expect that I win the race because it’s really hard’!”
But win she did, despite crashing on a descent 65km from the finish of the 152.8km street circuit course.
“I don’t actually know what happened, I think someone looked back and she hit her back wheel or something,” Blaak said. “There was nothing I could do and I was on the ground. When I crash it’s always a bit of drama. I was thinking, ‘yeah, my race is over now’. It took me way too long, I could have fixed my bike by myself but I was waiting for the mechanic. I was just thinking too much, I was also in a bit of pain. But then I thought: ‘come on Chantal, it’s the last race of the season, you’ve trained so hard for this, the team needs you’.
“I gave everything to come back and I talked to the girls. They knew I crashed, I just said: ‘we continue the plan, if I’m not there anymore you know why’.
“But I was there!”