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Van der Breggen defeats Van Vleuten at Dutch nationals

Anna van der Breggen puts end to arch-rival's long undefeated run, capitalizing on a strong team performance to win solo.

If anyone was going to put an end to Annemiek van Vleuten‘s unstoppable streak this year, it was long-time rival Anna van der Breggen.

Van der Breggen bettered Van Vleuten at the Dutch national road race championships Saturday, putting an end to the Mitchelton-Scott rider’s 100 percent record for 2020 and the air of invincibility she had developed alongside it.

The Boels-Dolmans rider capitalized on the strength in depth of her team to battle into an escape group and then hold off a late chase from Van Vleuten to win by well over one minute. Anouska Koster (Parkhotel Valkenburg) took third.

“I am not only proud of myself, but of the whole team,” Van der Breggen told media after the race. “It is difficult to plan a course in advance, but our tactics came quite close to what we had planned in advance.”

Van der Breggen’s first-ever national title came at one of her last possible opportunities, with the 30-year-old set to retire after the 2021 Olympics before working as sports director for the to-be rebranded Boels-Dolmans / SD Worx team.

The national jersey will be added to her illustrious palmarès, which already includes Olympic and world titles.

Van der Breggen’s victory puts an end to arch-rival Van Vleuten’s unbeaten run which dates back from her world championship-winning ride in September 2019, through Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in the winter, three late-July Spanish races, and Strade Bianche earlier this month.

“As a one-man team you sometimes have to gamble a bit,” Van Vleuten said, having started as the lone Mitchelton-Scott rider in the pack. “I thought that CCC would rectify the situation, but it didn’t. Then I took action myself, but the gap was too big and Anna was just super strong. But I am satisfied with that silver, I went down fighting.”

Boels-Dolmans dominated the race, placing four riders into the final top-10.

Van der Breggen had bridged across to her lone escapee teammate Jip van den Bos midway through the race, with Koster also joining them at the front of the action.

Behind them, Van Vleuten and Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) led the chase as Van der Breggen and Koster dropped Van den Bos.

As the race played out, the tough hilly loop and wet windy conditions saw more and more riders fall off the pace or retire, and by the final 10 kilometers, Van der Breggen was alone out front with over one minute of an advantage over Van Vleuten, who was chasing alone.

Van der Breggen was able to hold off Van Vleuten’s massive diesel engine despite being curtailed by a late bike change due to a puncture, and managed to increase her gap to win by 1:19.

“When there were six of us at the front, we had to create something, of course,” Van der Breggen said. “We did that, although it was never our intention to lead for so long … My last year, in the national jersey; I will really enjoy it.”

Before the race, Team-777 rider Inge van der Heijden had withdrawn from the competition having tested positive for coronavirus, leading to two of her teammates also having to pull out of the event. However, Van der Heijden’s subsequent retest Saturday returned an all-clear result – putting a question mark over the earlier positive test.

“I tested negative on Friday last week, and although I did not show any symptoms of infection, to my great disappointment I suddenly tested positive on Wednesday. In consultation, I decided to have an extra PCR test done yesterday and the result was negative again. As I expected, actually,” Van der Heijden wrote on Instagram Saturday night.

“However, I will not ignore the positive test and observe the quarantine measure.”