Countrywomen Annemiek Van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen are the best riders in the women’s peloton. Are they rivals? It depends who you ask.
VeloNews: What is your earliest memory of each other?
Anna van der Breggen: When I joined the national team, I felt like I was still learning. Annemiek was a lot older than me. She knew way more things than I did. I looked to the older girls and tried to learn the most from them. That’s changed a bit, of course, because now we are more rivals than we were before.
Annemiek van Vleuten: I think it was a team training camp with the national selection. Anna was just starting after she finished her studies, I think, and she was still without a coach. She would just go out every day on her bike. And I remember that day she realized, “Oh my God, you have a plan every day for what you want to do, and you have training goals.” She realized she didn’t have that. That’s not so long ago, five or six years ago.
I also rode the Giro Rosa with her and she was still studying. We saw her improving every day in the Giro because she didn’t have enough time to train. For her, the Giro was a good training camp. You could see already she had a lot of talent because without training she was already at a really high level.
VN: Do you consider her a rival?
AvdB: The main thing is that I’m not focused on Annemiek and she’s not focused on me. You just try to do good races for the team and be good in the moments you want to be good in. For example, I targeted the Giro last year, and after the Giro, the La Course race was also really attractive. But I know that if I do too many races too close to each other, there will come a point where I’m not good anymore. So I chose not to do that race and then tried to be good again at the world championships.
Annemiek will be strong this year, but we have some more riders next year, young riders who are getting stronger.
AvV: For sure, because we have the same characteristics as a rider, so all the races I’m targeting she’ll be targeting too. So I will see her a lot this year. But I’m not thinking about who my opponents are. Like last year, going into the world championships, I said to myself that I wanted to be the best. I want to be in the best shape I can be. I want to give everything to do my best and I’m not looking at who are my opponents.
VN: Who has the edge?
AvdB: I think it just depends on the period of the season. Like in the Ardennes, I was a bit stronger uphill, and the climbs were a bit shorter — maybe that’s the difference. Annemiek always chooses to go for a different season. She’s starting in Australia this year so her season is longer, so it’s normal she picks different races to be good in. Annemiek’s time trial was stronger than my time trial last year, not in the beginning but especially in the last part of the year. I think it’s fun to see she developed so well after the Olympic races. I think she’s found out that she is a really good climber and she knows how to really focus on the races she would like to win.
AvV: I think we’re pretty similar at the moment. Before, she was a bit more of the climber, but in the last few years I’ve also been focusing more on the climbing and I’m also great uphill. So now we’re pretty similar.