Editor’s note: To close out 2017, we named our 30th annual VeloNews awards in the November/December issue of VeloNews magazine.
Female cyclist of the year: Anna van der Breggen
The Olympic gold medal brings massive amounts of pressure to the man or woman who wears it; across all sports, athletes often fall into a slump after an Olympic victory.
Not Anna van der Breggen.
After winning the Olympic road race in 2016, van der Breggen enjoyed the most successful season of her young career, dominating the women’s WorldTour from the spring through the late summer, winning six races and the series title. At the end of her fruitful year, she then helped her Dutch teammate Chantal Blaak win the UCI world championships. And she accomplished this in her first year with the Boels-Dolmans team.
“For me, it’s a bit more of a year of ‘experiencing’ things with the new team,” van der Breggen said in an interview in May. “Get to know them and find my way in the team.”
Van der Breggen found her way early. She swept the first ever Ardennes Week for women, winning La Flèche Wallonne Féminine (her third-straight win), the Amstel Gold Race, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes within a span of eight days.
In May she won the four-stage Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s Race in California in a brutal duel with Team UnitedHealthcare; van der Breggen defeated UHC rider Katie Hall by just one second.
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Van der Breggen then won women’s cycling’s biggest stage race, the Giro Rosa. She took the pink leader’s jersey on the second stage and defended it for eight days.
At the world championships in Bergen, Norway, van der Breggen finished second to Annemiek van Vleuten in the time trial. To complement that silver, she also brought home silver in the team time trial.
Not a bad haul for someone whose season peaked six months earlier in a Belgian springtime.