Anna ver der Breggen has already announced she will retire after the 2021 season, but even after a hugely successful career she is still hungry for more.
She finally won the world time trial title in Imola after finishing second four times, adding the time trial rainbow jersey to go with her 2016 Olympic gold medal, her 2018 road race world title, three Giro Rosa titles and close to 50 other victories. There is little left in women’s cycling for her to win, but she still finds new goals as she enjoys the final chapter of her career.
“It’s not I need to finish a bucket list, it doesn’t feel like that. I don’t have a bucket list,” she admitted after pulling on her rainbow jersey Thursday. “I really enjoy cycling at the moment, so I’m more relaxed if I win. It’s great, if I don’t, I’ll try next time.”
Van der Breggen explained how she used the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on her time trialing in the spring. Racing was cancelled for months but she used the uncertainty about the 2020 season well.
“I needed to find new motivation during the COVID-19 problems. It was a really strange period. We didn’t know if the season would go ahead and you can’t do much training if you don’t know when or if the races will start,” she explained.
“The time trial became a new goal this year, also because the Olympic time trial is really nice, and so it became a bigger goal. I had to pick some new goals and so I went for the time trial.
“I really discovered that time trial training can be fun; that you can train for it in a lot of different ways. You really need to train for the time trial to enjoy it. Before I trained but not as much as now and it was like a burden. But I had time this year to train for it. I was also lucky I could go outdoors because we didn’t have a strict lockdown in the Netherlands.”
Despite Van der Breggen’s personal success and happiness, she also found time to think of Chloé Dygert after her terrible crash during the time trial.
The American started 90 seconds behind Van der Breggen but lost control of her bike on a descent, hitting an unprotected barrier. She suffered serious injuries to her left leg and knee and was taken to a specialist hospital in Bologna by helicopter for treatment.
“I feel really sorry for Chloé, this is the worst thing that could happen to her,” Van der Breggen said. “Chloe was world champion and hadn’t raced this year, so she probably did a lot of work for this race. The worst thing that can happen to you is a crash.
“Time trials are always difficult to judge how fast you can go into corners because you’re always trying not to go too slow. Today it was also windy out on the course, you really felt it with a disk wheel.”
Van der Breggen will now turn her attention to the women’s road race on Saturday.
She is a favourite for the hilly 28.8km Imola circuit, completed five times for a total of 143km, but will again share team leadership with Marianne Vos. Annemiek Van Vleuten has also travelled to Italy despite breaking her wrist at the recent Giro Rosa and intends to try to ride the road race.
Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen have often been fierce rivals but also teammates for world championships. Many are questioning Van Vleuten’s decision to try to race, but Van der Breggen was careful with her response when asked her opinion.
“I haven’t spoken to Annemiek yet, so I don’t know how she feels about her wrist. I think she has to make the decision, to understand if she can climb without pain and brake well,” Van der Breggen said.
“We have a strong Netherlands team, so we’re really motivated, we’re looking forward to Saturday. I think it’s a beautiful circuit. I’ve heard it’s really hard. I haven’t seen it yet or thought about it but will do so from Friday.”