Emotional victory for van der Breggen Dutchwoman lays the ghosts of years of near-misses to rest
At a standstill just beyond the World Championship finish line in Innsbruck and almost lost in the crowd and helicopter noise, new women’s road world champion Anna van der Breggen bent double over her handlebars and sobbed her heart out. The release of seven years and three second places’ worth of pressure will do that to you.
“I was happy this morning knowing tonight, no matter how it goes, it’s over and I can relax again and enjoy cycling,” said van der Breggen.
The weight of expectation, built up over years of Worlds near misses, had become nearly unbearable leading up to this year’s championships, the Dutchwoman explained.
“It was not the easiest period in my cycling career,” she said. “To go on the bike and to know that you should be good on this day… and you don’t get that many chances with a circuit like this, with this much climbing.”
As for the British challenge, the team was left satisfied but ultimately empty-handed after a solid performance that saw four of Britain’s six women finish. Dani Rowe was GB’S best-placed finisher in 26th, while 19-year-old Sophie Wright’s 41st would have netted her a bronze medal in the U23 category — had it existed.
Rowe in particular had cause to feel somewhat aggrieved. She suffered first a jammed chain after becoming entangled in a crash and having to chase for 15 kilometres, and then on the second ascent of the Olympic climb — just as van der Breggen was making her race-winning move — her gears got stuck in the ‘11’ sprocket, requiring another bike change, and another chase.
“When you have to expel energy like that it’s never good,” she said. “But I’m pleased with how I rode today, I gave it everything I had. I fought all the way to the line.”
British left wanting
GB Cycling Team directeur sportif Julian Winn declared himself satisfied with the women’s performance. “It’s an honest result,” he said. “It was a bloody tough course; a very self-selecting course. It was like, ‘if you can follow, you can follow’.
“All five of them got to the finishing circuit in the right half and it was just a matter of going out and holding on as long as you can.”
“Now I can relax and enjoy cycling again”