Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) could almost touch the finish line in Le Grand-Bornand at the La Course by Le Tour de France one-day race when she was passed by Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott). The Olympic champion lost out on what looked like a near-certain victory on the last 20 metres of a 112.5-kilometre race with four hard climbs, and she admitted that she did not enjoy that final.
"It is not a feeling I like, but that is also racing," Van der Breggen said. "For me, it has been a long time since I did long climbs like this. I felt quite good, but at the end I got into difficulties. I did not expect this difficulty at the end, and I just could not stand up on the pedals any more. If you have something like that in the downhill, you can carry over some speed, and it is OK, but that last uphill was just too much for me. I was really empty at the end."
The final stage of the 10-day stage race Giro d'Italia Femminile, considered the only Grand Tour in women's cycling, was Sunday, and La Course started at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, giving riders less than 36 hours' worth of rest between the two demanding races, much of which was spent travelling from northeastern Italy to the French Alps.
Van der Breggen did not race the Giro Rosa herself, but as she instead participated in the Val di Sole mountain bike World Cup on Sunday, July 8, and enjoying somewhat more rest than her competitors. Nonetheless, the Dutchwoman criticised the way the UCI had set up the race calendar.
"We had a one-day break yesterday, but the Giro Rosa is a long stage race," she said. "Our teams are not big enough to have two teams race simultaneously. I think this timing is bad."
Van der Breggen is not the first women's road racer to turn her focus to another discipline for a while, but she may well be the biggest profile to do it in the middle of the road season. Her decision to forgo the Giro Rosa while leading the UCI Women's WorldTour was unconventional, but Van der Breggen said that it was the right one.
"Mountain biking is different, it is more intensive," van der Breggen said. "I did not know how well I would do on the long climbs today, but I was OK. And I totally love mountain biking, it was something totally new for me, and I liked every part of it. So the decision to step away from the road for a while was absolutely the right one."
This mountain bike stint will continue with the Dutch nationals on the weekend, but then Van der Breggen returns to the road full-time.
"I will now do the Dutch mountain bike championships on 22 July," she said. "My main goal is still road cycling; I do mountain biking for fun and for training. I like it a lot, but I have not planned more races for now. I like to do both, and doing different things is really motivating for me. So it is a good combination."
The biggest target for the rest of the road season are the Innsbruck world championships with the very hard parcours. Before that, Van der Breggen will line up at the European Championships and the Swedish WorldTour races in Vårgårda, among others.
"My next road race will be the European Road Championships," Van der Breggen said. "After that there are the WorldTour races in Sweden, the team time trial there is very important for us, and then I have a training block again. Eventually, the big goal are the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck."