It was hard for Anna Van der Breggen to hide her disappointment after losing the elite women's road race at the World Championships on Saturday in Richmond, Virginia. The Dutch star lost the small group sprint to Lizzie Armitstead, and although she praised the Briton on her winning sprint, she described her silver-medal performance as a disappointment.
"I hate this question right now. Of course I'm disappointed," Van der Breggen said following the race.
"I think everybody could feel that [it would be a sprint]. I needed a bit of a longer sprint to go full and to go hard. I think I did good but Lizzie is a very good sprinter. I tried everything to keep her behind me, but it didn't work out. I think I did good, I stuck to the plan, it was a good sprint by me but Lizzie was just faster."
When asked if she felt like she had won the silver medal or lost the gold, she said, "It feels like losing gold because when you are so close that you can smell the jersey, you really go for the jersey."
Van der Breggen went into the race as one of the main favourites after a strong season with results that include an overall victory at the Giro Rosa and at Elsy Jacobs. She also won the World Cup at Fleche Wallonne and La Course by Le Tour de France and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. At the end of the 10-round World Cup series, she finished second overall to Armitstead.
She arrived to the World Championship road race with a strong team of seven that also included Chantal Blaak, Lucinda Brand, Roxane Knetemann, Amy Pieters, Iris Slappendel and Ellen Van Dijk, in what was one of the strongest teams on paper.
Her teammates were active and represented in multiple moves during the race with Blaak going solo with roughly 40km to go. Pieters was the next to enter a decisive eight-rider breakaway but that move was ultimately brought back with at the base of the final climb trough Libby Hill Park, largely due to the efforts of the Dutch team at the front of the dwindled field.
"First of all, we had Amy Pieters in the breakaway and she made it clear it was not a good breakaway for her, so the girls did a good job to close it at the right moment. Then the race was open again and it would be a sprint," Van der Breggen said.
Armitstead made two strong attacks on the last two climbs over 23rd Street and Governor Street but she wasn't able to clear the small group. Van der Breggen was the first to launch her sprint but Armitstead was right on her wheel and then came out of her slipstream to win the world title, leaving Van der Breggen with the silver medal.
"I had most of her teammates around me," Van der Breggen said. "I had a good team, a great team, they did the perfect job today. We stuck to the plan. It was a good race and Lizzie is the winner, Lizzie is fast and she is really amazing. I think it was a good race and we need to be happy with it but when you are so close, you are also disappointed."
Van der Breggen's teammate Ellen van Dijk chimed in on the Dutch team's tactics and said "We really wanted to make it a hard race, because we knew it would benefit Anna in the end. She proved that she came really close. She was disappointed she didn't get it, but she can be really proud."
When asked what she would change about the final sprint if she could do it over again, Van der Breggen said. "Nothing. I think it was a really good sprint but Lizzie was faster."