Last April, the Rabo-Liv rider blasted away from Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) at the end of an unexpected two-rider breakaway that formed over the Cote de Cherave, the second last climb, when Van Der Breggen had bridged across to Van Vleuten.
This time round, it was Van Der Breggen’s own attack on the Cherave, together with a second acceleration a little later followed by Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans), that was successful. Once again the combined effect led to two riders battling it out on the Mur de Huy and Van Der Breggen winning.
Asked about the final part of the break, Van Der Breggen said that she had no idea how strongly Stevens, the 2012 Fleche Wallonne winner, had been racing because “the only thing I saw was in front of me, although I knew she was on my wheel.”
“I was expecting an attack, but it didn’t come, then my coach had told me to attack with 150 metres to go from the summit, and that’s where I went for it.”
Prior to the Mur, “I did an attack on the Cherave, the same climb as the year before, and then there were a lot of my team with me on the front, and another teammate closing in from behind.
“The coach said to keep it going hard, and to keep attacking, and I saw a good moment and got away with Evelyn.”
Coming so close together, comparisons between her two victories on the Mur de Huy were inevitable and Van Der Breggen argued that “both were very special. The first mattered a lot because it was my first WorldTour victory.
“This one comes after five straight wins for Boels Dolmans in the  World Tour, too, and it was really a victory we needed in the team. I hope for now we will get more.”
La Flèche Wallonne is one of the hardest courses of the season, Van Der Breggen pointed out, which gives her room for optimism in the races to come, not to mention the Olympics, which are looming slowly but surely in the distance. Having had some health issues recently, the confirmation of a return to form is also, she said very welcome.
On a similar note, Van Der Breggen pointed out that her teammate Marianne Vos was also showing steadily improving form, and that placing ninth on the climb was an encouraging result for her. Van Der Breggen thanked her teammates, too, for their hard work earlier on, saying “it looked like it was only me, but the rest of the squad were there, too, backing me all the way.”
When it was suggested to Van Der Breggen that she “only had two more to go to Valverde’s total [of four victories]” after her second win, she instantly fired back, “yes, but Marianne has five.” Vos won the race in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2014. Even so, with two straight victories, the Dutchwoman will surely soon be finding her own place in the history books of La Flèche Wallonne.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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