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Olympics: Anna van der Breggen says 'it wasn't there' for win in time trial

Anna van der Breggen with the bronze medal in the time trial at the Olympic Games
Anna van der Breggen with the bronze medal in the time trial at the Olympic Games (Image credit: Getty Images)

Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) came into the Olympic Games as the big favourite to win both the road race and the time trial in Tokyo. The double world champion, who is in her retirement year, did not secure a gold medal but felt satisfied with her performance after what she described as an off day in the time trial, taking the bronze medal behind her winning compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten.

“There’s not so much of a story. The time trial did not feel so good. It was not my best time trial. I thought it was nothing, and in the end it was a bronze medal, so I'm really happy to have a medal," Van der Breggen said following the race at the Fuji International Speedway on Wednesday.

The elite women’s competed along a 22.1km route that started with a downhill section and then a significant climb to the first intermediate check point, followed by a descent and an undulating terrain to the finish line at the speedway.

Van Vleuten, who started her time trial sixth from the end, posted the fastest intermediate times at all check points en route to a winning performance of 30:13.

Van der Breggen was the final rider off the start ramp but could not match her compatriot along the course, expressing that she may have felt tired. In the end, she finished the time trial with the bronze medal, 1:01 behind Van Vleuten, while Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser took the silver medal.

“Some days you really can fight for it, and I had that in the last time trials, and today I did not have it and I don't know why. Maybe too tired. I felt good the days before, but today it wasn't there. The wattage was not what it normally is," Van der Breggen said.

Van der Breggen did not speak further of the previous day's incident when she was pulled from her bike by officials while preparing for the time trial at the Fuji International Speedway. However, she stated following the incident, "Not much more happened. In any case, the incident has no consequences for my Olympic time trial tomorrow."

Van der Breggen has been preparing for this Olympic Games all year and has had a stand-out season winning a record seventh Flèche Wallonne and a fourth overall title at the Giro d’Italia Donne. 

She also spent time training at altitude in preparation for the road race and the time trial, and lined up for both events with a powerful Dutch team that included Van Vleuten, Demi Vollering and Marianne Vos.

For the Dutch team, Van Vleuten secured the silver medal in the road race, after miscommunication that led her to believe she had won, and she secured the gold medal in the time trial. Van der Breggen earned the bronze in the time trial while Tom Dumoulin took the silver in the men's time trial.

"I’m happy that the Olympics is finished. It's a period which is exciting and which needs a lot of focus. I can feel now (that) I'm pretty tired," Van der Breggen said.

Van der Breggen will finish out the rest of this season with her SD Worx trade team before retiring from professional cycling as an athlete. She will move into a director’s role on the team beginning in 2022. 

In the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Van der Breggen won the gold medal in the road race and the bronze in the time trial, and is pleased to have added another medal to her career achievements.

“A bronze medal is a great way to finish this all. It’s my third Olympic medal and that makes me proud. I can look back on many great races and on a great career," she said.

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.