When Anna van der Breggen (Team SD Worx) crossed the finish line of the 10th and final stage of the 2021 Giro d’Italia Donne, she raised her arms in triumph. Not because she had won the stage – she finished fourth from a strong breakaway, choosing not to contest the sprint – but because the 31-year-old Dutchwoman had won the general classification in the Italian stage race for the fourth time.
“It means a lot to win a stage race like this. It is tough, ten days of racing, and it is stressful to be in the pink jersey for nine days, so this last day was a bit like coming to an end. I felt really tired, but also happy. This is the best way to finish it,” Van der Breggen said before the podium ceremony, alluding to the fact that she will end her active cycling career at the end of the 2021 season.
This also means that Fabiana Luperini’s record of five Giro Donne victories, including four consecutive wins from 1995 to 1998 as well as 2008, will remain unthreatened.
In May 2020, Van der Breggen had announced her decision to retire after the 2021 season and move into a sports director role with the SD Worx team, where she has raced since 2017 (then still named Boels Dolmans).
This came as a surprise to many as she is clearly still at the top of her game and winning races or supporting her teammates at an astonishing rate. But Van der Breggen commented that she felt the time was right, also saying that she wanted to raise a family.
Before that time comes, though, she will finish the 2021 season, and next on the calendar are the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Van der Breggen travels to Japan as the defending champion, having won the gold medal in the road race, as well as bronze in the time trial, at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The Tokyo Olympic Games road race will be held on July 25, and Van der Breggen will be part of a four-strong Dutch all-star team that also includes Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team), currently training at altitude in Livigno, Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma), who won two stages in the Giro Donne before not starting the final two stages, and SD Worx teammate Demi Vollering.
Vollering also stood on the Giro Donne overall podium, finishing third behind Van der Breggen and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio as the race was completely dominated by the Dutch team, who also had Niamh Fisher-Black in ninth place overall and winning the white jersey for the best under-23 rider.
Runners-up in the stage 1 team time trial, Team SD Worx then swept the podium of the stage 2 mountaintop finish, putting Van der Breggen in the maglia rosa. Her lead was cemented further with a commanding victory in the stage 4 mountain time trial, and Van der Breggen’s position going into stage 9 was so secure that the team could send Moolman Pasio, second in GC, on the attack to go for the stage victory on the race’s second mountaintop finish, the South African climber’s first Giro Donne stage win in 10 participations.
Behind Moolman Pasio, Van der Breggen finished the stage together with Vollering, putting even more time into the rest of the field ahead of the final stage. Nevertheless, the maglia rosa still followed the moves on the first of four climbs on stage 10 and found herself in a five-strong breakaway less than 20 kilometres into the stage.
“It was a tough last day. These last ten days were really tiring, and I could feel this morning already that I was really tired. The girls in the front group worked really hard, and I was happy to be there and just sit in the wheels. That was enough for me today. It was a beautiful race, now I am really happy that it is finished,” said Van der Breggen.
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