Van der Breggen takes her first Dutch road race title

Anna van der Breggen wins the 2018 Tour of Flanders
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/

She's been world champion, Olympic chapion and national champion in the time trial, but Anna van der Breggen, until Saturday, never wore the jersey of Dutch road champion. That all changed on a windy, rainy day in Drenthe.

Van der Breggen overcame a mechanical with 3km to go to hold off the chase from world champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) and take a solo victory. Anouska Koster (Parkhotel Valkenburg) was third.

Due to the restrictions on public gatherings, the Dutch federation chose to hold the race on a short 7.3km circuit around the infamous climb, the VAM-berg, also known as Col du VAM. Although it only climbs 38 vertical metres the severity of the grade and 17 trips up it in short succession were enough to give Van der Breggen the edge.

"I'm not only proud of myself, but of the whole team," Van der Breggen said according to She played off an attack from teammate Jip van den Bos, bridging across along with Anouska Koster (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and then forging a winning gap well before the halfway point. Although World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten put in a spirited chase in the final laps she never got within sight of Van der Breggen.

"It is difficult to plan a race in advance, but our tactics came pretty close to what we had planned in advance," said Van der Breggen. "When there were six of us at the front, we had to create something, of course. We did that, although we never intended to lead the way for so long."

Van der Breggen called the course 'gruelling', saying she never quite believed she could win until the final lap when her advantage was over a minute. Even then, a puncture with three kilometres to go almost spoiled the day.

"Fortunately it was on a descent and the right decision was made from the support vehicle. My mechanic certainly didn't jump out of the bushes with that bike," she said after some questioned the legality of the bike change.

The 30-year-old announced earlier in the year that she would retire after the Tokyo Olympic Games, and said she will enjoy racing in the national champion's jersey for her final year.

Van Vleuten, who had gone undefeated over five one-day races so far this season, took the defeat in stride, saying it was the best she could do as the sole representative from her team. "I am proud that I took the initiative in the chase and went down fighting," she said on her personal website.

Having just come back from an altitude camp after winning Strade Bianche, she said it was a different effort. "Blasting up the VAM-berg for one minute is a bit different than riding up the Gavia or Stelvio, but this was fun."

Van Vleuten chased in the final laps with Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and European champion Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) but of course, received no help from Van der Breggen's teammate.

"People might say, why were you not in it when Boels-Dolmans was ahead with two riders with Anna and Jip? But if I had, they wouldn't have kept riding. That was not an option." CCC-Liv also had a strong squad and made tactics tricky along with not getting any time differences from the race officials. "I didn't know the time gaps," Van Vleuten said. "It was apparently assumed that everyone had earpieces, but I was alone and didn't have one. So then you don't hear any time differences and the motorcyclist who passes it on was not there, either. Finally, I asked Marianne; shall we do something else? Her answer was yes and with six laps to go we tried."

Vos and Van Vleuten whittled down the gap to 32 seconds but Vos blew up with two laps still to go, leaving Van Vleuten alone to chase. "I thought for a while that I might get her back, but I had already done a lot of work in the chase. I had fired my bullets in the attacks with five and six laps to go and also because I had to keep accelerating afterwards. Anna was able to go a step further and then it was over for me."

After a quick podium ceremony and an elbow-bump with the other medalists, the new sporting gesture in the coronavirus pandemic, Van Vleuten praised the federation for pulling off the championships which had previously been cancelled. "There may have been some criticism, but if you want to organize national championships during the coronavirus and get it done, then you can only compliment it. It was really a good race. That's what the team leaders of our team also said, who watched it. And Boels-Dolmans just played it very well that they are very strong in terms of depth."

How it unfolded

The women faced 124.1km of racing with 17 laps of the punchy 7.3km circuit that included 17 trips over the infamous landfill climb, the VAMberg. The climb starts with a short, excruciatingly steep cobbled pitch before a longer paved stretch. It only climbs 38m but, at an average of 9.4 per cent and a maximum of 22 per cent, it was a race for the climbers.

Van der Breggen played off an attack from Boels Dolmans teammate Jip van den Bos, who went clear in the opening laps, bridging across with Anouska Koster (Parkhotel Valkenburg) before the race was even half-way over.

As the trio forged two and a half minutes' gap over the chasing bunch, Van Vleuten and former champion Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) took turns decimating the bunch but each time were chased down.

Finally, with four laps to go, Van Vleuten, Vos and European champion Amy Pieters went away again in pursuit of the leaders, slashing their gap to 42 seconds.

So dominant was the ride of the two leading trios that most of the chasing peloton was pulled from the 7.3km circuit as they risked being lapped.

With three laps to go, Van den Bos lost contact with Van der Breggen and Koster while Pieters failed to hold the wheel of the storming Van der Breggen and Vos.

The gap coming down, Van der Breggen took full responsibility for driving the pace while Van Vleuten paced Vos and seemed to let off the gas as they approached two laps to go - the gap stretching out from 27 to 32 seconds.

On the third to last trip up the climb, Koster and Vos lost contact on the cobbles, turning the race into an individual pursuit: the Boels Dolmans rider against the undefeated in 2020 world champion.

Van Vleuten had Koster in sight with 11km to go but kept her pace smooth. Meanwhile, Van der Breggen continued to add to her advantage, bringing it to one minute with one lap to go.

The world champion distanced Koster with 7km remaining but had left it too late to reel in Van der Breggen, who continued to add to her lead.

Finally, Van de Breggen would wear the blue, white and red jersey of national champion for the year for the first time in her elite career.

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Anna Van der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 3:18:30
2Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Mitchelton-Scott Women 0:01:19
3Anouska Koster (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg 0:02:00
4Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv 0:03:09
5Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 0:03:13
6Jip Van den Bos (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 0:03:45
7Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam 0:05:27
8Nancy Van der Burg (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
9Riejanne Markus (Ned) CCC-Liv 0:05:29
10Demi Vollering (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg 0:05:30
11Nina Buijsman (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
12Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) CCC-Liv
13Eva Buurman (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
14Jeanne Korevaar (Ned) CCC-Liv 0:05:39
15Nina Kessler (Ned) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank 0:06:19
16Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo Women 0:06:24
DNFCathalijne Hoolwerf (Ned) NXTG Racing
DNFRozemarijn Ammerlaan (Ned) NXTG Racing
DNFAafke Soet (Ned) Ceratizit-WNT Pro
DNFMelanie Klement (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFFloortje Mackaij (Ned) Team Sunweb Women
DNFSylvie Swinkels (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
DNFMarieke Van Witzenburg (Ned) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport
DNFNienke Wasmus (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFKirstie Van Haaften (Ned) Ciclotel
DNFInez Beijer (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFBelle De Gast (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
DNFPauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) CCC-Liv
DNFLonneke Uneken (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
DNFDanique Braam (Ned) Lotto Soudal Ladies
DNFQuinty Ton (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFTeuntje Beekhuis (Ned) Lotto Soudal Ladies
DNFLaura Van Regenmortel (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFMaria Apolonia Van 't Geloof (Ned) Drops
DNFKylie Waterreus (Ned) Multum Accountants-LSK Ladies
DNFNatalie Van Gogh (Ned) Chevalmeire
DNFJulia Soek (Ned) Team Sunweb Women
DNFCéline Van Houtum (Ned) Multum Accountants-LSK Ladies
DNFManon Bakker (Ned) Cyclismo Mundial
DNFRozanne Slik (Ned) Chevalmeire
DNFMinke Bakker (Ned) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport
DNFAmber Van der Hulst (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
DNFMaike Van der Duin (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFRoos Hoogeboom (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFSharon Dommanschet (Ned) Memorial-Santos
DNFMylene de Zoete (Ned)
DNFSenna Feron (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFMarissa Baks (Ned) Biehler Krush Pro Cycling
DNFMarit Raaijmakers (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
DNFCharlotte Kool (Ned) NXTG Racing
DNFLorena Wiebes (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
DNFNicole Steigenga (Ned) Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport
DNFFemke Markus (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
DNFEsther Van Veen (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg
DNFCeylin del Carmen Alvarado (Ned) Cyclismo Mundial
DNFEvy Kuijpers (Ned) CCC-Liv

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Laura Weislo
Managing Editor

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.

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