May 12, 2023
The former multiple world and Olympic champion argues that the peloton has turned to desperate measures to beat SD Worx
When Anna van der Breggen retired after the 2021 season, her compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten may have expected that to be the end of the long-time rivalry between the two riders which has formed a key part of the narrative in the women’s peloton over the last decade. However, with Van der Breggen quickly settling into a sports director role with SD Worx after retirement, she still remains a key part of the set-up in the world number one Dutch team, meaning competition with Van Vleuten has continued, albeit in a different way.
Van der Breggen’s influence on SD Worx can be seen clearly in the performances of the rider who many would call her successor, Demi Vollering. When Vollering took victory in La Flèche Wallonne earlier this season, for example, she did so with exactly the same style and class that Van der Breggen exhibited when she won the race seven times during her career. From the point she began her effort on the Mur de Huy with metronomic pedalling style and perfected timing, it was clear that she had taken instruction and inspiration from the performances of her sports director. Van der Breggen is now also Vollering’s coach, meaning that the two Dutch women know each other extremely well.
And just like Van der Breggen was in her career, Vollering has now become a key obstacle between Movistar’s Van Vleuten and race victories. The world champion was unable to respond to the dominance of Vollering and SD Worx during the cobbled and Ardennes Classics, and at the first major stage race of the season, this trend looked to be continuing. On the first key mountain stage of the race which saw the riders climb up to the Mirador de Peñas Llanas, Vollering confidently outsprinted Van Vleuten and won the stage, looking quite clearly like the stronger of the two riders.
However, things turned upside down for Vollering the following day, when what should have been a simple stage for the SD Worx rider saw the red leader’s jersey change hands after she was distanced in a crosswind section. Afterwards, it transpired that Vollering had stopped for a nature break and she argued that the likes of Movistar decided to ride hard on the front of the bunch while knowing she was stopping by…
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