They are both “only” 30 years old, but Anna van der Breggen and Chantal Blaak revealed their retirement plans yesterday. The Dutch cycling women, world leaders in their field, want to “make time for other things”, Marijn de Vries estimates. “In this sport they have experienced everything they can experience.”
Anna van der Breggen will defend her Olympic title in Tokyo next year, but will then wave goodbye. Chantal Blaak will add the spring of 2022, but it has been enough for her after that too. Did that message arrive in the Netherlands yesterday as a surprise?
“I saw that many people were surprised, but I fully expected this,” says ex-rider and journalist Marijn de Vries. “I certainly took full account of it.”
“Anna and Chantal are both recently married and may be thinking of starting a family. Moreover, they have experienced everything they could experience in cycling.”
“I interviewed Anna a while ago. She told me how she no longer feels the intrinsic motivation. The sacred fire no longer burns so intensely. That makes sense if you have won almost everything.”
“And I was a teammate of Chantal for 3 years. She also went through everything. At some point you want to make time for other things.”
“As a man it is easier to continue racing with a family”
The desire for a family therefore seems to have contributed to the decision of the Dutch duo. “My feeling is that it is easier for a man to keep racing if you have a family,” explains Marijn de Vries.
“If you have to choose between becoming a mother in your thirties and then returning to the highest level or saying that it was beautiful, then I know.”
“A pro rider could choose her courses as a mom, but I can imagine that you will look up to that. The way back is long. You can reach that level again, but you have to feel the intrinsic motivation.”
|Anna van der Breggen||Chantal Blaak|
|2016 Olympics||world championship 2017|
|world championship 2018||Ghent-Wevelgem 2016|
|Giro Rosa 2015, 2017||Amstel Gold Race 2018|
|Tour of Flanders 2018||Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2019|
|Liège-Bastogne-Liège 2017, 2018|
|Walloon Arrow 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019|
“Van Vleuten? She definitely still wants gold at the Games”
This year, Paris-Roubaix for women will be organized for the first time, organizer ASO is increasingly thinking about a fully-fledged Tour de France for women from 2022. Are these new challenges coming too late for Van der Breggen and Blaak? Has their sport grown too slowly?
“No, I would certainly not say that,” responds Marijn de Vries. “They have both experienced all developments in this sport. The emergence of the women’s versions of great classics, La Course, the increased media attention, …”
“The evolution in women’s cycling is quite fast, you know. Anna and Chantal have seen their sport grow and there have been enough nice challenges. It has more to do with their careers and personal situations.”
That relationship seems to be different with Annemiek van Vleuten, who at the age of 37 still radiates hunger and eagerness.
“Winning gold at the Olympics, that remains her main goal. Anna has already achieved that in Rio. But I am also curious whether Annemiek will continue after Tokyo. And the personal situation is just a little less important for her.”
Anna van der Breggen becomes Olympic champion in Rio.
“New generation is ready to take over the baton”
Tokyo 2021: Annemiek van Vleuten wants to brush away the blind spot, Anna van der Breggen wants to shine again and Marianne Vos will also have healthy ambitions. “It is attacking from kilometer 0. Who is gone is gone”, laughs Marijn de Vries.
The figureheads of Dutch cycling announce their farewell and are not getting any younger. Are we waving a strong generation soon?
“After almost every Games you have greats that stop. Everyone always thinks there will be a gap, but there are always new riders who fill that gap.”
“There will be a generational change, but Lorena Wiebes, Demi Vollering and Lonneke Uneken, among others, are already eager. They are ready to take over the baton. So I fear – also for Belgium – that a very good generation is ready” , chuckles De Vries. “The Netherlands will remain dominant.”
There will be a generational change, but Lorena Wiebes, Demi Vollering and Lonneke Uneken are already eager. They are ready to take over the baton.
“They become team leaders and I am very excited about that”
After their professional careers, Anna van der Breggen and Chantal Blaak opt for a seat in the support vehicle of their current team Boels-Dolmans, which will become SD Worx Cycling Team.
Marijn de Vries: “I thought that was very good news, because until now such a thing was not obvious. This is a break in the trend and is a very good development. I was very excited, because as a woman in the trailer you can still empathize just a little better. “
In 2022 Van der Breggen and Blaak may be able to accompany their teammates in the very first Tour. “Paris-Roubaix is a first nice step. If that course really comes during this crisis period, then I already have a bit more confidence in the plans for the Tour. First see and then believe, because ASO has disappointed us before.”