Monday September 20, 2021

Van der Breggen heads Dutch armada, eyes double road gold

AFP
July 24, 2021

TOKYO: Two-time world champion Anna van der Breggen will target a back-to-back gold when she takes to the testing course of the women’s road race at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.

The Dutch rider dominated this season’s Giro Rosa, the most prestigious stage race on the women’s cycling calendar, and comes into the race in the Japanese capital as the favourite, although her stiffest competition among the 67-strong field might arguably come from her teammates.

Also donning the orange of the formidable Netherlands team are 2019 world road race champion Annemiek van Vleuten — second to van der Breggen in 2020, 2012 Olympic gold medallist Marianne Vos and in-form Demi Vollering, who has this year won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and La Course by Le Tour de France.

“All the pieces of the puzzle have to come together that day, but we are leaving with one goal: gold and a third consecutive title,” warned Dutch coach Loes Gunnewijk.

In her blog for cyclingnews.com, Van Vleuten, also a two-time winner of the Giro Rosa, said she had been acclimatising to what are expected to be very hot and humid conditions in Japan by training in a sauna in Italy.

“I usually like racing in the heat, so I don’t think it will be a problem for me, but the increased humidity will be one of the challenges of this Olympic Games,” the 38-year-old said.

“I know that everyone is talking about our Olympic team because we have four riders who can win the road race, and it’s cool to be part of a balanced team that is so strong.

“We’re very professional, and we know that we will not ride against each other, and in the end, we also know that we need each other to win. It gives me goosebumps to know that I will be wearing the orange colours of my nation and that I will be a part of this amazing squad.”

Van Vleuten added: “The work is done. Now it’s time to use my legs. I’m mentally ready to suffer during two very big and beautiful events; the road race and the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

Riders will compete for Olympic glory over a demanding 137km course around the iconic Mount Fuji — at 3,776m (12,388ft) above sea level, the highest point in Japan.

A crucial point will be the Kagosaka Pass, the summit of which is located about 40km from the finish.

It promises to give teams a chance to organise a pursuit into the finishing line at the Fuji International Speedway racing circuit.

Looking beyond the Dutch armada, Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini will bid to improve on her bronze medal from the Rio Games.

British hopes will rest with Lizzie Deignan, winner of this year’s Tour de Suisse and the 2015 world road race champion.