The much-needed Anna van der Breggen-thread

Anna van der Breggen, who has just turned 30, has announced her retirement. After the Tokyo Olympics next year, where she will still try to defend her title, she will be a team leader/ coach for Boels Dolmans.

I know close to nothing about women's cycling, but van der Breggen is a rider I really like and I was surprised she did not have her own thread. So here it is, so that we can talk about the remaining months of her career.

It is a little sad that she obviously does not feel the motivation to go on longer as an athlete. I think it says a bit about women's cycling in general, where maybe there is not enough of a reward for your sacrifices.
 
Potentially, but what's also worth noting with Anna is, what is there left for her to win? She's won the Giro twice. She's won the World Championships, the Olympic gold, de Ronde, Omloop, La Course, Strade Bianche, all of the Ardennes classics including a very definitive number of victories to make her the Queen of Huy and the WWT overall. Of the really elite races there's only really the World ITT title that eludes her, and presumably one more go at the Olympic ITT. She's one of those straddling the generations where the WWT was set up, and unlike, say, Longo Borghini and van Vleuten, there isn't as much unfinished business for her.

In quite a lot of endurance sports you find women retiring on average at a younger age, but they often seem to break out at a younger age too. Possibly family concerns play a role in that, and also especially in cycling the smaller field and range of competitions there are to win will be a factor as well. I think it seems more like European riders tend to retire or scale back to part time younger too in the women's péloton, because quite often the women will ride alongside studies and things like that (and sometimes be lost to those studies, like Christiane Söder, who was offered an academic post that paid better than racing, and Eleonora Patuzzo, a climbing talent who beat van der Breggen at the junior Worlds but was retired by 23), so often the North American riders that make it will come over at an older age, having completed their studies etc. in the US/Canada before coming over. Megan Guarnier came over to Europe at 27, for example, and Evelyn Stevens and Katie Hall are both late starters.

As a comparison, Emma Johansson retired at 33, Nicole Cooke at 29, Emma Pooley at 32 (then a comeback a year later), Nicole Brändli at 30 (and then a comeback seven years later (!)), Claudia Lichtenberg at 32 (well, she would have been 33 before the next season started), Mara Abbott at 30 (would have been 31 likewise). A lot of these were riders who had great success from a relatively young age. Several tailed away as their career continued. Pooley is a bit of an outlier there as she was a relatively late bloomer. Anna van der Breggen has been one of the absolute top names in the sport for 8 years now - including two with the much smaller Sengers team. She will be leaving the sport in a much better place than it was when she entered it, and I'm sure all of the puncheuses are thinking "thank Christ" (except maybe Shapiro of course) because now it means that from 2022 onward they have a chance at La Flèche Wallonne.

I'm not going to pretend that somebody with the name value of Anna, one of the few women's cycling names with enough of a universally-recognised palmarès to hold name recognition with casual fans, retiring at a relatively young age is not going to be a bad thing for the sport. Especially as Boels' hegemony seems to be a bit less total than a few years ago and we could have had some great battles. But she's given us some great moments to remember, both in victory and defeat.

And of course, her reign of terror as the Queen of Huy would be all the more impressive if ASO had given us the chance to see it.
 

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