In the Olympic village in Rio de Janeiro, she absorbed all the experiences, now during Tokyo 2020 Anna van der Breggen is in her hotel room playing games. In the run-up, nothing feels the same as five years ago like in the Brazilian metropolis where 'VDB' became the Dutch queen of the Games with gold in the road race and bronze in the time trial.
After years at the top, Van der Breggen knows that you have to adapt to the situation and always keep the focus on your sporting goals. She immediately sees the advantages for the cyclists who are far away from the Olympic village. “The checkpoints are a lot less. As long as you have your accreditation with you, you can walk almost anywhere.”
The fact that she does not really get the Olympic feeling in her last major tournament does not bother her personally. She is especially sorry for her roommate, and teammate at Team SD Worx, Demi Vollering. “Demi is doing her first Olympics and she has never been to the Olympic village. It is a pity for her that she cannot experience that atmosphere. I think we should be especially happy that we are on the cycling track here. We can train freely and can go to the places of the course that we want to explore. In that regard, despite the strict Corona rules, there are relatively less restrictions here.”
Not only in the Olympic village in Tokyo, but also in the large 'cycling hotel' in Gotemba, two cyclists have tested positive for Corona in recent days. The Czech Michal Schlegel and the German Simon Geschke. Yet the corona danger is hardly a topic of conversation with the Dutch team. "If you see how many cyclists are here, those cases are actually surprisingly few," Van der Breggen is realistic. “We adhere closely to the measures. Always wear our mouth masks in the spaces, while we take our food from the buffet with plastic gloves. We try to stay within our group of Team NL as much as possible and make sure that we hardly come close to other riders. We stick to the measures well and you should think about it as little as possible.”
The fact that she will defend her Olympic title on Sunday after five years and the entire sports world is anxiously watching whether the women's competition will be as sensational as in Rio de Janeiro is starting to come to life. “You definitely feel in everyone that they are working to a very important race. You hardly realize how big the Olympics are here. Although I actually had that in Rio de Janeiro. Even then I thought, there isn't that much attention for us here. It was only when I returned to the Netherlands that I realized the impact of a performance on the Olympic Games. If you're not watching news here, you're sitting in a hotel room waiting for a race. That is a bit different.”
The difficulty of the course is difficult to estimatie, for the best cyclist of the moment. Usually Van der Breggen can outline what will happen reasonably well in advance, but this time she finds it very difficult at the foot of Mount Fuji. “That's because we rarely race in these conditions of extreme heat and humidity. It is also a separate route. In the run-up it is not really a 'climb-climb', but is it actually a tens of kilometers long route where it goes up, but there are also short descents and many corners. That can be grueling, on the other hand maybe many girls can handle this. In the final we have the circuit with short steep climbs that also remind me somewhat of the Ardennes classics.”
Two-time world champion Van der Breggen herself likes a tough race in which she can make a difference. “That would be good for the entire Dutch team. Annemiek, Demi and Marianne can handle that too. Most other countries have girls who get into trouble on longer climbs. We really have to try to get off some fast riders. That could make a huge difference. I hope this is possible.”
Five years ago in Rio de Janeiro there was a clear task for wo riders (Marianne Vos and Ellen van Dijk) who would ride in a serving role for Van der Breggen and Van Vleuten. With four champions smelling winning chances in Tokyo, it won't get any easier to plot a winning plan."
“It is a fair conclusion that all four of us have chances on this course. Now you have two riders who have to make it a hard course and two riders with a sprint as a weapon who also do well on the 'punchy' climbs. We must take advantage of each other. With the four girls we have here it will be a very interesting race.”
Photo credits: Getty Sport