"If riders cannot do a pee stop anymore, then cycling is going to be difficult" - Anna van der Breggen critical of Movistar's Vuelta Femenina tactics

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. Van der Breggen is now also Vollering’s coach, meaning that the two Dutch women know each other extremely well.

On the first key mountain stage of La Vuelta Femenina, 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 the side of the road.

“When you pee and they start the echelon, it's not the most sporting thing to do,” Van der Breggen said after the race. “I think if you look now at the win of Annemiek, you know, actually it's because of that. I think it's not her best victory, but anyway, we tried what we did today to still beat the girls and have the general and Demi came really close.”

She added that pee stops are an inevitable part of the sport and riders should not be made to feel afraid if they need to stop for this reason. “In the end, if nothing had happened yesterday then Demi would have won the general classification. It's a bit of a pity the reason why she is losing it. If riders cannot do a pee stop anymore, then cycling is going to be difficult. But after the spring we had, it's normal that they are really trying to beat us in every way, and that’s what they did,” Van der Breggen said.

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