One, Chantal Blaak, was extremely critical, the other, Demi Vollering, personally problematic. And there was also Annemiek van Vleuten at the Road World Championships on Saturday, who was completely furious about the team tactics of the Netherlands during the road race through Leuven. The team was in pieces, just like it was in the game.
For the second time in two months the Dutch women lost an important country match. First there was the serious miscalculation at the Olympic Games, when the riders did not realize due to miscommunication that the Austrian Anna Kiefenhofer was still leading and Van Vleuten cheered because she thought she had won. Ellen van Dijk did win the European Championship in Trento, but on Saturday there was the lost sprint of Marianne Vos in Leuven. She came second, behind the Italian sprinter Elisa Balsamo, in a race that should have been won in view of the superiority of the Dutch women throughout the year.
It was a bike length difference from Vos had won the sprint. But that didn’t happen, and so the negative emotions screamed through the Dutch team. Started earlier, Chantal Blaak said. Finish better, said Ellen van Dijk. Both were right.
Because the women’s road race was a long one on Saturday, in which the participants who drove against the Netherlands also wondered why the orange team did not start attacking and attacking much earlier. Only 56 kilometers before the finish there was action for the first time, but that had certainly been the toughest Flemish hills.
No one came to attack, but drove away. It seemed as if the team was divided into loners, who rode for their own chance. But it turned out, Van Dijk said afterwards. Until the last time the Wijnpers, the hill in the center of Leuven five kilometers before the finish, was allowed to be attacked. Also to make the race hard, to drive away alone or in the other case to solve the removal for Vos. Van Vleuten and Van Dijk are the most. Van Dijk was initially in the lead with a small calculation in the last kilometers, but did not continue: she knew she was not going to win.
It includes a final scenario in which the Italian women could form a sprint train with four in the last kilometer, and the Dutch riders could not form a block around the woman Vos. Vos herself had to close one, and in the sprint she just overtook Balsamo’s rear wheel. Afterwards she shrugged, as she let her emotions go. The disappointment was enormous.
When she had to pay her tribute with a straight face, the teammates ran empty. Van Vleuten first put her bike neatly against the fence and then indicated that she did not respond to the tactics. But the poison hangs from her words. “I’m someone who can go to sleep and not think ‘if only I’.” Who couldn’t sleep like that, was the question. She didn’t want to answer that. “This could have been much better.”
Ellen van Dijk did not think it was a lackluster race. “The fact that we attacked late has not changed the course of the race. But in the final sprint, we really missed a beat. We are not well formed there, there are missing riders. And that’s because of the attack. Annemiek and I couldn’t do that together.”
Demi Vollering fully aware of the other teammates as a feeling. “I couldn’t help the other girls,” she said in tears, having first told about the bad luck that haunted her throughout the match. “I don’t think they’re happy with me. She didn’t look at me after the finish.”
The only one not too concerned was Anna van der Breggen, who had enjoyed her last professional game ever. She had been removed early, as she’d expected, and had especially enjoyed the kind words that yelled at her in the last twenty miles. It didn’t matter to her personally that the match had ended in misery for the Netherlands. “Although I find it a nuisance for Marianne of course. You don’t get as much as possible on a title now.”
The confirmation of the gold medal went wrong: Vos himself. Perhaps the last kilometer had indeed led to a bad lead. But on the other hand, they managed to release some of the sprinters well and the small gap they had to close on the Italian women was not when they sprinted. “The plan was to make the game tough. And I was where I should be.”
But she didn’t win. And that was another big loss for the Dutch squad, which will be won. And with riders for whom a second place also feels like a defeat. Especially if it goes wrong for the second time in a short time.
For Anna van der Breggen there was always more: “It was cycling, not life”
Cyclist Anna van der Breggen (31) won practically everything there is to win. On Saturday she will step up for the very last time at the World Cup. Her sister-in-law Marinde, a journalist for Trouw, among others, experiences her up close and is now writing about it. ‘Self-aggrandizement, that’s a dirty word for a Van der Breggen.’