When one thinks of La Flèche Wallonne, one thinks of Anna van der Breggen. No less than seven times in a row, she managed to win on the Muur of Huy. It makes her the perfect candidate to lead the Team SD Worx riders as Sport Director. The multiple winner now wants to guide her riders to victory in the race that has brought her so much success.
“The Muur van Huy doesn’t lie. It is the ultimate suffer festival and it is important to know your body perfectly,” explained Anna van der Breggen.
No one has succeeded in defeating Anna van der Breggen since she won Flèche Wallonne for the first time in 2015. “The first time is always special, so that remains one of my most beautiful victories. But at the same time, that favourites role was tough at times. At one point I could only lose. That gives pressure. So now and then there were doubts: will I succeed again this year? And time after time I succeeded. That always gave an enormous boost for the rest of the season.”
Despite the pressure, Van der Breggen remains wedded to the race. “I never had a love-hate relationship with it. Also because I never lost there. This race was written on my body. After all, it is more than just the Muur of Huy. The succession of climbs makes it tough. Recuperating in between is impossible. I got better and better at dealing with the pressure. Experience taught me that I could win, even when the feeling in the race was not super.”
After her win in the Amstel Gold Race, Demi Vollering is one of the top favourites for La Flèche Wallonne. “I find it hard to say whether Demi can win the Flèche. I think there’s a possibility. It’s a combination of feeling your body very well and pacing the final climb perfectly so you don’t collapse. After all, you not only have to judge how fast you should start the climb, but also whether you will go with them when someone attacks. In fact, it is the ultimate suffer festival. You are completely acidified and you know you have to attack to win. That’s what makes it so tough to win Flèche Wallonne.”
Anna’s experience helps in her role as sport director to prepare the course for Team SD Worx. “Advice comes across better anyway when you have won a race several times,” she laughed. “When you really believe someone can win and you explain how to do it, it makes a difference. Once the girls are well positioned and they start the Muur of Huy, there’s nothing more I can do for them. I struggled with that in my first year as a sport director. As a rider it starts then, but from the car you can only encourage then. The rider who is very strong conditionally, makes the right decisions tactically and schedules the climb well physically will triumph on the Muur of Huy.”