Van der Breggen's time trial gold fills the only gap in a glittering career

With gold in the 2020 UCI Road World Championships Women Elite individual time trial, the Netherlands’ Anna van der Breggen has achieved the only honour missing from her incredibly sparkling palmares. The recent winner of the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile had already planned to retire at the end of the 2021 season and with this gold medal she stands out in cycling history with victories that also span from the Classics to the Grand Tours, to the European Championships and the Olympic Games.

Switzerland's Marlen Reusser - who last year represented the UCI World Cycling Centre on its women's WCC Team - , was second and the other Dutch rider Ellen van Dijk third. Defending champion Chloé Dygert crashed after setting the best intermediate time. “Getting second for many years, I cannot really believe it yet. I said to my director ‘Don’t tell me split times, I just want to go as fast as possible to the finish line’,” Van der Breggen said just after becoming the new UCI World Champion.

The 51 riders from 39 countries competed in the 2020 UCI ITT World Championship race on a fast and flat 31.7km course around Imola. Compared to last year's hilly route, the 2020 edition has been a challenge between specialists against the clock. The course is the same for the Elite Men’s race on Friday 25th, starting and ending in the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, without any significant climbing – just 200 metres. The first part is very fast reaching Casalfiumanese and then Borgo Tossignano. After the only intermediate split time at 14.9km and passing through Codrignano, the riders faced a slightly more technical road and two short ascents before returning to the Autodrome, where, in 1968, Keetie van Oosten-Hage won the first of her two UCI World titles.

Fast-forward 52 years and one of the youngest athletes taking part in today’s race, the 20-year-old track specialist and double 2020 national Barbados champion (road and time trial) Amber Joseph was the first to start at 14h40. She was followed one minute and 30 seconds later by one of the oldest competitors, 42-year-old Margret Palsdottir from Iceland. The oldest participant was the two time ITT UCI World Champion (2008 and 2016) Amber Neben from the USA, at 45 years old.

The day’s big unknown was the form of the defending champion Chloé Dygert, who was the last to start. The American, who doesn’t compete in the UCI Women's WorldTour road racing circuit, became ITT UCI World Champion last year at her first attempt – and today was her first official race after competitive cycling’s restart. “It'll be interesting to see if Worlds can be won without any racing in my legs, but I'm grateful for the opportunity,” she said on the eve of the race. She certainly rode with no lack of pace.

One of the favourites was 2020 European Champion in the speciality and Giro Rosa winner Anna van der Breggen from the Netherlands – four times ITT silver medalist in the UCI World Championships in 2015, 2017, 2018 and last year in Yorkshire, with a 1’32’’ deficit behind Dygert. The strong Dutch national team could count also on Ellen van Dijk, who won the 2013 edition, today taking the place of injured Annemiek van Vleuten. Germany counted on Lisa Brennauer who won gold in 2014 and another strong specialist Lisa Klein, while Switzerland's Marlen Reusser was third behind Van der Breggen and Van Dijk, at the European Championships. Canada brought two powerful specialists in Leah Kirchmann and Karol-Ann Canuel, with other outsiders including Great Britain’s Lizzy Banks and Italian Victoria Bussi, the former UCI Hour Record holder.

After the first hour, Emma Cecilie Norsgaard Jorgensen from Denmark had the best time with 41'42'' at an average of 45.607km/h, 9” quicker than Germany's Mieke Kroger and Audrey Cordon Ragot from France at 31”. All the favourites started their ITT in the final minutes with the defending champion Dygert who was the last to enter the course at 15.55, just after Van der Breggen.

Australian Grace Brown stopped the clock on 41’21’’ (45.991km/h average) becoming the new leader some minutes before Dygert destroyed the best time at the intermediate split time, establishing a 26-second lead over Reusser and 36 seconds over Van der Breggen. Unfortunately, the American fell shortly afterwards, managing to restart, but losing the chance to defend her rainbow jersey. Ellen van Dijk was the leader with 40’51’’ for a short time, then Reusser with 40’35’’ and ultimately Van der Breggen was best with 40’20’’.