Anna van der Breggen spreads her arms wide as she wins atop the Mur de Huy

Anna van der Breggen will return to the peloton in 2025

It looks like SD Worx-Protime found a GC rider they think can rival the departing Demi Vollering.

Van der Breggen won seven La Fleche Wallonne editions in a row, the final one in 2021.

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 20.06.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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On Wednesday SD Worx-Protime mysteriously scheduled an in-person-only press conference to announce some “spectacular and surprising” news. Internet speculation ran wild. Were they about to announce that, after everything, Demi Vollering would remain in the Dutch team? Rumours of their star GC rider leaving have been circulating since the Spring Classics, but with signs pointing to Vollering joining FDJ-Suez next year, SD Worx-Protime will need another top-notch climber when she departs.

It seems they already have one, someone who spent the last two years in the caravan instead of the peloton: Anna van der Breggen. At the Thursday press conference held in Apeldoorn, Van der Breggen confirmed a report earlier in the day by NOS and announced her return to professional road racing with SD Worx-Protime in 2025.

“The motivation is great to get back on the bike after three years,” the multi-time world champion and Giro d’Italia overall winner said at the press conference. Van der Breggen said she stepped away from racing after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics because “I had been doing the same thing for years and felt I was tired. I was able to win a lot but physically and mentally it also takes a lot out of you. After a three-year period where I looked at cycling from a different angle, I feel that the motivation and will to cycle is completely back.”

The 34-year-old retired from the peloton and stepped straight into an assistant director role at her former team at the end of the 2021 season. In her time racing, she amassed a laundry list of impressive results including Olympic Gold at the Rio de Janeiro road race, two road World Championships, four Giri d’Italia, seven La Flèche Wallonnes (in a row), and more. She left the sport at the height of her career but before the introduction of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in 2022.

Van der Breggen sprays champagne while wearing the pink leader's jersey of the Giro Donne
Van der Breggen won the Giro Donne in her final year of racing.

Van der Breggen seemed to enjoy her adjustment to DS for her former teammates, one of whom was her protégé in her final season. Vollering and Van der Breggen in 2021 made a formidable pair. The two were the talk of the Spring Classics, where Vollering supported Van der Breggen in her bid for a seventh La Flèche Wallonne and a week later Van der Breggen rode a 10 km leadout for Vollering to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Van der Breggen was in the car when Vollering won the Tour de France in 2023, and even worked as Vollering’s coach in the build-up to the victory.

Recently Van der Breggen was seen racing the Traka in Girona, a gravel race. She was, in theory, there to support Geerike Schreurs who raced the 360 km distance the day before, but also kitted up for the 100 km race. She ended up coming second behind her own SD Worx-Protime rider Marie Schrieber. Clearly, the race fitness wasn’t hung up with the bike in 2021.

Van der Breggen drives the team car alongside Vollering on her bike
Van der Breggen directing Vollering during La Vuelta 2023.

The transfer market on the women’s side has been, in a word, bonkers this year. With most of the top riders out of contract and the price of said riders on a steep incline, teams have been scrambling to assemble their 2025 squads as early as February. SD Worx-Protime has already announced the re-signing of the current world champion Lotte Kopecky, sprinting sensation Lorena Wiebes, and European champion Mischa Bredewold, but early on it was clear they would lose their GC star. After a relatively quiet start in the Classics, Vollering has been dominant in stage racing, winning La Vuelta Femenina, Itzulia Women, Vuelta a Burgos, and just recently the Tour de Suisse.

If you’re SD Worx-Protime looking around the peloton trying to decide who will be able to rival Vollering next year when she is no longer in your colours, where better to look than the former rider who has already proved her ability to take stage races by storm?

Marlen Ruesser pats van der Breggen on the back after Worlds in Leuven in 2021.
Marlen Ruesser, soon to be member of Van der Breggen’s team, pats the former world champion on the back after Worlds in Leuven in 2021.

With the news that Van der Breggen will return to the peloton in 2025, the season is looking even more unhinged than it was a week ago when news broke of Riejanne Markus leaving Visma-Lease a Bike for Lidl-Trek and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot coming back to the road with the Dutch team. Shortly before that, we got the news that Elisa Longo Borghini would leave Lidl-Trek for UAE Team ADQ. Every transfer story throws the 2025 season further into the unknown, and this latest bit has the impact and subtlety of a meteor hitting the ground.

But similar to Ferrand-Prévot’s return, by the time Van der Breggen lines up again, she will have been away from the peloton for three years – years in which the sport has evolved rapidly. Of the “old guard,” the riders of Van der Breggen’s era, few have been able to keep up with the new landscape. But unlike Ferrand-Prévot, Van der Breggen has been within touching distance of the sport she left behind. She was a determining factor in Vollering’s success last year, and there is no reason she can’t challenge her (soon-to-be former) rider in the coming year.

“My mindset will be different,” Van der Breggen said. “I will be less focused on wins in certain races or on having clear goals. For me it is no longer so much about ticking off races or victories, but more about enjoying the sport and the competition.” Whether that means a run at the Tour de France Femmes or some other objective is yet to be seen, but Van der Breggen’s return is just the latest news that points to a monumental shift coming in women’s cycling.

Bring on 2025. It’s going to be wild.

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