Lorena Wiebes hugs Chantal van den Broek-Blaak after she won nationals

Wheel Talk Newsletter: New jersey, get used to it!

And I'm still not over Anna van der Breggen returning to the peloton.

We are all Lorena Wiebes when Chantal van den Broek-Blaak won nationals this weekend

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 25.06.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos and Kristof Ramon
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Good day and thank you for opening this week’s Wheel Talk Newsletter! Some exciting and notable racing over the weekend saw a handful of riders swap out their jerseys for the rest of the season, while some will not be forced to clear out their closets. On the Wheel Talk podcast, you can hear a very special voice this week. And … I don’t think I missed any big news. Did anyone hear anything last week? It seemed oddly quiet …

Anna freaking van der Breggen!

In what might be the most surprising (but is it really?) “transfer”/2025 news of the year (which is really saying a lot) the absolute legend that is Anna van der Breggen will return to the women’s peloton in 2025. After three seasons in the car for her old team SD Worx-Protime the former world champion will pull on a team kit yet again to line up alongside the rest of the top women in cycling next year.

I wrote a whole story on the news when it dropped but I’m not over it, and you shouldn’t be either. Members of SD Worx-Protime said after the announcement that Van der Breggen still regularly drops them on training and pre-race rides.

Van der Breggen herself has been cagey about exactly what her goals are upon returning to racing. In the press conference announcing her return, she said she wasn’t focused on specific races but I don’t buy that for a second; an athlete of Van der Breggen’s mindset would be hard-pressed not to walk into the season, especially after three years off, with lofty goals.

There are three major questions circling Van der Breggen’s return. First: can she return to the level the peloton is now? It’s no secret the level has risen in the past three years since she hung up her bike. If she’s dropping SD Worx-Protime riders like Lotte Kopecky in training, well I’d like to see a video of that, but also it indicates she can return to the highest level. Let us not forget she was coaching Demi Vollering last season when the Dutchwoman won the Tour de France Femmes.

Demi Vollering pours cold water down Van der Breggen's back as they wait under an umbrella to start racing in Tokyo.
Demi Vollering and Anna van der Breggen wait to start the Olympic road race in Tokyo in 2021.

And that brings up to the second question: Vollering. How far in advance did Vollering know about Van der Breggen’s return and how big of an impact did it have on her leaving SD Worx-Protime? In the past, the two have been close but both Vollering’s move away from the Dutch team and Van der Breggen’s return can’t have been good for the working relationship. Vollering wouldn’t have wanted to compete with her old mentor for leadership and her move away from the team that truly brought her through the ranks makes a heck of a lot more sense now. Or, did Van der Breggen only make the final call to return when SD Worx-Protime was struggling to find a replacement for Vollering? We are almost certain the reigning Tour champion is joining FDJ-Suez next year, along with a couple of other current GC contenders, so did Van der Breggen see a gap and decide to fill it herself?

And the final question I have seen floating around: what will Van der Breggen’s comeback mean for Lotte Kopecky? I can pretty confidently say only good things. Look, I don’t think Kopecky is going to be winning the Giro d’Italia Women’s or the Vuelta España Femenina any time soon. The Tour, maybe, and that’s a very stretched-out maybe. Her performance at the UAE Tour was incredible, I will not deny, but when it comes to the longer stage races and especially the stage races with repeat climbing stages like this year’s Vuelta, Kopecky would have to truly transform herself as a rider.

Vollering, Kopecky and Van der Breggen sit on stage at a team presentation
Vollering, Kopecky and Van der Breggen at the SD Worx-Protime team presentation, 2024.

Even if she can become a climber to rival Vollering, Kopecky can only benefit from having someone with Van der Breggen’s knowledge and skills as a teammate. We’ve seen so often teams have multiple leaders and everything always shakes out in the wash. Very rarely does a team of two leaders, on the women’s side, come to blows. If it does turn out that Kopecky is riding for a real chance at a yellow jersey, you best believe Van der Breggen will be in front of her pacing her on the climb, and vice versa. The notion that Van der Breggen’s return will, in some way, take away from Kopecky is just not it.

So while I did already write the basic news of this story, there is so much still to consider and so many questions we will not have answered until next year. We discussed it at length on the podcast this week, and I’m sure it will not be the last time it comes up.

Racing continues…

At LOTTO Thüringen Ladies Tour!

It’s not a WT race but the 2.Pro event has traditionally attracted a lot of top teams and this year is no exception. SD Worx-Protime (who won all six stages last year with six different riders) will be present along with 10 other WorldTeams. Lidl-Trek, UAE Team ADQ, Fenix-Deceuninck, Canyon-SRAM, Roland, AG Insurance-Soudal, Human Powered Health, Uno-X Mobility, and Ceratizit-WNT. Only four WT teams are missing, one of them being Liv AlUla Jayco, who is sending their Continental development team instead.

The race starts on Tuesday the 25th of June and takes place over five road stages and one (team?) time trial.

The Course

I’m not going to do a full breakdown of the race but here is some basic information about the stages, all of which are big loops starting and finishing in the same town.

Stage 1: Tuesday, June 25 – Jena (118.5 km)

There were two official QOMs, the second of which tops out 18.5 km from the finish, but there were a handful of noncategorized climbs thrown in making the stage a very challenging one. In total, the women climbed 1,633 m.

The stage was won by Margot Vanpachtenbeke of VolkerWessels from a two-woman move that finished with two and a half minutes on the chasing peloton. Vanpachtenbeke outsprinted Ruth Edwards of Human Powered Health to take the stage, with Linda Riedmann (German National Team) taking third from the bunch behind.

Stage 2: Wednesday, June 26 – Gera (119.2 km)

There are fewer “long” climbs during the second stage, but it still has 1,654 m of elevation gain. The whole day will be up and down and up and down, zapping the legs before a final downhill run to the line. There are, again, two official QOMs.

Stage 3: Thursday, June 27 – Erfurt (144.5 km)

The third stage is another slightly hilly one, but far less than the two before it. With a flat run to the line, it looks like one for a reduced bunch sprint.

Stage 4: Friday, June 28 – Mülhausen (111.4 km)

The fourth stage is two circuits of the same course containing two official QOMs. The stage starts climbing from the word go and the first categorized climb lasts 6.8 km with an average of 3.4% and a max of 8.6%. The next climb is a two-parter, with two ascents back-to-back. The first is 3.2 km with grades of 7.4% and the second is 3 km with an average of 5.8% and a maximum of 10.8%.

With two laps of the three climbs it will be an exhausting day, and one where the general classification will see significant shakeups.

Stage 5: Saturday, June 29 – Altenburg (31.5 km)

There is a lot of conflicting information about the fifth stage, with some websites claiming it’s a TTT and some an individual time trial. Last year the opening stage was a TTT, so maybe that’s right? VeloViewer says ITT, and they are usually pretty good. The actual race website has limited information, without even a note that it’s a time trial of any kind (the distance is the tell).

It’s a hilly-ish course, definitely not pan-flat, which will make things interesting. Not super technical with only a few twists through small towns outside of Altenburg. All the climbing on the course is around 2-4%, nothing crazy.

Stage 6: Sunday, June 30 – Schmalkalden (105.4 km)

The final stage has only one big climb that starts 17 km into the stage and tops out 8 km later. From there it’s basically flat to the finish.

Brodie Chapman leads Sarah Gigante and Karlijn Swinkels in a breakaway
Brodie Chapman, Sarah Gigante and Karlijn Swinkels on the attack at Vuelta a Burgos.


SD Worx-Protime: Mischa Bredewold, Marie Schreiber
Lidl-Trek: Shirin van Anrooij, Brodie Chapman, Lizzie Deignan
UAE Team ADQ: Karlijn Swinkels
Fenix-Deceuninck: Christina Schweinberger, Flora Perkins
Canyon-SRAM: Kasia Niewiadoma
AG Insurance-Soudal: Sarah Gigante, Anya Louw
Human Powered Health: Ruth Edwards
Uno-X Mobility: Simone Boilard, Maria Guilia Confalonieri, Anniina Ahtosalo
Ceratizit-WNT: Marta Lach
EF Education-Cannondale: Mirre Knaven (new transfer from AG Insurance-Soudal)

The full start list can be found on FirstCycling here.

Wheel Talk Podcast

This is a very special week because this week we have TILDA PRICE!!!! back on the podcast! Tilda joined Loren and I to chat about National Championships upsets, Van der Breggen’s return, and more.

Obsessions: Tilda – ice cream!, Abby – Lord of the Rings (movies), Loren – is still obsessed with her upcoming bike-packing trip with IRIS and Kamoot.

A reminder that the Wheel Talk Podcast can now only be found on it’s own solo feed (unless you are a member! Members still have an “everything” feed of all Escape Collective podcasts). So if you missed this week’s episode, you can search for “Wheel Talk Podcast” everywhere podcasts are found. Look for my face with a green backdrop and hit subscribe to get all the episodes as they release.

Let’s Discuss

The top 6 biggest National Championship upsets.

Over the weekend Kit Nicholson wrote a great review of the National titles won (or lost) over the weekend, so make sure you catch that. But I wanted to run through what were, in my opinion, some of the biggest upsets.

6. Franziska Koch bests defending German champ Liane Lippert in two up sprint (Antonia Niedermaier was a close third).

5. Usoa Ostolaza, recent winner of Tour Féminin des Pyrénées, and teammate Iurani Blanco go 1-2 ahead of defending champion Mavi García in Spain. Blanco had been off the front with Ostolaza in a chasing group. The two were able to crack García on the final climb to the finish.

4. Urska Zigart wins in Slovenia by almost 11 minutes (!).

3. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak wins in the Netherlands after 6 km solo. She had been away with Yara Kastelijn but dropped the Fenix-Deceuninck rider and rode alone to the line. SD Worx-Protime teammate Mischa Bredewold finished second and Nina Kessler (EF Education-Cannondale) third.

Van den Broek-Blaak’s was an especially emotional victory, her first since taking a season off to give birth to her daughter.

2. Reusser is out, Noemi Rüegg is in in Switzerland. The defending champion did not line up over the weekend and Rüegg won ahead of Human Powered Health’s Linda Zanetti and the remainder of a group of eight.

And finally…

1 . Marie Schreiber unseated Christine Majerus after 14 YEARS in the Luxembourg national champion’s jersey. And in her final season! Majerus finished second just a second behind her teammate, and on Instagram, she said her sprint wasn’t good enough on the day. When she next lines up it will be the first time Majerus has raced in her standard trade team kit, outside of the nationals, since she rode for ESGL 93-GSD Gestion in 2010. At least the jersey stayed within the team. (And, Majerus won the time trial title to keep alive a stunning 18-year streak of national titles in that discipline.)

Honourable mention to Olivia Baril for winning Canadian nationals. Favour might skew towards our Canadian dancing Queen and last year’s champion Alison Jackson, but Baril has been riding really well this season and had a fantastic time trial earlier in the week to come second to Paula Findlay. All around her nationals were an impressive one.

Some things remain the same: Lotte Kopecky, Elisa Longo Borghini and Pfeiffer Georgi remain the Belgian, Italian and British champs. At least we don’t have to get used to Longo Bongo in a new kit until next year. Both Kopecky and Longo Borghini won after impressive long solo moves. When Longo Borghini crossed the line the remainder of the peloton was in sight, but Kopecky’s victory was dominant. The world champ was solo for a loooong time and won by almost three and a half minutes.

Some new jerseys will already be winging their way to their wearers for Thüringen this week, others will have to wait for the Giro d’Italia, coming soon.

A picture worth a couple of words

In this four-person podium shot, one definitely stole the show.

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak holds her daughter Noa on the podium of the Dutch nationals
Chantal van den Broek-Blaak holds her daughter Noa on the podium of the Dutch nationals alongside Mischa Bredewold and Nina Kessler.

Taylor Swift

It is time.

My trip to the Eras Tour is mere days away.

When I say I stressed over what to wear, you may laugh, but it’s a really big deal. People go all out. People spend literally months putting together costumes for the show.

In the end, I went with a reference Swift makes in two songs to one of my favourite stories growing up: Peter Pan. The 2003 live-action film was a repeat watch in the Mickey house and Wendy’s post-Neverland fit is where I pulled inspiration.

I also went with this because Swift’s newer song Peter holds one of my favourite lyrics … ever. And seriously, who actually wants to grow up???

“And I won’t confess that I waited
But I let the lamp burn
As the men masqueraded
I hoped you’d return
With your feet on the ground
Tell me all that you’d learned
Cause love’s never lost when perspective is earned”

See you on the other side!

Until next time!

Finally, the second biggest shock of last week was Grace Brown announcing that 2024 would be her final year in the peloton. Only 31-year-old Brown has accomplished more in her eight-year career than many do in double the time. Her most recent victory was Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Brown has also won Classic Brugge-De Panne with a gutsy solo move, the Tour Down Under overall just last year, and four Australian ITT titles. She has finished second in the World Championships ITT twice, in 2022 and 2023, and is a favourite for the Paris time trial.

In her emotional video Brown stated that she missed her family and life in Australia and over the years it was getting harder and harder to leave it behind, a feeling every rider from not-Europe will be able to relate to.

Her long-time team manager at FDJ-Suez Stephen Delcourt shared a heartfelt message on Twitter shortly after Brown’s news.

“Tonight, with a mix of emotion and gratitude, we announce the upcoming retirement of our unparalleled leader, Grace Brown, at the end of this season. Grace is not just a leader at FDJ-Suez, but an exceptional woman whose strength and vision have greatly contributed to our success.

Personally, what an incredible privilege it has been to have Grace by our side. Her commitment and innovative spirit have been an inspiration every day. As we approach this final chapter together, I am committed to living each moment to the fullest, cherishing every project, and every success with her. Grace, thank you for elevating FDJ-Suez to new heights.

Your legacy will endure long after you have left.”

Brown’s panache will be missed in the peloton but her decision to walk away to be with her loved ones is commendable; not every rider gets to leave the sport on their own terms. Until then, we will all be cheering on Brown at the Olympics and for the remainder of the season.

Brown after her career-best victory.

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Wheel Talk Newsletter. When I return next week we will be in the final countdown to the Giro and I have some fun coverage planned for the “Grand Tour”. It’s going to be a great fight in Italy, with the Olympics on the horizon and the Tour still to come, the Giro will keep the conversation going. It will also be the first stage race SD Worx-Protime can’t obliterate…right?

If you have any questions or topics to discuss with me, you can find me on Discord on the Wheel Talk channel.

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