Anna van der Breggen: Lorena Wiebes can be more than just a sprinter

The former world champion turned DS believes that Lorena Wiebes and Lotte Kopecky can work well together.

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Anna van der Breggen believes that her new charge at SD Worx, Lorena Wiebes, can be more than just a pure sprinter.

Wiebes has been almost unbeatable in a dash for the line, leading her to take some 23 victories in 2022, including the European champs, two stages of the Tour de France Femmes, and the overall title at the Simac Ladies Tour.

Having seen Wiebes’ attacking ride to hold onto her lead at the Simac Ladies Tour, which she was expected to lose either in the hillier final stages or the time trial, Van der Breggen is sure that the 23-year-old has much more in her toolbox than a sprint.

“If you look to the kind of rider she is, she should be able to do it and she showed it in the Simac. But I think that’s also a big learning curve for her, like ‘where are my limits?’ Climbing is something you need to build experience and if you have in mind that I’m not a good climber, you will never be a good climber,” Van der Breggen told VeloNews. “Mentally you need to take it step-by-step. I think Lotte [Kopecky] is a great example from last year at Strade. She thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do it, but I’m going to try.’ And then she won.

“She thought, ‘how good am I?’ And that’s good for young riders. Lorena is winning so much already, so it’s easy to say, ‘okay, I’m good and I’m going to do it again.’ I think that for her, it would be a limiting factor. She can do more and she also really likes to experience where that limit is. She’s eager to be the best in every kind of racing and that’s really interesting.”

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Wiebes made a surprise move to SD Worx over this winter, despite having time still left on her Team DSM contract. While the team had some fast finishers in 2022, like Lotte Kopecky, Elena Cecchini, and Lonneke Uneken, it didn’t have a pure sprinter that could deliver with the regularity that Wiebes did.

It dictated the way that SD Worx has raced over the years. Van der Breggen believes that the signing of Wiebes could see the team change the way the team approaches race tactics, as well as developing Wiebes as a rider.

“She’s coming into a team with a lot of experience and that, as a rider, is always really interesting. Like, how is a different team doing it and the knowledge we have that she can take,” Van der Breggen said. “We are used to one style of racing. Most of the time, we had to do it because we didn’t have the best sprinter, so you need to have a hard race or you need to attack before the finish and that’s changing a bit now, but it’s still possible.

“We can choose more and hopefully dominate a sprint. That’s a different kind of thinking if we compare that with other years. It’s really nice to have her in the team, she’s great for the team and helping the teammates already.”

Creating a lead out

Signing Wiebes has given the management at SD Worx plenty to think about when it comes to best supporting her. At Team DSM, the Dutch sprinter had a well-oiled leadout train that was developed over several seasons but she’s starting almost from scratch at SD Worx.

Barbara Guarischi was the only new signing for the team that is dedicated to helping out Wiebes, while the rest of her train is going to come from the existing squad. They’ve been practicing over the winter, but it’s going to take time to get it up and running properly.

“I think you always should use the experience that the riders bring in. So, of course, we have Lorena with experience herself, but Barbara also has a lot of experience doing it so many years already. And you need to build that into our team,” Van der Breggen told VeloNews.

“We did a lot of practicing this and also getting information from the girls like how they like it. If it’s going wrong, you do it again and try to do it better. As with everything you do in training, you see it for real in the race. So that’s something they need to find out also. We also need to look at how it’s going and where we can be better. It’s not there from the start. Of course, with the class that Lorena has she can still win races, even without the best leadout train. But it’s something really nice to work on with the team to make it better.”

Last season, Kopecky was the team’s fastest finisher and she would, more often than not, be put up for the sprint option in a flat race. The Belgian has already said that she’s looking forward to Wiebes coming on board as it will free her up to race differently.

Over the season, the team will have to work out how to blend their calendars so that they’re not stepping on each other’s toes. For the most part, they’ll have different race programs, but Van der Breggen believes that the two can work well together in races.

“It always depends on how good you are, how you are feeling, and we have more riders in the team that can win races, so [multiple leaders] is something we already do for years,” she said. “As long as you go well with each other, and you are prepared to fight with your teammate it will never be a problem. Lotte can take a lot of opportunities and have more freedom to go because we have Lorena in the race.

“It’s not like I always want to put them in separate races. They can both win races, but they can also help each other and it’s something we do with the climbers, of course, many times already. But now with sprinting, hopefully, that’s going to make some really attractive racing as well.”

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