Final preparations for road season were unconventional for Anna van der Breggen again this year. For the second time, the Olympic champion entered a mountainbike race to cross the t's and dot the i's of her race form. But while she rode a duo mountainbike race last year, she decided to go solo in 2018. And it proved a successful choice.
The first stage of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, on Thursday 22 February, was a downhill time trial. Van der Breggen finished in second place behind Linda Indergrand from Switzerland.
"I'm learning each day about mountainbiking," Van der Breggen said. "I can tell that I'm really progressing on the downhills. I'm in awe of the routine that these mountainbikers have, especially in the descents. I try to follow their lines as best as I can."
Van der Breggen showed to be a fast learner when she won the second stage. After another second spot in stage three, she only had one stage left to defend her leader's jersey.
"I felt in great shape during the climbs, so I could take some advantage there for the technical bits during the descents," Van der Breggen explained. "The last stage was a cross country race with a couple of difficult downhill sections. I didn't take too much risk, because I'll be at at the start of the Strade Bianche next week."