Annemiek van Vleuten has just lately retired from a glowing biking profession, and as she settles into her life after professional sports activities, she appears again on her most memorable moments which embody among the sport’s most dramatic victories.
Since becoming a member of the professional ranks in 2008, Van Vleuten’s title has change into synonymous together with her aggressive racing type, audacious solo assaults and successful document that spans Spring Classics, Grand Excursions, World Championships and Olympic Video games.
Her listing of accolades is intensive, however we are able to all agree that among the highlights of her profession embody the general victory on the Tour de France Femmes, 4 general titles on the Giro d’Italia Girls, three general wins on the now-called La Vuelta Femenina, two wins on the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Strade Bianche, the 2 street race and time trial victories on the World Championships and gold within the time trial on the Olympic Video games.
There are quite a few massive and small victories in between which have added to what has change into one of the crucial profitable biking careers of all time. Nevertheless, in her personal phrases as a part of an interview revealed on YouTube by her Movistar Crew forward of her closing race of her profession, Van Vleuten has chosen the seven victories which have meant essentially the most to her so as, from seventh to first.
Precisely ten years after her first victory on the 2011 Tour of Flanders on the streets of Meerbeke, Van Vleuten received her second title, this time in Oudenaarde, on the 2021 Tour of Flanders. Whereas sporting the European Champion’s jersey, Van Vleuten attacked from a small group of favourites on the ultimate climb with 14km to go, earlier than extending her hole from seven seconds on the high of the Paterberg to 25 seconds on the end. From the chase group, Lisa Brennauer (then Ceratizit-WNT) beat Grace Brown (then BikeExchange) within the dash for second place.
After crossing the end line, Van Vleuten stated, “I had been hoping for this for ten years after my 2011 victory, and now all of it fell into place. I’m very proud, particularly for my new staff Movistar, the ladies labored very laborious for me, I used to be the number-one chief and will end it off like this … I feel we’re going to have a good time massive tonight.”
It was van Vleuten’s first season with Movistar in 2021, a staff that she helped construct into one of many top-ranked squads on the earth upon her retirement on the finish of 2023. “The [2021 Tour of Flanders] win with Movistar. I noticed all of the comfortable faces, all of the staff I keep in mind was ready for me. I might really feel that I did one thing very nice there with my staff,” Van Vleuten stated when trying again on that victory.
In earlier interviews with Cyclingnews, Van Vleuten has usually stated that ladies’s skilled biking is hardly recognisable from when she first started racing 16 years in the past. The trajectory of the game’s progress has virtually run concurrently together with her personal profitable profession – she’s each watched and helped it to rework.
She usually references her first victory on the 2011 Tour of Flanders when discussing the progress of ladies’s biking over the course of her profession, significantly the introduction of reside tv necessities as a part of the Girls’s WorldTour. She in contrast her expertise of successful the Tour of Flanders in 2011 to successful the identical occasion ten years later in 2021, as being virtually night time and day.
“To go from no TV protection in 2011 to folks now asking for small races to be lined. There was a one-second end shot once I received my first Tour of Flanders as a result of, by chance, a digital camera was already arrange there for the end of the blokes’ race later within the day. There was no tv protection in 2011,” she remembered, a state of affairs which modified with the Flanders Classics dedication to creating visibility, parity, and altering attitudes in professional racing by means of its initiative Closing the Hole.
We’ve misplaced rely of what number of instances Van Vleuten has surprised with a outstanding victory.
Nevertheless, it was her hard-fought win on the 2018 La Course by Le Tour de France, with clips from the reside broadcast that went viral throughout social media platforms, that captured world consideration and the hearts of the biking group.
“2018 La Course, and the battle between Anna [van der Breggen] and me … as a result of that was such an enormous leisure for folks to look at, such an thrilling race,” Van Vleuten remembered.
The 2018 La Course by Le Tour de France, an occasion that turned the stepping-stone for the Tour de France Femmes, passed off in July within the Alps, on a 118km route linking Annecy and Le Grand Bornand.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (then Cervélo-Bigla) made her transfer on the one-day race’s penultimate climb – Col de Romme – attacking solo with 33 kilometres to go. She was caught close to the highest of the Colombière climb by Van Vleuten (then Mitchelton-Scott), Anna van der Breggen (then Boels Dolmans) and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (then Cervelo-Bigla).
Van der Breggen jumped excessive of the Colombière and crested the cross with a ten-second hole on Van Vleuten. Nevertheless, Van Vleuten held her rival in her sight on the descent into Le Grand-Bornand.
Van Vleuten powered by means of the ultimate kilometre till she was only a whisker away from catching a struggling Van der Breggen on the steep 200 metres to the road. Van Vleuten gave it one final push in an enormous gear, and as Van der Breggen faltered with 50 meters to go, she sealed an impressive victory.
Van Vleuten claimed her first elite girls’s world title within the particular person time trial on the 2017 UCI Highway World Championships in Bergen. She accomplished the 21.1km course in a time of 28:50, 12 seconds quicker than compatriot Van der Breggen whereas Australia’s Katrin Garfoot rounded out the rostrum in third, 19 seconds down.
The victory marked a turning level in her profession, significantly after her horrific crash on the 2016 Olympic Video games in Rio de Janeiro that left her with a extreme concussion and spinal fractures.
“I nonetheless can not consider it. This season I’ve shocked myself with what I can do. To be world champion within the time trial, I by no means thought I’d be capable to do that. This yr I began to consider in it and to have the ability to end it off is unimaginable,” Van Vleuten stated after the victory in Bergen.
“To be an athlete, there are ups and downs, however the downs make the ups much more stunning, I feel. It is also actually stunning with out the crash in Rio, however this makes the story actually particular.”
Van Vleuten went on to win a second consecutive time trial title on the 2018 Worlds in Innsbruck, together with two extra world titles within the street race on the 2019 Worlds in Yorkshire and 2022 Worlds in Wollongong.
She stated the win in Bergen was additionally particular, not solely as a result of it marked a comeback from the Rio crash, however as a result of it continued the upward trajectory of a season that included a first-ever podium on the Giro Donne, a race she went on to win 4 instances.
“Bergen 2017, as a result of it was a turnaround in my profession, as a result of that was the primary time the place I did win one thing massive. After the Rio Olympics in 2016, the place I misjudged a nook, and likewise that yr, I used to be actually near successful the Giro d’Italia, and I used to be ‘sleeping’ once we had an echelons stage. I had my mom there on the end line in Bergen, so it was a very nice second,” Van Vleuten stated of her time trial victory in Bergen.
Racing for the Dutch nationwide staff, Van Vleuten received two medals on the Olympic Video games in Tokyo; a gold within the particular person time trial and a silver within the street race. Though each performances had been memorable for their very own causes, it was the gold medal that Van Vleuten will cherish essentially the most.
She triumphed within the girls’s particular person time trial on the Tokyo Olympics to take gold with a blistering efficiency after completely dominating the race of reality. It was a victory made even sweeter by the truth that simply three days earlier she had celebrated when she mistook silver for gold when crossing the road within the elite girls’s street race , which was received by solo breakaway rider from Austria Anna Kiesenhofer.
Within the time trial, Van Vleuten was the quickest at each checkpoint all through the 22.1km course and completed with a successful time of 30:13 beating runner-up Marlen Reusser (Switzerland) by 56 seconds and compatriot Anna van der Breggen by 1:02.
“I knew after the street race that I used to be in tremendous, tremendous form and everybody was speaking about the whole lot else and what occurred within the street,” Van Vleuten stated on the end line of the time trial the place she secured her second medal within the Olympic Video games.
“Virtually nobody was speaking in regards to the efficiency that I had within the street [race]. If that efficiency had received me the gold medal then they’d have been saying I’d had an incredible race however I closed myself from social media and we had an analysis within the staff. The message that I saved remembering in my head after the street race was that I used to be in tremendous form and that I used to be higher than ever. I didn’t examine Twitter, I didn’t examine any social media, I simply took that message into my preparation.
“I’m not an ideal athlete however I’ve a gold medal. I all the time thought that it’s essential to be a freak to win a gold medal however I’m not a freak. That’s not crucial and at this time is a very nice bonus in my journey. I can’t consider this medal is round my neck and it’s very particular to be an Olympic champion.”
Van Vleuten etched her title into the historical past books because the winner of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, an occasion that marked the rebirth of the ladies’s Tour de France after a greater than 30-year hiatus.
She had gone into the eight-day race because the favorite however confronted the uncertainty that went together with an sudden abdomen bug that hit her physique on the primary stage in Paris. She pushed by means of the bodily signs and saved herself inside attain of the general race lead.
When the sickness subsided, she launched a rampage throughout back-to-back mountain phases the place she soloed to wins atop Le Markstein, the place she took the yellow jersey, after which atop La Tremendous Planche des Belles Filles to safe the coveted general victory.
“It is really a dream that comes true – successful in yellow on the high. It was not a simple stage, it was not a simple week. It was an excellent massive rollercoaster for me. To complete in yellow solo – one of the best ways,” Van Vleuten stated on the high of the gravel slopes of La Tremendous Planche des Belles Filles.
The primary version of the brand new model of the ladies’s Tour de France was a powerful success when it comes to racing, but additionally branding and marketability. The media, fan presence, and curiosity spoke volumes of the race’s recognition internationally. For that reason, Van Vleuten locations a better significance on this win.
“The Tour de France is above the Olympics as a result of it had a huge effect. After I got here dwelling it exceeded my expectations on how many individuals loved the race, and adopted the race. How a lot affect successful the Tour de France had, and the way massive the Tour de France was,” Van Vleuten stated.
Van Vleuten received her first street race world title with an unimaginable 105km solo assault on the 2019 UCI Highway World Championships that completed in Harrogate
She caught the peloton off guard on the uncovered Lofthouse climb and, regardless of a fervent chase by some pre-race favourites together with Nice Britain’s Lizzie Deignan, Van Vleuten managed to carve out over a two-minute lead and claimed the solo victory forward of compatriot Van der Breggen and Australia’s Amanda Spratt.
“It was not really deliberate, I wished to go laborious on the climb, I feel that was good for our staff,” Van Vleuten stated on the end line in Harrogate.
“Then once I noticed I had a niche, then my coach stated ‘proceed now’. It was a loopy plan. It was all slightly bit loopy. I’m slightly loopy. I practice lots and I feel that additionally helped me lots at this time, to be prepared for such an enormous effort. Folks know I practice loads of hours on the bike and that helped me at this time.
“There’s so many feelings; my mom’s right here and that’s particular for me, my father slightly bit too, as a result of I used to be additionally sporting the earrings I had in Rio.”
Van Vleuten stated that it was troublesome to resolve which of her two street race world titles was her favorite, Yorkshire in 2019 or Wollongong in 2022, as she is happy with them each.
“My primary victory? It is laborious to decide on between Wollongong and Yorkshire as a result of they’re so totally different. I am actually happy with Yorkshire; how I ready, and I used to be too gutsy to assault with 105km to go. It was epic,” she stated.
After crashing and breaking her elbow within the staff time trial relay, Van Vleuten had all however counted herself out of rivalry for the street race on the 2022 UCI World Championships in Wollongong.
She lined up, believing that she could be of some assist to her teammates, and he or she raced by means of the ache and discomfort of her injured elbow that was wrapped in gauze and tape at some stage in the 164.3-kilometre occasion, from Helensburgh to Wollongong.
The race got here all the way down to a re-grouped 13 riders and Van Vleuten, who’d spent the day working for teammate Marianne Vos, all of the sudden soared away with a seated acceleration within the closing kilometre and held off a charging Lotte Kopecky to say the second street race world title of her profession. It was clear by the look of joyful disbelief on her face that she’d even shocked herself.
Van Vleuten stated that it was a victory that spoke to her bodily and psychological capability as an entire rider, which summed up her 16-year profession in skilled biking.
“The Wollongong victory says lots about my character. It is accepting that you’ve got a damaged elbow. Attempting to make one of the best out of it. Re-watching it, it is like, the final kilometre of Wollongong nonetheless offers me goosebumps,” Van Vleuten stated.
“I can actually really feel the feelings of that entire week, of disappointment, and it is perhaps the entire of my profession summarised into one week. It got here all of that collectively.”
She additionally stated the victory compelled her to suppose in impossibilities which is what helped result in her career-best world championships triumph. “I feel perhaps that is one of the best victory in my entire profession,” she stated.