Annemiek van Vleuten, a winner “from another planet”

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Without competition in the mountains, the Dutch Annemiek van Vleuten easily won the first edition of the Tour de France Women in the professional season. Another victory in the long career of the 39-year-old Movistar rider. Image.

There is the peloton, the contenders for the general classification and, at the front, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar). Imperial in two mountain stages, the Dutchwoman won the first edition of the Tour de France Women in the professional era.

A first edition marked – is that weird? – the stamp of the Netherlands. The Dutch nationals wore different jerseys: yellow for Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), polka dot jersey for Demi Vollering (SDWork), green for Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and white for Shirin Van Anrooij (Trek -Segafredo). They also took stage wins: six out of eight. Only Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig of Denmark and Marlen Reusser of Switzerland have won one. The Dutch wore the yellow jersey from start to finish.

Reduced at start of Turn

Since the retirement – at just 31 years old – of his great rival, his compatriot Anna van der Breggen, at the end of last season, the 2019 world champion is almost unbeatable when the road rises. His opponents seem to be able to follow him only occasionally and only for a moment, like Demi Vollering on the Markstein stage. A stage that the winner of the 2022 Tour literally flew, attacking the slopes of the first pass and completing the last 60 kilometers alone, rejecting the second by three minutes and the third by more than five minutes.

“It might be easy​​​​​​but I assure you it won’t be. I surprised myself,” he assured with a smile upon arrival. “It’s been a rollercoaster. It hurts. To win like this is amazing. And it’s nice to end up here solo.”

In the final stage, he angered his rivals again by dropping them at the foot of the Super Planche des Belles filles to offer himself a prestigious victory in the already famous ascent of the Vosges, all in yellow.

The Tour’s huge favourite, already crowned with a victory at the Tour of Italy in early July, still has a complicated week ahead. Not because of the attacks of his opponents but because of a bad gastrointestinal virus. Unable to drink and eat on his mountain, he repeatedly thought of giving up.

“I had my worst days on a bike,” he famously said, sparingly elaborating on the details of his ordeal.

By bike to make up for students’ nights

Born in Vleuten in the Netherlands, Annemiek van Vleuten says she became interested in cycling at the age of eight, developing a love for the Tour de France she watched on TV. If her parents are not particularly interested in the little queen, she imagines herself in the shoes of the champions by covering seven kilometers on the way to school every morning.

However, it is first and foremost football that he likes. But recurring knee injuries kept him out of the green rectangle for good at the age of 23. He started cycling “to get rid of the extra kilos from student nights”, as he told a picture made by the organizer ASO on the occasion of the first Tour de France Women.

The tests he took during the season noticed his abilities worthy of the Dutch national team. The beginning of a long professional career that would see him win almost everything. Among others: three Tour of Italy, Tour of Flanders (2011, 2021), the Strade Bianche (2019, 2020) and La Course ni Le Tour (2017, 2018). And he is the world champion in 2019.

One of the notable gaps in his list remains the road race at the Olympic Games. A title he believed to have been hung up on twice. In 2016, while he was flying for a gold medal, he suffered a serious fall. In Tokyo in 2021, she raised her arms on the line… While the survivor of the morning breakaway, Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer, actually won the event.

The yellow jersey, he admits that he never dreamed of it until the start of the Tour: “For me, to begin with, the yellow jersey is more something reserved for men, so I don’t have a special connection,” he explained. “And then I saw Marianne Vos with it,” he added with a smile.

>> To read also: Tour de France Women: Marianne Vos, yellow jersey and stainless all-terrain champion

Full of training

But what is his secret to being so strong? He comes “from another planet”, says Evita Muzic (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope). “It’s a machine, it’s a UFO, it’s from another planet”, says Iris Slappendel (former teammate turned consultant). “I want to be sick like him”, joked Juliette Labous.

“This stage was cut out for me, I trained like crazy for this kind of stage, which suits me very well”, explained the person concerned.

And for good reason, Annemiek van Vleuten works hard in training. He likes to collect outings of more than 300 kilometers, to train with the Movistar guys. At the end of 2020, he published an impressive annual report on the sports social network Strava: almost 33,000 km were traveled and 175,000 meters of difference in altitude were swallowed. More than a few guys in the pro peloton.

For her penultimate year, Annemiek van Vleuten announced that she wants to compete in three Grand Tours (Italy, France and Spain) and win them. He is now two-thirds of the way to his goal, which he will attempt to complete at La Vuelta’s Certizit Challenge in September.

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