Van Vleuten makes the difference by not always having to make a difference


NOS Cycling

In the last week of 2022, we look back at the past year of sport with six Dutch women who experienced success. Today in the third episode: cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten.

Challenging. This is what Annemiek van Vleuten calls guarding your free time. Fortunately, she likes a challenge. Making plans gives her energy, persistence is in her DNA (literally, as a test showed a few years ago), and she knows how to put a positive spin on every setback. In November she took a break: cycling in Kenya for two weeks, getting to know the area while paddling. She calls it mental free training.

But first she has to do one interview after another. “I don’t want to disappoint anyone. And of course it is also positive that there is so much attention. That people have seen what I have achieved in recent years.”


Annemiek van Vleuten realizes that against all odds she is world champion for the second time.

Just before her Spanish team Movistar’s colorful night – a night where Alejandro Valverde would steal the show dressed as England’s Queen Elizabeth – she found a moment to call.

Patiently, she tells the story of a season for the fifteenth time, which may never be better: she won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, she won the three Grand Tours (Tour, Giro and Vuelta) and was also once again incomparable world champion .

“Winning is more beautiful if you can share it and if there is a story behind it.” smiling: “And there’s always something wrong with me.”

What was the highlight for you this year?
“Tour de France! And I didn’t think that before. But now I can say that the Tour is the biggest I’ve won in my career. Bigger than an Olympic medal, bigger than a World Cup. It felt like we were really involved in a very big sporting event. People really started following the Tour, even non-cycling enthusiasts. Just like with the men’s Tour.”

As often with your best performances, it didn’t happen by itself. Were you sick at the start of the Tour?
“After the first stage on the Champs-Élysées, I already felt in the evening that my stomach was not quite right. It turned into a stomach flu. I couldn’t eat or drink anymore. On the second stage there was also a lot of wind, such a day where you only drive ‘on the side’.”

“I could have lost a lot of time there. But because my competitors didn’t know I was sick, they couldn’t take full advantage. I avoided the media, pretended I didn’t feel like it. It was definitely a bit of poker.”

After the third stage, Van Vleuten opened up to reporter Han Kock’s camera:

Ill Van Vleuten on the mend: ‘Stopped on the side and did Dumoulin version’

“Obviously I took a jacket off, had to go a lot deeper than I wanted to. And then I just didn’t know how good I was for the last weekend in the Vosges. But I just wanted to go for it. Attack. It was a gamble. “

You made your move on the first hard mountain stage, although you had to go far to solve Demi Vollering uphill. Before the last stage, the yellow already appeared. But then you got a flat tire.
“And then they started driving… It might not have earned the award for the most likable act. But it’s also race. Before that trip, I still thought: I don’t necessarily have to do everything I can to get to La Planche des Belles Filles. I thought I shouldn’t get too greedy. But after that act I thought: you can do something for me!”

“After the race, I received several messages from riders who were not far behind in riding when I was unlucky. It also says something about the atmosphere in the women’s field. For me, it was long overdue.”

The Tour was the second overall victory in a major round after the Giro. You also set the Vuelta to your will. The big goal, however, was the WC in Wollongong in Australia. The individual time trial was a bit disappointing with seventh place. And then came the mixed team time trial.
“Of course, the part itself is not the most important part of the World Cup. But I think it’s something very nice, precisely because you do it as a team. And I had specifically asked Mathieu van der Poel to participate during Draai voor de Kaai. We would really go for it.”

“And then I was already on the ground after 500 meters. My whole WC dream was shattered.”

Dutch drama in mixed team time trial: mishap for Mollema, Van Vleuten falls

“I had made a plan in advance with my coach Louis Delahaije about a long solo in the road race. A bit like in Yorkshire (where Van Vleuten became world champion for the first time after a solo of 105 kilometers, ed.). But after that fall (where she broke her elbow, ed.) I didn’t think about winning a hair on my head. I wanted to contribute to Marianne Vos’ victory and leave the WC stage with a slightly better feeling. I had no ambitions at all.”

“Even when I had to put that jersey on over my speed suit at the start of the race, I thought: whatever… Normally I would find it very annoying, because of course it was very hot. But I thought: I can do this also wear two shirts on top of each other. Bring on that shirt. I didn’t care at all.”

He doesn’t let me be the perfectionist that I actually am. I often hear him say in my head: ‘Annemiek, it’s not going to make a difference’.

Annemiek van Vleuten about her coach Louis Delahaije

“One lap before the end I saw a rainbow along the track. Ellen and I were just chasing. I even thought: how cool it would be if Marianne becomes world champion here with that rainbow.”

“It was only in the last two kilometers, when Marianne was no longer part of it, that I changed. It also helped me that Marianne was behind the group, because it meant that I didn’t have to drive. And I knew it . : when it comes together, then there is a moment of despair. That is the moment.”

Stunt Van Vleuten: solo to the World Championships in Wollongong despite a broken elbow

“It also went down so I could pass at speed and they couldn’t be right on my wheel. It was actually too bizarre for words how ideal the situation was in the last kilometer.”

“It really took me another week to believe it. I thought: this is too good to be true. I was so out of it I just couldn’t feel it. I still can’t quite understand it.”

And then you can ride your last season in the rainbow jersey. Your teammate Alejandro Valverde was waved goodbye all year in his final season. Are you afraid that it will happen to you too?
“Yes. I’m afraid so. I’m afraid I’ll get a ‘last race interview’ every time. I really don’t want to. I just want to race and win races. I’ve already made plans with Louis about my explosiveness to work in the spring.”

How important is Louis Delahaije to you?
“He doesn’t let me be the perfectionist that I actually am. He doesn’t awaken the perfectionism in me. In my head I often hear him say, ‘Annemiek, it’s not going to make a difference’. He taught me to perform for fun, whereas before that I wanted to perform from control.”

“We work hard, but he doesn’t make me feel guilty if I went to bed a little later, if I did a block less, if I kicked a little less watts, or if I take a longer coffee break.”

Instagram | the annemiekvanvleut

Annemiek van Vleuten and her coach Louis Delahaije toast 2022 and make plans for 2023.

“There are plenty of coaches who would say: ‘Okay, but stop for a little bit less time next time’. Then the fun disappears and I feel guilty about the coffee stop. Now I’m sitting at the coffee, don’t think: Annemiek, whether you stop ten minutes shorter or longer, it won’t make a difference. So enjoy it. And that will make the difference.”

Are you sure this will be your last season?
“Yes, I’m really stopping. And I really have to go now, because the colorful evening starts soon. And tonight I still have to go to Biarritz to catch the plane to Paris for the Tour presentation. Get up at half past five, help! “

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