DOHA: An unforgettable victory in the Lotto Tour of Belgium only a month after a spectacular crash at the Rio Olympics has set Annemiek van Vleuten’s sights firmly on the Time Trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Doha.
The 33-year-old Dutchwoman was all smiles in Geraardsbergen, where she declared herself a serious contender for the historic UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016.
“My preparations for the World Championships started here in Belgium,” Van Vleuten said after her impressive solo victory on the famous Flemish ‘Muur van Geraardsbergen’.
Van Vleuten was on her way to win Olympic gold in Rio, when she crashed in the final descent. Her compatriot Anna van der Breggen’s Olympic gold proved little comfort for Van Vleuten. With her victory in Belgium, she showed that she had recovered not only physically, but also mentally from the Rio disappointment.
“People ask me whether I’ve got something to straighten out, but that’s not the case. I rode super in Rio, but I was unlucky. I’m looking ahead now. My next goal is the World Championships in Qatar.”
Van Vleuten rode the Tour of Belgium with a selection of Dutch youngsters led by national coach Johan Lammerts and she won the prologue, the final stage and the general classification.
“It’s nice to join forces with these young girls, who positioned me perfectly for the climbs. Johan told me to wait for the final day in the Tour of Belgium, so I did and it worked out perfectly. After a month of mere holiday with the bike in Italy, I’m a bit surprised to be back at this level so fast. The first time we went up ‘De Muur’ I did not even attack, but when I turned around I only saw Elisa Longo Borghini in my wheel. At that moment, I knew my legs were very good.”
Van Vleuten has a special bond with coach Lammerts. “We have known each other for such a long time. We shared so many ups and downs. Johan will quit as national coach after this season, so it’s special to be able to celebrate this up together.”
The course on which Van Vleuten seized power in the Lotto Belgium Tour, with its cobblestone hills, is different from the flat roads in the Doha Road Race. That’s why the Dutchwoman is primarily focused on the Doha Time Trial.
“I hope I will be selected for the Time Trial because there are only two slots available and the coach has not chosen yet. That’s another reason why it feels great to be able to show my form here in Belgium. Of course I also prepare for the road race, because you never know what might happen. The flat course does not suit me very well, because I’m not a sprinter. We do however have good sprinters in the Netherlands, so we will be able to race for the title as a team.”