Annemiek van Vleuten blog: I'm ready to suffer at the Olympic Games

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) is a two-time winner of the Giro Rosa, a two-time winner of the individual time trial at the World Championships, both in 2017 and 2018, and winner of the road race title at the World Championships in 2019. You can visit her website here.

It's coming! Finally, we're very close to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

I was happy with my decision to take some time to train in Italy after a very big block of racing in Spain, where I did every race in May. I stayed in Foscagno, a beautiful and quiet area that cost me less mental energy and where I could get my head in a good place. 

I ate, trained and slept, and even had a bit of fun with the people who run the hotel. I've been coming here since 2013, and so it's a special place for me. I love the training in Italy, and especially in this location, because it's close to mountain passes like the Mortirolo, Gavia and Stelvio – it's a magical place.

There's a wellness sauna onsite, similar to a climate room with high humidity, and so I did a few sessions on the bike in it. I took the opportunity to get used to riding in this type of climate because the heat and humidity will be important factors when competing in Tokyo. I usually like racing in the heat, so I don't think it will be a problem for me, but the increased humidity will be one of the challenges of this Olympic Games.

I'm pretty excited for the racing to begin, and I have a good level of confidence heading into Tokyo. I got in some good training on my time trial bike, fully set up with the front wheel and the disc wheel that I will be racing with during the time trial. There are no secrets anymore about Canyon's new time trial bike.

I've done some good efforts in training and have had some nice rides with colleagues like Tom Dumoulin, who is my teammate at Tokyo, and we're both preparing for the time trial and the road race. I've also been able to ride twice with Larry Warbasse. I like getting the opportunity to meet different people from different nations at a training camp. So, even though we won't be able to do this at the Olympic Games, I could make the most of it while I was training in Italy. It seemed that the riders not racing at the Tour de France were training in the Livigno area, too, because I saw many riders out on the road.

One of the disappointing aspects of this year's Olympic Games is that we won't experience the true feeling or magnitude of the event due to the COVID-19 situation

One of the nicest things about participating in the Olympic Games is to be together with your nation. For example, to be part of the village, share in the celebrations of those first medals with the entire Dutch team, and join the shared spaces where we would have the opportunity to meet athletes from other sports.

I heard some of my colleagues on the men's team talking about how excited they were and how cool it will be to be part of this Olympic Games. I'm just sad that, especially for all of the athletes taking part in this event for the first time, it will be hard to get the true experience at this Olympic Games.

The most beautiful thing about the Olympic Games is its uniquely special atmosphere of sharing the experience with one big national team. Unfortunately, this time, it will be just about the race, and we will be staying in our race hotels instead of an athlete village. 

It might be hard to train ahead of the events, too. We might be able to train outside and on the Fuji International Speedway, but there will be limitations. It will be a challenging Olympic Games mentally because usually we get all the distractions of taking part in such a big event, but this time around, it's a 180-degree difference, and we might be stuck in our hotel. We will be in super tiny rooms, too, so I've prepared by bringing many books with me because there won't be much else to do.

It is what it is. It's good to be prepared, but as I said, this is such a special event, and I hope the athletes who are experiencing it for the first time will have another chance to come back to the Olympic Games. It's so special to be part of it, and I was lucky that I've had the true experience in 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro.

I know that everyone is talking about our Olympic team because we have four riders who can win the road race, and it's cool to be part of a balanced team that is so strong. We're very professional, and we know that we will not ride against each other, and in the end, we also know that we need each other to win. It gives me goosebumps to know that I will be wearing the orange colours of my nation and that I will be a part of this amazing squad.

So, the work is done. Now it's time to use my legs. I'm mentally ready to suffer during two very big and beautiful events; the road race and the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

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