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Annemiek van Vleuten blog: World Championships

Annemiek van Vleuten
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

I'm heading into Worlds! I can't believe that the season is coming to an end. I'm a bit sad that we don't have autumn races for women, yet - so please, organisers, it would be cool to extend our calendar passed September. I'm very eager and keen to race still, and so I can't wait to start the racing in Yorkshire.

The World Championships are one of the biggest goals of what has already been such a successful season. I feel prepared enough to win a third title in the individual time trial, especially after an excellent block of altitude training. My coach and I have watched my fitness level grow every time I train at altitude, throughout the season and in comparison to previous years. I did very good training sessions, and I had pretty good power output, which always gives me a bit of extra confidence.

My training tapered the week ahead of the Worlds with fewer hours and intervals to let my body recover. I hadn't been home for four and a half weeks, and so it has been great to see my friends and family again. It's given me a bit of time to relax and recover before competing in the time trial and the road race in Yorkshire.

I like the course designed for the time trial this year. It's challenging and has more elevation than last year's course in Innsbruck. There are four climbs that are roughly one kilometre, and so more elevation than the previous year's Innsbruck route that had four hills that were roughly 500 metres. This year's course is also a little bit more technical, which I find interesting.

As for the road race, it may not be as hard as last year's course, but it's still very challenging. You can only win on this course by being in good shape. It's a Classics-style parcours, and it will suit a broader range of riders. Even though last year's course may have suited me better, I haven't changed my approach to the road race, but I think I'm a bit more relaxed this year.

The Innsbruck course seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for riders like me, given that it was so hilly and hard. I ended up crashing and broke my tibia plateau in the knee, but I later learned that the 2020 World Championships in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland, could be even harder. Maybe I will get a second chance on a hard course again, but in the meantime, we race Yorkshire!

Elevation-wise, the parcours has 2,300 metres of climbing with two climbs in the first 50 kilometres. It would have been better, for me, if those climbs were closer to the end of the race. However, the final circuit is technical and undulating - the harder it's raced, the better our chances of success. It's undoubtedly a Classics kind of race and so more people can win. We have a super strong eight riders on the Dutch team. For sure, we will use our strengths in this World Championships. It's a course that suits the Dutchies. We have more women on our team compared to last year that can win the world title, too, so we will use our strength in numbers.

I will also be one part of a powerful Dutch team in Yorkshire. It's always special to represent my country, and I feel proud to wear orange and to be a part of my national team. We've had a lot of international success over the years. Marianne Vos has been a multiple-time world champion, while Chantal Blaak won in Bergen and Anna van der Breggen won last year. We even saw Amy Pieters win the European Championships this summer.

Everyone on our team is capable of winning the World Championships, but we know that the main priority is that someone wearing the orange jersey must win. There are advantages to being part of such a strong team. I've seen women from other nations racing who have little support, and for them, it's tough to win. Ever since my first World Championships in 2010, the Dutch have been the favourites, and I think we have shown that we can handle that situation professionally and successfully.

Someone once asked me whether I would prefer to win the world title or an Olympic gold medal in the road race event. I believe that the World Championships and the Olympic Games are equally special, in different ways, and I would love to win them both. However, if I were forced to choose, then I would want to wear the rainbow jersey for one year. To be able to share the beauty of wearing the rainbow jersey throughout an entire season would be amazing.

I know that I've done everything I can to be optimally prepared to compete in the time trial and the road race at the World Championships in Yorkshire. Being prepared is the only thing that an athlete has control over. I have no control over the course, the people around me, or what my teammates or competitors are doing. I try and keep my focus on being prepared, and I believe that I have achieved that - I feel ready to race.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) astounded the cycling world during the 2018 season, winning the Giro Rosa, a second consecutive world title in the individual time trial and securing top honours in the overall standings of both the Women's WorldTour and the UCI World Ranking – making her the number one rider in the world. You can visit her website here.