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Annemiek van Vleuten to make season debut in rainbow jersey at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Annemiek van Vleuten, of the Netherlands, takes the rainbow jersey after winning the elite women’s road race at the 2020 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire
Annemiek van Vleuten, of the Netherlands, takes the rainbow jersey after winning the elite women’s road race at the 2020 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Mitchelton-Scott's Annemiek van Vleuten will make her season debut at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, which also marks her first race in the rainbow jersey as road race world champion, after the Dutchwoman won the title in Harrogate, in the UK, last September.

"I'm so keen to race," said Van Vleuten on her team's website. "I've been training so much, and my training period has been long enough, so I'm really looking forward to Saturday.

"I think my preparation has been the best, most enjoyable preparation I've done in the last 10 years," she said. "I had an amazing winter of hard training, but I enjoyed it a lot, especially training in the rainbow jersey, which gives that extra bit of motivation."

Besides winning the Worlds road race, Van Vleuten took seven other victories during the 2019 season, including the women's version of the Giro d'Italia, Strade Bianche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Dutch time trial title.

"I think my base training has been really good," she continued. "I'm maybe not at my best just yet, but we'll have to see. Maybe I need a bit more racing to get to that point, to have that last percentage, but especially when the racing is hard for a long time, I think I'll profit from all the work I've done through the winter."

Van Vleuten pointed out that this weekend will be her 11th time racing the Omloop, where she has a career-best finish of third, taken at the 2017 edition, when she took the final step on the podium behind winner Lucinda Brand and Chantal Blaak.

"I know the course really well for Nieuwsblad, and there are some similar climbs and cobbles to the Tour of Flanders," Van Vleuten said, comparing it to the race she won back in 2011.

As to whether her first race in the rainbow jersey as world champion will add any pressure for her to perform, Van Vleuten suggested that the opposite might prove true.

"I just enjoy riding in it every day, and don't feel any more pressure – just more motivated," the 37-year-old Dutch rider said. "It's also nice that my family is going to be able to come to watch. It might not be my home country, but, being Belgium, it's almost like my home country."

Van Vleuten will be able to count on strong support for Saturday's race, with her teammates including Dutch compatriot Janneke Ensing, Gracie Elvin and Grace Brown.

Mitchelton-Scott sports director Martin Vestby added: "We know Annemiek has been training really well and had a good winter, and I expect her to come in and be in good form.

"She is really motivated for the race, and it's nice when Annemiek comes into races this motivated. It brings everybody up, and we know we have a strong leader to support," he said.

Mitchelton-Scott Women for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Grace Brown, Gracie Elvin, Janneke Ensing, Sarah Roy, Annemiek van Vleuten, Moniek Tenniglo