Crash derails Van Vleuten's world championship dreams

Annemiek van Vleuten could only watch from the finish area as her Dutch teammate Anna van der Breggen pulled on the rainbow jersey at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, the pain in her knee stronger than her disappointment.

Van Vleuten crashed with 96km to go but managed to chase back to the leaders, fight the pain, make an attack to set up Van der Breggen's winning move and even finish seventh, 7:05 down on the new world champion.

Van Vleuten stopped to speak to her mother and teammates beyond the finish line but when she tried to ride to the Dutch team bus, the pain in her knee was clearly unbearable and she was unable to ride or even walk. She was eventually pushed to the first aid post in a wheelchair and soon taken to hospital with suspected ligament damage.

The time trial world champion later revealed on Twitter that she suffered a fracture to her knee in the crash.

As she travelled in the ambulance, Van Vleuten congratulated Van der Breggen on social media, suggesting it was a stupid crash. She also spoke briefly at the finish to two Dutch journalists and Cyclingnews.

"I tried to save myself in the fall but then I kind of dislocated my knee," Van Vleuten revealed, not knowing that she had sustained a fracture to the end of her tibia near the knee joint.

"I thought it was the end of my world championships but I eventually got back on the bike. At first, I could only push with one leg but I still felt okay and felt good on the climb despite the crash. But it's always difficult after a crash and now I can't walk. My knee is swollen and seems messed up."

Knowing that she was no longer at her best after hurting her knee, Van Vleuten said she made her attack on the climb to help set up Van der Breggen.

"When I attacked on the climb I was at 90 per cent and I perhaps underestimated myself. I think I gave Anna a perfect lead-out and she profited extremely well from it," she explained.

"There was a lot of talk about our team tactics and if we would ride together as a team but I think we rode very well. I'm very happy for her and very disappointed for myself but I know that only one can win, not two."

Van Vleuten criticised the Dutch media for having suggested she and Van der Breggen would race against each other. It had been reported that they would be excluded from the national team if they did not follow team orders.

Despite her pain, Van Vleuten hit back at the Dutch media.

"I think everyone in the media should shut their mouths now," she said bluntly. "There was a lot written but they should read it back to themselves. We rode a perfect race. Only one can win and Anna won. We did well as the Netherlands, so I'm proud."

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