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Injured Annemiek van Vleuten travels to Imola with hopes to defend rainbow jersey at World Championships

Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)
Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) hopes to defend world title in elite women's road race Saturday (Image credit: Getty Images)

The suspense continues to build ahead of the 2020 UCI Road World Championships as Annemiek van Vleuten considers whether she will toe the start line at the elite women's road race on Saturday in Imola, Italy. 

The defending champion thought she was sidelined from the event after fracturing her wrist in a crash at the Giro Rosa last week, however, following an operation and a specially-fitted brace, she believes that she may have recovered enough to compete in the elite women's 143km road race this weekend.

Although Van Vleuten was expected to make her decision on Friday, she has already travelled to Imola by car, and will attend a national team press conference held on Thursday evening where she is expected to announce her decision to start the women's road race. 

"Yes, I'm going to ride," she told Nos ahead of her departure for Imola. "I think so, yes. I'm really going to announce it on Friday, but yesterday was very hopeful."

Van Vleuten crashed during stage 7 at the Giro Rosa and was forced to abandon the race while she was in the overall lead. Doctors confirmed that she had a fractured left wrist and she immediately returned to the Netherlands and underwent surgery. Doctors fitted her with a special brace and she was able to first complete a test ride on the rollers, followed by a pain-free training session outside.

Van Vleuten admitted that a strong attack wasn't possible during her test ride, however, she believes that with two more days of recovery she will be ready to start the elite women's road race.

"A very fierce attack was not possible yesterday [Wednesday]. But when I see how quickly I have recovered, I expect it will be a lot better on Saturday," Van Vleuten said.

Van Vleuten announced on Twitter last week, directly following her crash, that she would not participate in the World Championships, where she was a favourite to win a third time trial title and a second consecutive road race world title. However, she said such thoughts may have been premature and that her fracture was not as complicated as she initially thought.

"The Giro is over, the World Cup is over and the whole season is over, I thought. I can't believe I'm here, either," Van Vleuten said.

Van Vleuten's spot in Thursday's time trial was replaced by Ellen van Dijk, but in hindsight, she believes she may have been able to race the flat 31.7km event.

"I should have explored the course for the time trial, then I should have traveled to Italy earlier. I have really been able to give the wrist maximum rest," Van Vleuten said. "But it didn't feel right to take [Ellen van Dijk's] place with this hand."