Van Vleuten won two stages of the Giro Rosa in early-July but had to settle for third place overall. In her first race following the Italian Grand Tour, van Vleuten put in her attack inside the final five kilometres to take the solo victory, 43 seconds ahead of Elizabeth Deignan (Boels Dolmans).
"I have to be honest I thought that maybe I attacked a bit too early, because I was also thinking about Saturday and the time trial and I knew I needed to gain some time, but you also have to think about the legs. In the end it turned out great and proved to be the right time to go," van Vleuten said in reference to Saturday's Marseille 'chase' time trial.
Van Vleuten added that since the Olympic Games last August, where she suffered a race ending crash when leading, had given her confidence in her climbing abilities and was proud to have conquered the mythic col.
"To finish here with a victory at the Tour de France in front of so many people is amazing. You know before I wasn't really a climber, but since the Olympics in Rio that was the first time that I felt I was climbing really well and that inspired me to focus more on my climbing and when we saw the route for today's race I knew I wanted to go for it," she added.
While van Vleuten was unsure if she had attacked too early, sports director Gene Bates explained that the entire team was on cue, and praised his riders for pulling off the plan.
"It couldn't have gone any better for us. We knew that we had two in form riders coming out of the Giro with Spratty and Annemiek and we wanted to give them the easiest run in possible onto the climb and from there they would have the best chance to have a go," Bates.
"We executed our tactics really well and obviously we are very pleased with the result. Annemiek is in a great place physically and also mentally, we have a great opportunity to do well on Saturday and the whole team is imbued with positivity, it's a great place to be at the moment.
"Today has been a wonderful spectacle for women’s cycling and a very special day with all of the TV coverage and media, it has been a great experience and I’m sure Saturday will be the same."
Following the first La Course away from Paris' Champs-Élysées, stage 18 of the Tour de France saw the men's peloton also tackle the Col d'Izoard. At the conclusion of the stage, van Vleuten's blistering time stood up against the men's peloton, posting the third fastest time on the Strava segment 'last 5km'. Only Romain Bardet and stage winner Warren Barguil had fastest times in the final 5km.
Van Vleuten will enjoy a day of rest on Friday before Saturday's time trial when she will be the last of the 19 qualified riders to start.
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