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Van Vleuten: I always want to win

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) takes the lead of the Women's WorldTour
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) takes the lead of the Women's WorldTour (Image credit: Getty Images)

This story has been updated from its original version.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) targeted the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, stating that the Women’s WorldTour stage race was her main goal of the Spanish races in May. Van Vleuten ended up finishing second overall behind winner Anna van der Breggen (Team SD Worx). 

Van Vleuten moved into the overall lead of the Women's WorldTour series following the four days of racing, but stated that winning the race was more important to her than leading the top-tier calendar's classification ranking.

The 38-year-old European Champion raced conservatively on the first three stages, focusing on the fourth and final stage that finished with the climb to the Lagunas de Neila to make the difference. But Van der Breggen was just that little bit stronger in the end, beating Van Vleuten in the sprint to win the stage and the GC at the Vuelta a Burgos.

"For sure I always want to win. That's what I'm aiming for: To win the race. To be honest I think the jersey for the WorldTour leader is a bit special ... with the men there is also not a WorldTour leader's jersey, so I think they should get rid of the jersey also with the women, to have it equal between men and women. I am more proud to wear this jersey (European Champion jersey), than to wear the WorldTour leader jersey. I think it's about winning races and not about a classification. In a stage race, yes, but not the UCI classification," Van Vleuten said in a post-race interview.

Van Vleuten has moved into the lead in the Women’s WorldTour ranking for the first time this season, taking over from Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) who had the lead after a strong Spring Classics campaign. Van Vleuten won the whole series in 2018.

Not content to wait for the final climb of the Lagunas de Neila on stage 4, the Movistar team had raced aggressively, placing three riders in a break of 30 that got away 50km from the finish to put the other favourites’ teams under pressure.

“We’ve tried everything to take the GC and the team played its cards really well, sending Katrine [Aalerud], Jelena [Erić] and Paula [Patiño] to the front and trying to break the strength from other teams with their attacks. In the end, I was able to stay with Anna and tried to overtake her into the final turn, but she was simply stronger. I’m satisfied with second," Van Vleuten said in a team press release.

After 70 kilometres with near-continuous attacks, none of which succeeded, the group that did get away was a bit of a surprise, as Clara Koppenburg (Rally Cycling) tells: “It was a headwind section, constantly up and down, and there were some attacks again. I always try to position myself in the top-20, top-30, if something is going to happen, so I just rolled with them. I did not even realise at first that it was a break because it just felt like a big bunch. It was a good group because there were some teams represented with three riders, and most teams had some strong riders inside, so they were also happy with the break, and things could settle down a bit.”

Other riders in the big group were going for the stage win. After losing time on the uphill finish on stage 3, Amanda Spratt (Team BikeExchange) refocused and was among the last to be caught on the hard climb.

“We knew I had a good chance in that group as one of the strongest climbers, I just had to be patient. I attacked on the penultimate climb and then again on the last climb a few times to try to shake the others. Maybe I was a little too keen at the start with the hard final, but honestly, I am happy with my ride,” said Spratt after finishing in tenth place.

Koppenburg chose to ride the climb at her own pace. The German climber eventually managed to drop Spratt two kilometres from the finish, but Van der Breggen and Van Vleuten came past Koppenburg on the final kilometre.

“The group of 30 was a perfect move to be in. It was super tough when we came to the long climb, and Spratt kept on attacking quite often. I just tried to follow. In the final I completely emptied myself, the last two kilometres were the longest in my life. They caught me with 800 metres to go, but I could not even hold their wheels. I was done, but it felt really great being up the road,” Koppenburg recounted.

Vuelta a Burgos Feminas marked the first stage race of the Women's WorldTour this season, after Chongming Island was postponed to October and Itzulia Women was cancelled.

Van Vleuten now leaves the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas as the leader of the top-tier series after her runner-up performance, combined with her victory at Tour of Flanders, along with points earned for finishing fourth at Strade Bianche, third at Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition, fourth at Flèche Wallonne, and second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Women's WordTour - standings as of May 22
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar Team Women 1796
2Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 1664
3Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma Women Team 1484
4Demi Vollering (Ned) Team SD Worx 1431
5Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Team SD Worx 1420
6Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope 1093
7Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM Racing 1048
8Grace Brown (Aus) Team BikeExchange 886
9Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling Team 604
10Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Liv Racing 604