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Van Vleuten: 'I have nothing to lose and everything to win' in Ceratizit Challenge

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) after winning stage 2 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta 2021
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) after winning stage 2 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Olympic time trial champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) made gains on Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta leader Marlen Reusser (Ale' BTC Ljubljana), winning stage 2 by 19 seconds ahead of Reusser and moving into third place overall. She is now 1:39 behind the Swiss rider and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Liv Racing) after the stage 2 time trial.

Although she still has a significant deficit to Reusser with two stages remaining, Van Vleuten says she's determined to keep fighting.

"Tomorrow, I have nothing to lose and everything to win," Van Vleuten said after the mountain time trial to Estación de Montaña de Manzaneda. "After yesterday, I already knew it would be really hard with Marlen Reusser, being in really good form and with a two-minute advance. 

"On the other hand, I’m super excited about tomorrow, because I don’t like defending. I struggle when I have to use that defending attitude in stage races. In my heart, I’m an attacker, I don’t like racing conservatively.

"I just hope other teams think like that, so we won’t give it as a present to Marlen Reusser, make things hard for her to win and offer a good show for people watching on TV tomorrow."

On stage 1, Reusser, the double Swiss national champion and Olympic time trial silver medallist, took the win after being part of a successful breakaway with Rooijakkers, Coryn Rivera (Team DSM), and Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM). Van Vleuten finished in the peloton, 1:48 behind.

Going into the second stage, a hilly 7km individual time trial, the GC looked set to stay in Reusser's hands. The only rider who seemed able to truly challenge the 29-year-old Swiss rider was Van Vleuten.

Van Vleuten was galvanized by her Tokyo victory, reminiscing on the last time she rode her time trial bike. 

"It’s a good feeling. It’s nice to win a stage, and also winning this TT on my Canyon bike from Tokyo makes me extra happy. It’s been nice to catch up with my Tokyo bike after some really nice moments in Japan. 

"I ended up choosing the TT bike - we weren’t so sure, because it was a little bit as fast on the road bike as on the TT one, yet I picked the TT one because I’ve spent so many training rides on it, so I’m happy that choice ended up being a winning one."

The 107.9km stage 3 of the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta incorporates two categorised climbs and is the last real opportunity for Reusser's GC rivals to claim time back before the final stage, the rolling 107.4-kilometre stage 4.