Van Vleuten relieved to be able to pedal toward recovery after Paris-Roubaix Femmes crash

At the start of the first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes, which didn't end as planned for Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)
At the start of the first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes, which didn't end as planned for Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) has had to battle back from injury often enough before, but there was no hiding the frustration in her initial reaction after the Paris-Roubaix Femmes crash – that left her with two fractures to her pelvis and a broken shoulder – when it looked like her recovery would mean being bed-ridden for weeks. Further assessment, however, has changed that outlook and now the Dutch rider is up and walking and even slowly pedalling on a home trainer.

The world’s number one ranked rider and Women’s WorldTour leader was first caught in an early crash at a wet and slippery Paris-Roubaix Femmes and, while out of contention, decided to continue on to experience the first-ever running of the Classic with the toughest of reputations. Then, however, while trying to avoid a later crash in front, she came down heavily which left her badly injured and seriously regretting the decision to continue on.

“Just before the Carrefour de l'Arbre, with 15 kilometers to go, I was behind two girls from Parkhotel Valkenburg. They slipped. As a result, I also had to brake and I fell, a fall in which I broke my pelvis in two places and also broke my shoulder,” said Van Vleuten in a post on her site. “So at that time I was just driving to get to the finish, but now I'm really disappointed that I didn't just get off, because I have to pay a high price for this."

On first assessment that high price was expected to include lying flat for three weeks to allow her pelvis to heal, not only making the recovery process more arduous but also destroying plans for a recharging off-season after an enormous year, which included a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympic Games road race and gold in the time trial. 

Van Vleuten is no stranger to the recovery process and has a record of quick returns, with her recovery list includes a Lotto Belgium Tour win just a month after a dramatic crash at the Olympic Games in 2016 where she suffered a severe concussion and three fractures to her spine.  Plus she also raced the 2020 Road World Championships little more than a week after breaking her wrist at the Giro d’Italia Donne, and ended up taking second place in the road race. Still, while, she may be used to the process, facing up to yet another recovery was clearly a bitter pill to swallow.

“Bye bye holiday. Bye bye recharging. I have done this more often but energy is running out,” said Van Vlueten in her first Twitter post after the injury.

Though, it wasn’t long before there was at least some measure of relief with the recovery plan shifting after the rider returned to the Netherlands for further investigations. The weeks of being bed-ridden, at least, were now off the agenda

“Fortunately, research in Rijnstate has now shown that this is not necessary,” said Van Vleuten on her site. “No surgery is needed, but lying flat for three weeks to allow the pelvis to grow back together, as I was first told, is not necessary. I am allowed to move with pain, with some crutches. That will be difficult, because I can hardly do anything because of the shoulder and walking on crutches will be complicated.”

What, Van Vleuten has happily discovered, though, is that while walking is “super painful” pedalling on an upright wide-seated home trainer is less so. 

“Guess I choose the right sport,” said van Vleuten in an Instagram post showing her rolling the legs over.

A post shared by Annemiek van Vleuten (@annemiekvanvleuten) (opens in new tab)

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