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Van Vleuten skips La Course and Giro d'Italia Donne to go all-in for Tokyo Olympics

OUDENAARDE BELGIUM APRIL 04 Annemiek Van Vleuten of Netherlands and Movistar Team Women during the 18th Ronde van Vlaanderen Tour of Flanders 2021 Womens Elite a 1524km race frim Oudenaarde to Oudenaarde Attack Breakaway RVV21 rondevanvlaanderen tourofflanders UCIWWT on April 04 2021 in Oudenaarde Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Annemiek van Vleuten (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Annemiek van Vleuten will skip both La Course and the Giro d'Italia Donne as she goes all-in for Olympic Games glory in Tokyo.

After indicating in an interview with Cyclingnews that she was undecided on her calendar ahead of the Olympic Games, the Dutchwoman confirmed on her personal website on Wednesday that she will instead use the time for an extended altitude training camp ahead of her flight to Tokyo. 

After a long block of racing in Spain, Van Vleuten has been training at altitude in Andorra but will return to Holland this weekend ahead of the national championships next week. She will do both the time trial on the Wednesday and road race on the Sunday but they will be her only racing appearances before the Olympic road race on July 25 and time trial on July 28. 

The Giro d'Italia Donne, which takes place from July 2-11, is the premier stage race on the women's calendar. Van Vleuten won it in 2018 and 2019 but broke her wrist while in the lead last year, which had knock-on effects on a different major international competition.

"It hurts me a lot not to ride it, because it's my favorite race. But every time I think 'I'm just going to ride it', I look again at the scar on my wrist, where I broke my wrist in the Giro five days before the Time Trial World Championship," Van Vleuten said. 

"You simply have less control over the risks in a race. In addition, I am convinced that you can better prepare for a time trial with a training camp and less well in a road race. In addition, you have no control over how hard the racing is, you have to travel a lot, you have the pressure of defending a classification and so it is mentally tough as well. On the other hand, at training camp I can recharge myself mentally."

As for La Course, which she won in 2018, Van Vleuten explained that the change in date and route led her to remove it from her schedule. The one-day race, run by Tour de France organisers ASO, was originally set to take place around the Mur de Bretagne on June 27, the same day as the men's stage there, but has been moved to Brest on June 26. 

As such, she will miss two of the biggest races for her new team, Movistar, but feels it's a price worth paying.

"It's a shame that I don't race with the team for a while, but that was also the reason that I raced that whole block in Spain with the team. I didn't miss a race there. I really enjoyed riding a very nice block with the team there. Otherwise it is very strange with the Olympics that you would otherwise be out for two months. 

"A side effect of COVID is that some competitions have been postponed until after the World Championships, such as the Women's Tour and Ronde van Drenthe. I have now been able to include them in my program again, so we now have a nice program for the second part of the year."

Van Vleuten has been testing Canyon's new time trial bike and will use it at the Dutch nationals on Wednesday, before also lining out in the road race, despite being a lone Movistar rider in a race based on the steep VAM Berg.  

The following day, she will test materials with the Dutch camp before leaving for the altitude camp in Passo di Foscagno in the Italian Alps. From there, she hopes uninterrupted focus will help land her a first Olympic medal. She made her Olympic debut in the road race at the London Games in 2012 and famously crashed out while leading the road race in Rio four years later, which also ruled her out of the time trial.

"What I found particularly annoying is that people try to tell me that I have to take revenge in Tokyo, to which my answer is that I can't take revenge because it's not on the same track. They are completely different Games and besides, I don't feel the need to take revenge," Van Vleuten said. 

"I have really embraced the result in Rio and I am proud of what I have achieved there. I made a mistake in that corner, but it also brought me a lot, including many great results afterwards. I don't mind when people talk about Rio. It's not an annoying thing for me. The results that followed were really inspired by what I showed in Rio uphill."