Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) won her first Tour of Flanders in 2011 but after seven top tens and two podium finishes she finally stepped onto the top of the podium in Oudenaarde again in 2021, thanks to a smart solo attack on the final climb.
The European champion was overjoyed after holding off the chasing group for 14 kilometres. "I still can't believe it. It's been so many years seeking for another victory here, and today it finally happened," said Van Vleuten. "I was always super prepared heading into this race, but I always came on the verge of success."
There had been talk of Van Vleuten having a relatively weaker team when compared with powerhouse squads like SD Worx and Trek-Segafredo after she joined Movistar following five years with the Australian team Mitchelton-Scott. But her teammates marked nearly every move - with Jelena Erić going off the front with Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), and Leah Thomas in the group with Van Vleuten until the final climbs.
Van Vleuten praised her team for helping achieve the victory at the Tour of Flanders. "It's a really special day for the Movistar Team, which had never won a Classic like that, and it's really beautiful to live these moments with them. Thanks to the whole team, for their fantastic job once again; they all played a part in this success."
Movistar might have been out-powered by teams like SD Worx, who had both defending champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and world champion Anna van der Breggen, as well as Demi Vollering and Amy Pieters in the front group deep into the race but Movistar were able to successfully break the blockade.
"Our strategy for today was never letting other teams use their strength in numbers against us. That's why we started working early and that's why I tried from so far away from the finish," said the Dutch rider.
After Erić's attack, Van Vleuten launched on the Kanarieberg with two sharp accelerations and, although she wasn't able to get a gap, the move may have sapped some of her rivals' strength.
"I wanted to just go on the Kanarieberg, but there was a headwind and that made it difficult to open any gaps," said Van Vleuten. "However, I feel like that attack took its toll on the group and made things more difficult for everybody, which suited me well.
"After that move, I had to seek another appropriate moment to try it. At the Paterberg, I knew there were no second chances left, and I had to enter first, exit first. After that attack, I was just doing my maximum and counting the kilometers down. I was so tired, but I could just go 'full gas' until the finish. It wasn't easy at all, but we finally got it again."
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