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Van Vleuten: We have more important races than the Tour de France only

 Annemiek Van Vleuten racing the opening time trial at the Giro Donne where she finished sixth
Annemiek Van Vleuten racing the opening time trial at the Giro Donne where she finished sixth (Image credit: Getty Images)

Annemiek van Vleuten announced this week her imminent retirement whilst simultaneously revealing that she would remain with her team, Movistar, for the final season of her career next year. 

Today, the decorated Dutch athlete took part in her first race since her victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, finishing sixth in the opening time trial at the Giro d'Italia Donne.

The 39-year-old is targeting the ‘Giro-Tour double’, going for general classification wins at both ‘Grand Tour’ stage races, but, she says, she does not give precedence to the French race over the longstanding Italian tour. 

“For me, personally, there’s not a big difference between targeting the Giro and the Tour de France but the people around me they only talk about the Tour de France, ... This is, sometimes, they need to wake up a little bit also because we have more important races than the Tour de France only,” Van Vleuten said in a video interview posted by her team on social media. 

“For sure there will be more pressure from the outside world and I think it’s super nice and good that we have here almost the same team, the riders but also the staff that are here at the Giro,” she added.  

This will be Van Vleuten’s first attempt at a general classification win at the Giro d'Italia Donne with Movistar, having previously won the race flanked by her former team Mitchelton-Scott (now BikeExchange-Jayco) in 2018 and 2019. 

“For sure we will make some mistakes because it’s the first time that we target such a big stage race together with this team,” Van Vleuten said. “It’s a new challenge and I love challenges but for sure with a new challenge we will make some mistakes and having to learn from it.

"If you take the same people I’m convinced that we will learn quickly and it will improve quickly also for this team and then the real pressure coming from the outside world in the Tour de France we are a bit more ready also for that.” 

With the 10-day Giro d’Italia Donne finishing just two weeks before the eight-day Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift begins, many riders have opted to target just one of the two stage races. Some, like Van Vleuten, are racing both, however. 

“My training plan was to arrive here in my top shape that I’m 100% sure that physically I will end in the same shape in the Tour de France as I am now,” she said. “And also I thought about it that I need those two weeks between where it’s important to recharge mentally as well as physically. 

"I think more of it is mentally, because I target both the big stages races for the GC and that is especially, mentally, a challenge to recharge from that. Every day you wake up with stress, every day I wake up with a stone in my stomach … also in the sprint stages I cannot lose time. I need to be super-focussed from the beginning to the end and I also need to conserve energy, and you have that stress every day. So that’s a challenge.” 

With a broken wrist sustained during a mountain biking accident forcing the former world champion out of the Spanish stage races in May, she has not raced for months, insteading opting to train at altitude in Andorra and Livigno. 

“I’m super keen to race, that also helps that I didn’t race too much before this,” she said before explaining that she may need to curb her energy slightly during the two longest stage races on the calendar. 

“I’m not a person who likes to conserve energy and to be quiet. I like to race with my heart and I know in a stage race I cannot do that,” she said. 

“So that’s the challenge for me that I switch off my one-day racing style and go a bit into the conserving racing style and I need to be patient. That's also not one of my strongest qualities, but I need to be patient until stage seven. Patient, but don’t lose the focus, and I think that is the biggest challenge with this. 

"If you just go for the two stage races just going for stages, it’s so different, it’s like especially the days where I don’t have a goal unless I conserve energy, which is the challenge of a stage race.” 

Van Vleuten, who is the Olympic time trial champion, finished the 4.7km opening prologue in sixth place, nine seconds behind winner Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) going into the first road stage on Friday.  

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