On the first-ever summit finish of the Norwegian Women’s WorldTour race, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) crossed the finish solo after putting 35 seconds into her closest rival Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Team SD Worx) over the last 2.5 kilometres of the 11-kilometre climb, in what she called an effort of 'maximum hurt'.
“Ashleigh Moolman went, and I attacked over it. I felt that she could follow me, but I just committed, did not look back and kept on going, and I didn’t even know what was happening behind me after I attacked, because I just went to maximum hurt,” Van Vleuten said after the finish.
Having won silver in the road race and gold in the individual time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games, Van Vleuten won the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa on her return to Europe, taking the lead in the Women's WorldTour.
Less than two weeks later, she wanted to race in Norway without too much pressure, but her teammates’ support meant that she felt obligated to repay them.
“I came to this race trying not to soak in too much pressure after the Olympics, just to see how I was going. But with the team working hard for me all day, putting everything together and doing an amazing job, I felt another kind of pressure to finish things off for them,” explained Van Vleuten.
After the breakaway was reeled in two kilometres before the start of the climb, the Movistar team set things up for Van Vleuten, but the other climbers did not make it easy for her to attack.
“Baby [Barbara Guarischi] did a really good last pull at the foot of the climb, and she did make me hurt, which was actually good! After that, I just had to follow the group and choose my moment. Pablo [Lastras, Movistar sports director, red.] and I had planned to go on the steepest part of the climb, but other teams went quite fast, and it was not a slow stroll up, so it was not easy to try it there,” Van Vleuten recounted the climb to Norefjell ski resort.
In the end, Moolman-Pasio had chosen the same spot to attack, just at the start of the steepest section with three kilometres to go, meaning that Van Vleuten could counterattack and then keep going all the way to the finish, winning the stage and taking the yellow jersey. With time bonifications, she has a 39-second lead going into the final stage.
“It was a beautiful win. It’s so nice to be racing here in Norway, and I look forward to defending this tomorrow with the team. It will be another hard day for us again, but I think I have an experienced team around me, so I’m not nervous for tomorrow,” said Van Vleuten.
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Lukas Knöfler started working in cycling communications in 2013 and has seen the inside of the scene from many angles. Having worked as press officer for teams and races and written for several online and print publications, he has been Cyclingnews’ Women’s WorldTour correspondent since 2018.