Annemiek van Vleuten wins Women's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Annemiek van Vleuten had a domestique's early work in her legs as she opened her sprint on Eastern Beach Road along Geelong's waterfront. The Dutchwoman was meant to work her Australian teammates, newly crowned double Australian champion Katrin Garfoot and Santos Women's Tour overall winner Amanda Spratt, at the Deakin Women's Race but was the lone Orica-Scott rider amongst a selection of five riders fighting towards the finish. Second to jump, Van Vleuten was first across the line.

"I surprised myself to be there in the final," Van Vleuten told reporters, including Cyclingnews, following podium presentations. "In Tour Down Under, I was still struggling uphill. Today I was one of the better riders uphill."

Early crosswinds and unrelenting aggression played to Van Vleuten's strengths. With only five kilometres raced, Van Vleuten launched the first attack of the day as the peloton turned toward Barwon Heads. The wind had changed direction, and Van Vleuten hoped to split or at least soften the field in the crosswinds. Although her attack didn't have the desired intent, it signalled Orica-Scott's intention.

Ten kilometres later, the Australian-registered squad in conjunction with Canyon//SRAM forced the pace in the cross-winds. The damage was swift and dramatic. Only 18 kilometres into the 113-kilometre day, three distinct groups had taken shape. Thirty riders made the front split.

"I'm a bit older, and I have a big engine," said Van Vleuten. "For me, it's really good that there were already some crosswinds, already people started to suffer. The big suffering races that are really hard, that's what I like."

Van Vleuten contested both intermediate sprints, coming second to Alé Cipollini's Romy Kasper on the first and winning the second. Combined with her position at the finish, it was enough to earn the sprint jersey. She chased down the near-constant attacks and launched a few of her own in the closing kilometres.

"I had the feeling with Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt, they were supposed to be our leaders, and they didn't have a great day. When I noticed that they weren't there, and it was only me, and I had already done some work, then I felt some pressure," noted Van Vleuten. "I thought: ‘Maybe it will be up to me today. It will maybe ge hard to finish this one off, and it's really important to my team to win this one.' Then I felt a little pressure. I tried to forget about all the work I had done already in the race."

The peloton, which had regrouped following earlier splits, had tackled three of the six hills that come in quick succession in the Deakin Women's Race finale when a group of around 20 riders emerged. It was from this group that Emma Pooley, guest-riding for Holden Women's Cycling, escaped in a solo bid for glory. When Pooley had pocketed 20-seconds, race announcers began to discuss her chances, excitedly reminding viewers of Pooley's previous success in Victoria -- an individual time trial world title in Geelong in 2010.

In Pooley's wake, Van Vleuten, Janneke Ensing (Alé Cipollini) and Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dream Team) traded pulls. A mechanical took an obviously and understandably frustrated Ensing out of the chase as Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthcare) and Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle-High5) bridged across to Van Vleuten and Kennedy.

The quartet reached Pooley with three kilometres remaining.

"I knew that I was fastest of the group, but you feel the extra pressure so that they don't surprise you," said Van Vleuten. "With Emma Pooley it was: ‘I want to be last wheel and she wants to be last wheel. No, I want to be there.' I didn't want it to be that they would surprise."

Winder opened the sprint.

"I got caught on the front with a probably a kilometre to go and no matter how slow I went, no one really wanted to come around me," Winder told Cyclingnews. "I tried to ramp it up and go early, but Van Vleuten came around me. I just put my head down and did everything I could to jump onto her wheel to hold onto second place."

Van Vleuten said her win in Australia buoys her confidence as she heads back to Europe where she'll train at altitude in preparation for her biggest goals of the season.

"I go home tomorrow with this trophy in my backpack," said Van Vleuten. "It's awesome. It inspires me even more […] I start racing at the end of February. This gives me good confidence that I'm in a good way for spring."

Van Vleuten was quick to shut down any suggestions that a race win, this one one or any other, would help put her horrific crash at the Rio Olympics behind her.

"I don't want [memories of the crash] to disappear," said Van Vleuten. "For me, it was one of the best races of my life. I don't ever want to forget about it. The ending maybe, but I also don't want to forget the ending because that's cycling. It's horrific and awful and beautiful.

"I'm okay to talk about the crash, but not only about the crash, especially about the whole race in Rio," Van Vleuten added. "If people want to talk to me about that, about the whole race, I'm fine with that. I hope they will talk about that. It was a big race for women's cycling. It was wonderful to watch. For me, it had a bad ending, but it's good for me to show people that my shape in Rio inspired me already for next season." 

Full Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Orica Scott3:04:13
2Ruth Winder (USA) UnitedHealhtcare Pro Cycling TeamRow 1 - Cell 2
3Mayuko Hagiwara (Jpn) Wiggle High5Row 2 - Cell 2
4Lucy Kennedy (Aus) High5 Dream TeamRow 3 - Cell 2
5Emma Pooley (GBr) Holden Women's Cycling TeamRow 4 - Cell 2
6Susanna Zorzi (Ita) Drops0:00:27
7Kirsten Wild (Ned) Cylance Pro Cycling0:00:33
8Chloe Hosking (Aus) Ale CipolliniRow 7 - Cell 2
9Chloe Dygert (USA) Sho-Air Twenty20Row 8 - Cell 2
10Gracie Elvin (Aus) Orica ScottRow 9 - Cell 2
11Annette Edmondson (Aus) Wiggle High5Row 10 - Cell 2
12Gretchen Stumhofer (USA) Sho-Air Twenty20Row 11 - Cell 2
13Ann-Sophie Duyck (Bel) DropsRow 12 - Cell 2
14Kylie Waterrues (Ned) Maaslandster Veris CCNRow 13 - Cell 2
15Julie Leth (Den) Wiggle High5Row 14 - Cell 2
16Amanda Jamieson (NZl) New Zealand National TeamRow 15 - Cell 2
17Abigail Van Twisk (GBr) DropsRow 16 - Cell 2
18Elizabeth Williams (Aus) Hagens Berman / SupermintRow 17 - Cell 2
19Tayler Wiles (USA) UnitedHealhtcare Pro Cycling TeamRow 18 - Cell 2
20Alexandra Manly (Aus) Orica ScottRow 19 - Cell 2
21Annie Foreman-Mackey (Can) Sho-Air Twenty20Row 20 - Cell 2
22Rushlee Buchanan (NZl) UnitedHealhtcare Pro Cycling TeamRow 21 - Cell 2
23Leah Thomas (USA) Sho-Air Twenty20Row 22 - Cell 2
24Alice Barnes (GBr) DropsRow 23 - Cell 2
25Daiva Tuslaite (Ltu) Ale CipolliniRow 24 - Cell 2
26Georgia Catterick (NZl) New Zealand National TeamRow 25 - Cell 2
27Kate McIlroy (NZl) Specialized Women's CyclingRow 26 - Cell 2
28Lucy Bechtel (Aus) Specialized Women's CyclingRow 27 - Cell 2
29Grace Brown (Aus) Holden Women's Cycling TeamRow 28 - Cell 2
30Justine Barrow (Aus) Rush Women's TeamRow 29 - Cell 2
31Katharine Hall (USA) UnitedHealhtcare Pro Cycling TeamRow 30 - Cell 2
32Peta Mullens (Aus) Hagens Berman / SupermintRow 31 - Cell 2
33Malgorzata Jasinska (Pol) Cylance Pro CyclingRow 32 - Cell 2
34Shannon Malseed (Aus) Holden Women's Cycling TeamRow 33 - Cell 2
35Sharlotte Lucas (NZl) New Zealand National TeamRow 34 - Cell 2
36Amanda Spratt (Aus) Orica Scott0:00:37
37Romy Kasper (Ger) Ale Cipollini0:00:39
38Jenelle Crooks (Aus) Orica ScottRow 37 - Cell 2
39Carlee Taylor (Aus) Ale CipolliniRow 38 - Cell 2
40Danielle King (GBr) Cylance Pro CyclingRow 39 - Cell 2
41Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon SRAM Racing0:00:49
42Rebecca Wiasak (Aus) High5 Dream Team0:01:50
43Grace Anderson (NZl) New Zealand National TeamRow 42 - Cell 2
44Nina Marie Laughlin (USA) Sho-Air Twenty20Row 43 - Cell 2
45Jessica Pratt (Aus) High5 Dream TeamRow 44 - Cell 2
46Rebecca Womersley (GBr) DropsRow 45 - Cell 2
47Amy Cure (Aus) Wiggle High5Row 46 - Cell 2
48Anna Christian (GBr) DropsRow 47 - Cell 2
49Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon SRAM RacingRow 48 - Cell 2
50Christel Van Loo (Ned) Maaslandster Veris CCN0:02:59
51Anna Trevisi (Ita) Ale Cipollini0:03:42
52Janneke Ensing (Ned) Ale CipolliniRow 51 - Cell 2
53Amy Roberts (GBr) Wiggle High50:04:19
54Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Canyon SRAM RacingRow 53 - Cell 2
55Starla Teddergreen (USA) Hagens Berman / SupermintRow 54 - Cell 2
56Beth Ann Orton (USA) Hagens Berman / SupermintRow 55 - Cell 2
57Lisa Brennauer (Ger) Canyon SRAM RacingRow 56 - Cell 2
58Louisa Lobigs (Aus) Holden Women's Cycling TeamRow 57 - Cell 2
59Jessica Cerra (USA) Hagens Berman / SupermintRow 58 - Cell 2
60Lauretta Hanson (Aus) UnitedHealhtcare Pro Cycling TeamRow 59 - Cell 2
61Rossella Ratto (Ita) Cylance Pro CyclingRow 60 - Cell 2
62Ellen Skerritt (Aus) Rush Women's TeamRow 61 - Cell 2
63Jaime Gunning (Aus) Holden Women's Cycling TeamRow 62 - Cell 2
64Lauren Hall (USA) UnitedHealhtcare Pro Cycling Team0:04:23
65Tsubasa Makise (Jpn) Maaslandster Veris CCN0:05:41
66Jessica Lane (Aus) Maaslandster Veris CCN0:09:44
67Ella Scanlan-Bloor (Aus) Specialized Women's Cycling0:11:02
68Kristy Glover (Aus) Rush Women's Team0:11:03
69Matilda Raynolds (Aus) Rush Women's Team0:11:28
70Ivy Audrain (USA) Hagens Berman / SupermintRow 69 - Cell 2
71Kristina Clonan (Aus) High5 Dream TeamRow 70 - Cell 2
72Ruby Livingstone (NZl) New Zealand National TeamRow 71 - Cell 2
73Erin Kinnealy (Aus) Holden Women's Cycling TeamRow 72 - Cell 2
74Grace Garner (GBr) Wiggle High5Row 73 - Cell 2
75Sofia Arreola Navarro (Mex) Sho-Air Twenty20Row 74 - Cell 2
76Kate Perry (Aus) Specialized Women's Cycling0:14:14
DNFMieke Kröger (Ger) Canyon SRAM RacingRow 76 - Cell 2
DNFKatrin Garfoot (Aus) Orica ScottRow 77 - Cell 2
DNFMarta Tagliaferro (Ita) Cylance Pro CyclingRow 78 - Cell 2
DNFRachele Barbieri (Ita) Cylance Pro CyclingRow 79 - Cell 2
DNFMikayla Harvey (NZl) New Zealand National TeamRow 80 - Cell 2
DNFDesiree Ehrler (Swi) Maaslandster Veris CCNRow 81 - Cell 2
DNFAyla Rudgley (Aus) Maaslandster Veris CCNRow 82 - Cell 2
DNFWinanda Spoor (Ned) Rush Women's TeamRow 83 - Cell 2
DNFMinda Murray (Aus) Rush Women's TeamRow 84 - Cell 2
DNFTaryn Heather (Aus) Specialized Women's CyclingRow 85 - Cell 2
DNFSophie Mackay (Aus) Specialized Women's CyclingRow 86 - Cell 2
DNSChloe Moran (Aus) High5 Dream TeamRow 87 - Cell 2

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