CyclingPub Interview - Annemiek van Vleuten: I'm still confident that I can repeat my last year
Mar 01 2019 06:56 pm CET

CyclingPub Interview - Annemiek van Vleuten: I'm still confident that I can repeat my last year
CyclingPub Interview - Annemiek van Vleuten: I'm still confident that I can repeat my last year
Photo of Annemiek van Vleuten by Mitchelton-Scott

Mitchelton-Scott's Annemiek van Vleuten is returning to racing sooner than expected at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. CyclingPub.com had the chance to have a talk with the time trial World Champion before her return to the road.

Last September, Van Vleuten suffered a crash at the road race of the World Championships of Innsbruck that left her with a fracture in the tibial spine, an injury that could have left her out of racing for six months. But the Dutchwoman showed her resilience once more and after extensive physiotherapy and training, she is back sooner than expected and just in time for the Classics.

CyclingPub.com talked to the rider ahead of her return to competition. Van Vleuten talked about her recovery, her feelings at returning to racing, the upcoming season and the new event at the World Championships.

First of all, how are you feeling physically and emotionally?

I'm happy to be back here racing, I think it is above expectations of my recovery. When I crashed they told me that it would take like six months. It still took long but I was lucky that I didn't have any setbacks or any problems in my recovery period, so it went according to the optimal plan.

I'm happy to be able to be back in the peloton, to be able to race. Physically I had some really good training camps with the guys of Mitchelton-Scott and Gran Canaria after Christmas. I went back home in January and then I went for altitude training and I think I'm not at the level I was in the Giro or in the Championships, but I'm not super far away. It's been only ten weeks training so I'm lucky and I'm already at a pretty good level.

You were back on the saddle after the Rio de Janeiro (2016 Olympic Games) crash sooner than expected as well, right?

The Rio crash looked horrible but one week later I was already on the bike, so this (World Championships) crash had more of an impact. That crash in Rio was super stupid and it was actually nothing and this one actually had a lot more impact, but yes, I recovered soon from both. Also in this one, I put more of an effort to be back at my level, I went to physiotherapy six times a week. I went full gas also in my recovery.

Do you have any 'Annemiek special formula' to recover faster?

I think the formula is to stay positive. To not be negative or busy with the 'what if's or whatever. I just go for it and I think just stay positive. That is the best medicine and make a plan on how to reach a level and what do you need for that.

You'll have a supporting role at the Omloop, but if the race would develop in your favour would you go for it?

Normally it is not possible to start as a domestique and go for the victory. I think the leaders in my team are in good shape. Normally it is not possible when you do a lot of work as a domestique to still be quick enough in the final. Also when I look at my numbers I don't have the level yet, I don't have the numbers I had at the Giro or the World Championships.

I think my teammates are stronger now so it is nice for me to work for them so later in the season they are motivated to work for me as I helped them. It is also nice to put yourself in the helper role sometimes so I really like that too.

Are your numbers very different from what they were one year ago when you were at the Omloop?

Actually no, I'm a bit surprised because I've had only ten weeks of training now. If I compare my numbers with last year March after the track World Championships I can say that I'm at least at the same level I was then. Maybe the camps that I did for my preparation have been really good actually. Maybe all the efforts and the out of my comfort work have surprisingly helped me to be at the level I was.

This year you will start your season later in the year, do you think this will make any difference in your shape for the season?

I don't know because people really need hard racing to reach a high level and during training, I can do way more hours and put in more intensity than I do in a race. Especially, more repetition of hard work. In a race, it can be one or two minutes super hard and in training, I do like eight or ten times those kind of really hard efforts. So in the end, maybe training is better preparation than racing. Maybe this training will help me to a higher level.

Do you have any expectations for the classics?

After my injury, I realised that it would be really hard to be at the top-top level. Before I had the injury I had a plan with my coach to lead the Ardennes classics this year and after I crashed I realised that it was not realistic to say that I wanted to do that. So my strongest goal is to do everything I can to be at my level. I don't have any expectations.

Do you think this year you could get fewer victories than last year?

No, if you check my recent springs I didn't have any victories and I think it could be a very good year from May on. I'm still confident that I can repeat my last year and maybe even better.

Do you think you could be at your optimal shape for the Giro Rosa?

I really don't have any expectations but I can hope. The best thing I can do is to prepare optimally to be ready at the Giro Rosa but I don't know. I had a big injury and eight weeks on your chair is not very good for your shape and you need a lot of time to come back and I've never had experienced this before so I don't know the level I will be at. But after the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, I will know a little bit more about the level that I have.

The 2019 World Championships will have the introduction of the new event of the Mixed time trial. Do you think the Netherlands has the potential to be the first winner of this competition?

I don't know much about this event but I've heard that the men will be under 23, so this puts everything in a different perspective. It was assumed that we would be racing Anna van der Breggen, me, Tom Dumoulin, et cetera. I think they treat it like a trial and error thing. For me, it's not that important at all. Especially if they decide to let the women ride with the Under 23 men, I don't take it very seriously anymore.

By Mary Cárdenas




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