The sight of Annemiek van Vleuten has become a common sight on the roads of Colombia over each winter of the past three years. She once used the high elevation of the paved roads for training, to build into the early road season with her Movistar Team. This year the Dutch rider will have an altogether different motivation as she works her way across the rugged terrain of the Andes for the eight days of Transcordilleras.
The Transcordilleras Rally Colombia has taken hold as a formidable gravel race with former WorldTour pros like Laurens ten Dam, Thomas Dekker and Peter Stetina riding hard across the three imposing mountain ranges along South America’s equator. For this edition, Ten Dam and Dekker return to compete in the non-stop, self-supported category, while the eight-day, self-supported stage race includes newcomers Russell Finsterwald, who won Big Sugar Gravel in 2022, and Whitney Allison, who was second overall at the 2023 Belgian Waffle Ride Quadrupel Crown.
Van Vleuten, on the other hand, will not be pinning a number on, so don’t look for her to sprint to any mountain summits or finish lines against the other retired road and mountain bike pros, as it is the supported event she has opted for. Since retiring last fall from a 16-year road career, she says it’s time to instead enjoy new parts of Colombia off a road bike and with no thought of competition.
“I’m not racing for a result, just for the adventure, and just to finish it, or maybe not,” she laughed as she told Cyclingnews about her time in Colombia this year. “If I feel like finishing, I will finish. So I like the concept.”
The concept is a bicycle vacation, not a race. Along with her boyfriend and a former teammate, Van Vleuten embarks on the eight-day Transcordilleras this Sunday with Altos, a bicycle travel company, and will ride the ‘lazy version’. Altos will arrange all hotels, clean and repair bikes with provided mechanics, and allow for a more relaxed expedition on mixed terrain, which includes a lot of rough gravel and washed-out dirt paths.
“I also want to participate here because people think for sure I will be competitive. People say, ‘Why are you not racing there?’ But that part, I am done with racing. I had the pressure to perform and I had to go for results. Been there, done that,” Van Vleuten said.
“This is just super nice, a new way of enjoying the bike. I am not in the race and it feels really nice.”
Her former Rabobank-Liv Cycling teammate,…