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Is La Vuelta Femenina Annemiek van Vleuten – Rouleur

Is La Vuelta Femenina Annemiek van Vleuten – Rouleur

Is this year one too many for Annemiek van Vleuten? In her final season in the professional women’s peloton, the world champion, once known to be a prolific winner, has – so far – had a fall from grace. Fourth in Setmana Ciclista-Volta Comunitat Valenciana Fèmines, fourth in Strade Bianche, 11th in the Amstel Gold Race, seventh in La Flèche Wallonne Féminine and sixth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège could be the makings of an impressive, consistent season opening for some riders, but for Van Vleuten, who in years past has dominated the one-day races, these results are below expectations.

On her website, the 40-year-old has outlined, in a series of blog posts, the varying reasons that have caused this run of subpar results. There was the flat tyre in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, then there was bad positioning and being outnumbered by SD Worx at Strade Bianche, then the crash at the foot of the Koppenberg in the Tour of Flanders, then the cold weather and rain at Amstel Gold Race, then a lack of cooperation from other riders during Flèche Wallonne, then in Liège-Bastogne-Liège there was the issue of Van Vleuten being isolated in the front group.

It’s true that in bike racing, there are always factors to blame or justifications for poor performances, but to those watching Van Vleuten race this season, one thing has been clear: she doesn’t look to have the physical form or strength she has in years gone by. Those attacks that would have once detonated a peloton now are calmly responded to by her rivals. The solo efforts that a few years ago would have seen her put minutes into the group chasing her are no more. While this might be a positive indicator of the growing strength in the women’s peloton, rather than a decrease in Van Vleuten’s personal form, her riding style has indicated a type of struggle. 

When the gradients kicked up during the Ardennes Classics, the Dutchwoman looked to be fighting her bike, rocking and rolling over the pedals, her physical demeanour was like a literal representation of her mental state; you could almost see the desperation to distance her competitors in her ragged riding style. Perhaps this was due to the terrain; the short, steep climbs may not have given Van Vleuten the time and distance she needed to put the hurt on others. The hilly, punchy Ardennes don’t allow for the world champion to get into a metronomic style which weakens other riders before she launches a trademark attack.

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