Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) insists her “driving force has never been winning” despite her incredible palmarès, as she reflected on her legacy at Warner Bros. Discovery’s start of season cycling launch event.
The Dutchwoman, 40, will bow out from the peloton at the end of the season after an astonishing career that has seen her win practically every major title.
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“If you’re a cyclist, you know how nice it is to wear that World Championship jersey for one year. So to quit in the World Championships jersey and not wear it for the next year, it’s the best way for me to end my career in the jersey this year,” she said.
“It helps a lot with motivation to train. It helps with enjoying [racing]. My mother loves it because she reckons she can recognise me a little bit better on the television.
“For me, it’s the best race to win because you can get the present to wear the World Championship jersey for the whole of next year.”
Van Vleuten is still chasing a first win in 2023, with her next opportunity coming on Sunday at the Tour of Flanders, where she won in 2011 and 2021.
However, she said she was simply happy to be in the mix for victory, rather than being preoccupied with the top step on the podium.
“My driving force has never been winning. So that’s always the cherry on the cake,” she continued.
“So that helps a lot, not thinking about it, and for me, it’s only disappointing when I’m not part of the group that is going for the win.
“For me, it’s like the achievement is to be there in the right time to fight for the win, to be part of the game, to be part of the entertainment for the people that are watching at home.
“I want to be part of the final two corners of the race to make it eventful. That’s always the goal.”
Van Vleuten will again race at the Giro Donne and Tour in her final season, plus all the major one-day races – except Paris-Roubaix – and the World Championships.
Asked whether she sees herself as an inspiration to young girls and boys, she added: “I’m not very aware of that. I am quite happy to hear sometimes nice compliments that I inspire people, that I entertain people, that people became more a fan of women’s cycling because of me, but for sure, it’s also because of the other ones.
“But because I’m always part of the fight in front and I am one of the players in the game, especially also the races that I did win where people watched in front of the couch – that makes me super proud.
“I think I’m also one of the people who maybe helped a little bit to develop women’s cycling, but we did it all together with the women’s peloton and everyone had their role. But I’m proud to be one of the players.”
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