Van Vleuten: Dwars door Vlaanderen a ‘wake-up’ ahead of Tour of Flanders
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) was one of the most aggressive riders at the mid-week Dwars door Vlaanderen but strong headwinds prevented her from clearing the peloton along the decisive ascents on the road to Waregem.
In the end, she finished among the main field after working for her team’s sprinter Arlenis Sierra, but she noted that the race gave her a chance to ‘wake-up the legs’ ahead of her defence of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
“I’m good. I just came down from altitude. I’m happy to be back in Flanders. I look forward to Sunday. The legs are good. It will be quite a completely different race from today. Today was good training and a wake-up for the legs at sea level, and so maybe I go again [at Tour of Flanders].”
Van Vleuten hasn’t raced since finishing second to Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) in the thrilling final at Strade Bianche in Siena, Italy. She has spent the last few weeks at altitude on Tenerife, a training ground that has become somewhat of an early- season ritual for the Dutchwoman.
She launched several attacks over the short and punchy climbs at Dwars door Vlaanderen, however, she wasn’t able to clear the field given the headwinds. Knowing that it wouldn’t be possible to win the race for a second year in a row, van Vleuten turned her attention to sprinter Sierra and played a key role in shutting down threatening moves on the run-in to Waregem.
“I was headwind on the climbs, and it was two or three climbs where I could do something, but two of the climbs had headwinds so I knew already that it would be hard today to repeat last year. The course is not super hard … I can make the difference on those climbs only after a really hard race and four or five hours,” van Vleuten said.
“So today was, I think, for me, personally, we had two plans; for the climbs, I would try to attack, you never know, and in the worst-case scenario, you have good training for today. And after the last climb, I was riding for Arlenis Sierra, who is a super girl, and it was my first time with her in the team. It was also a really good opportunity to ride for my team, and I really enjoyed it. I had a really good day, actually today.”
Van Vleuten expressed disappointment that the parcours wasn’t more challenging but that the riders made the race difficult, and it ended up providing an opportunity for the sprinters to excel.
“Instead of 120km, make it 160km with more climbs and more a parcours like Flanders. It’s also an opportunity today for the sprinters, and in the end, the riders make the race, they make it hard. I think we made it hard, but I like a little bit more obstacles to make it super hard.”
Van Vleuten will turn her attention to the Tour of Flanders, where the women will race 158km along a route that starts and finishes in Oudenaarde. Flanders Classics have arranged a route with a combination of cobbles sectors early on followed by 11 steep climbs, and for the first time, this year’s route will include the Koppenberg.
“I think Ronde van Vlaanderen is the Koppenberg, so I’m happy that it’s the first time we can race it there,” she said.