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Annemiek Van Vleuten of The Netherlands won the...

Van Vleuten setting high bar for classics assault

The Dutch star outlines an ambitious schedule in her world champion debut, after seamless winter preparation.

Annemiek van Vleuten is putting the spring classics at the center of her world championship season debut.

The Mitchelton-Scott star hopes to roar into the classics, and put her rainbow jersey on display in the most important one-day races of the first half of a busy season which includes the Olympic Games.

“I’m not racing a lot, but the races I am doing, I am really targeting,” she said, Thursday. “After coming so close a few times last year I am really looking forward to racing [the classics] again this year. If you come second then there is the possibility to win.”

In 2019, van Vleuten roared to solo victories in both Strade Bianche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and was second at Ronde van Vlaanderen, Amstel Gold Race, and Flèche Wallonne. For 2020, she’ll be riding in the rainbow jersey, and she wants to be tops in every race she starts.

“I will be proud to wear the rainbow jersey in races, as a champion, and of course if I can win in the jersey it would be very special, but winning is always special, whether you’re wearing the jersey or not,” she said.

The 37-year-old expects to roar into her season debut at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, on February 29, in her first race since her dominant world-title race in September. She described her off-season as her best in years, and built her fitness by training alongside the men’s team at training camps, as well as at altitude, in Colombia.

Annemiek van Vleuten during the 2019 La Course. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

“Knowing how my preparation was last year, with the big setback and injury from the 2019 world champs and still doing so well in the Classics campaign, it really gives me a bit more confidence and belief that I will be a contender in every race at the start of the season,” she said.

Van Vleuten wants to broaden the perception that she’s a climbing specialist, to reveal her all-round ability and depth to shine on the cobbles of northern Europe. She won Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2011, so she’s no stranger to the punishment of the one-days, but she’s especially motivated to win early and often in 2020.

“I’ve won before, I know the parcours quite well, and these Classics races are also special for me because they’re close to my home, and my mother will be there to watch and also some of my Belgian fans,” she said. “They are big-impact races so I am really looking forward to starting this season well and being able to debut the jersey at the classics.”

Annemiek van Vleuten 2020 classics schedule:
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – 29th February
Strade Bianche – 7th March
Dwars door Vlaanderen – 1st April
Ronde van Vlaanderen – 5th April
Amstel Gold Race – 19th April
Flèche Wallonne – 22nd April
Liège-Bastogne-Liège – 26th April