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Annemiek van Vleuten couldn’t make the race hard enough at Tour of Flanders

Van Vleuten undone in Flanders sprint: 'I can't do everything. I need other teams and hope that they want to make the race hard and drop people.'

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For the second time this season, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) finished second on the podium, sandwiched between Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) on the top step and another SD Worx rider in third place.

Much like at Strade Bianche, van Vleuten attacked whenever the road tilted upward at the Tour of Flanders but could not distance Kopecky who stuck to her back wheel as if they were riding a tandem.

“For me, it was that the middle part [of the race] was not raced so hard so we arrived with, for me, too big a bunch at the Koppenberg to drop riders like Lotte Kopecky on the Paterburg,” van Vleuten said Sunday. “The climbs here are so short that I need a super hard race to be able to drop riders like Lotte Kopecky.”

Van Vleuten did her utmost to ensure that this edition of the Tour of Flanders was a hard race. She first attacked on the Koppenberg, 54 kilometers from the finish, and only Kopecky and Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine) could follow. Then, on the Paterberg, she made the decisive move, bridging up to the race leader, Marlen Reusser (SD Worx).

“I cannot do everything,” van Vleuten said. “I also need other teams and hope that they want to make the race hard and drop people.”

Also read: Kopecky outsprints van Vleuten in Flanders

Despite this second place, van Vleuten was full of praise for her team, who protected her and remained at the front even as the race split into pieces. Arlenis Sierra won the sprint behind the leading trio for fourth place, while Emma Norsgaard finished 13th.

“I’m super proud of my team also today,” van Vleuten said. “It was super nice. Last year, I was sometimes alone in front and now I had like two other cards to play with Arlenis Sierra and Emma Norsgaard who had really good legs so it was nice that we were all the time.”

“The five I was riding with today, they are like super skillful, and it’s best if you have skillful riders and so they also put me in the perfect position before the Koppenberg and I didn’t need to spend any energy.”

Gallery: AVV’s Canyon for the classics

It was the culmination of an impressive week for Sierra who also finished ninth at Dwars door Vlaanderen in her first classics campaign for Movistar.

“I’m amazed by her skills and also by her level,” van Vleuten said about her new teammate. “I think also she is experiencing a year in a team at a higher level and I think it will also push her to a higher level and she already showed off today that it is pushing her to a higher level and she is having more opportunities also so yeah she is a really good girl to have in our team, I’m super proud.”

The Women’s WorldTour has not yet reached the terrain in which van Vleuten is most comfortable and she is already looking forward to the hillier classics where she has excelled in the past.

“When I look back tonight at the race, I cannot say that I left it somewhere. For me, the further you get to Liège [-Bastogne-Liège] and Flèche [Wallone} the more it is in my favor.”