The 38-year-old returns as defending champion in what’s the 2021 women’s season opener. It was her only victory in 2020 before the women’s calendar was shut down due to the coronavirus. She returned in July, and promptly won the next four races.
The Belgian classic also marks the next chapter in her career and her first race with Movistar since signing a two-year deal to join the Spanish team.
“It is all-new, with many new people,” she wrote on her personal blog. “The first day [of camp] I felt like I was experiencing my first day at a new school.”
Van Vleuten will be joined by American Leah Thomas, who also joins Movistar this season.
Iván García Cortina leads men’s team
The arrival of the 25-year-old from Bahrain-McLaren on a three-year deal will put one of Spain’s top sprinters and budding classics specialists on Spain’s lone WorldTour team.
Movistar has long performed well in grand tours across its four decades in cycling but has rarely punched beyond its weight in the northern classics. Team boss Eusebio Unzué said the team is hopeful García Cortina will see team colors have a higher profile in the popular one-day races and monuments.
“The northern classics will be a new big goal for us with Iván,” Unzué said. “We hope we can win one of those races that we do not have on our palmarès.”
García Cortina will put a big focus on the Belgian classics this year, with support from such riders as American rider Matteo Jorgenson and Spanish veteran Imanol Erviti.