After coming fifth at Saturday’s Strade Bianche world champion Annemiek van Vleuten is in the rare position of walking away from her first block of racing for the season without a victory.
The Movistar rider, who is racing her final season, has twice crossed the line first at the race with ‘the most beautiful finish of our whole calendar’ but in her final edition of the race, which finishes in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, she had to settle for a place off the podium. She rode over the line just over two minutes after Demi Vollering (SD Worx) claimed victory ahead of her teammate Lotte Kopecky – who Van Vleuten finished second to last year.
“At the moment we were at the top, Demi Vollering placed an attack and I hoped that someone from my team could join us, but unfortunately that didn’t work and I couldn’t answer that attack anymore, because I had just made an attack myself,” said Van Vleuten on her website.
“She went at a very good time and I just couldn’t go. Then you know it’s going to be very difficult, especially when Kopecky and Vollering find each other.”
While the two SD Worx were able to rely on each other to chase down Kirsten Faulkner (Jayco-AlUla) on the final climb, Van Vleuten didn’t have the support she wanted, even though Liane Lippert was also in the group when Vollering’s attack occurred at just over 17km to go.
“I think we have to get to know each other’s qualities in the team a little better, so that we can use that in the finals in the next races,” said Van Vleuten. “We will evaluate that and take it on board.”
Fifth is the Dutch riders lowest placing at Strade Bianche since 2017, and comes after a flat ruined her chances at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, though she had entered the Italian race with confidence.
“About my own level I think; too bad, it wasn’t good enough today to win,” said Van Vleuten. “On the other hand, I also know that it is not very far and you see that the level of women’s cycling is increasing enormously every year. The battle is getting tougher and more beautiful.”
Though, of course, she’ll be looking for that bit extra to secure her first win of the season when it comes to her next block of racing.
“In any case, I am going to Tenerife with the idea of adding a small percentage and then going at it again in Flanders,” said Van Vleuten.