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Van Vleuten announced earlier this year that she would be riding both of the women’s grand tours, as well as the Challenge by La Vuelta, in 2022. However, this is the first time she’s said that she will go into the two races with the overall title in mind.
The Dutch rider has won the Giro d’Italia Donne twice, in 2018 and 2019, but this will be the first opportunity that she’ll have to target the Tour de France Femmes after the race was revived for this season.
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Winning both grand tours will be a difficult challenge physically, but also mentally as Van Vleuten will have to hold back her instinct to attack.
“The goal is to ride for the classification in both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France and that will be quite challenging,” Van Vleuten wrote on her website. “I like to attack, and one-day races are my passion and heart. That passion does not lie in going for classification, I do it because I can. The Tour de France is a great goal and I also get excited about the Giro when I see the Giro men.”
For Van Vleuten, as with the other GC hopefuls, it will be about keeping her powder dry for the right moments where it will have the biggest impact on the overall classification. There will be no time trial in the 2022 Tour de France Femmes and the gravel sections on stage 5 can be both a danger as well as a temptation to attack.
In grand tours, any day can be a GC day, but it is the final two stages of the Tour de France Femmes that will likely be the deciding factor in the overall classification. The Giro d’Italia Donne’s mountain stages are more spread out but the challenges remain the same.
Van Vleuten will have to bide her time, but she says that she would rather take Mathieu van der Poel’s approach to grand tour riding after watching her compatriot go in multiple breakaways during the three-week race.
“The difficult thing about a multi-day event is that you have many ‘negative goals’. In eight days of the Tour de France, you have nothing to gain and only to lose for the first six days. That means staying out of trouble and saving energy,” Van Vleuten said. “You simply cannot go for it if you’re going for a ranking.
“I can ride a classification and that’s why I do it, but my heart is more with attacking like Mathieu van der Poel. It’s no different for the Giro. Also, there I will have to stay out of trouble for the first few days and I see it only getting really difficult in the last few days.”
Getting back to training
Van Vleuten’s preparation for her big summer goals has been far from ideal after she crashed and broke her wrist in April, just a few days after winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She had to skip the Spanish stages races in May as she recovered, but she was back to training quickly.
Soon after undergoing an operation on her wrist, Van Vleuten was in Andorra for some altitude training, but it would take time for her to make a full recovery. She joined up with a number of riders, including compatriots Floortje Mackaij, Shirin van Anrooij, and Robert Gesink.
“I am now back from a few weeks of training in Andorra. I have to say, the first week and a half there it was difficult. Cycling with pain is no fun,” Van Vleuten said. “It was possible because it didn’t make it worse, but it did hurt. You will therefore compensate, and your body is not completely in balance. That made it a struggle and I didn’t enjoy riding my bike every day. However, that is now behind me. Four weeks after the surgery I could say that I was cycling around without pain, I was able to get out of the saddle and pull on the handlebars again.
“I think it is a good thing that I went to Andorra a little earlier than I would have otherwise. Sitting still on the couch doesn’t make you any better either. The Movistar’s men’s team for Tour de France was also there and I was able to join them. This means that there was also a masseur, osteopath, and mechanics. That was also a reason to go, because here I was in good hands.”
Van Vleuten is now back in the Netherlands following her stint at altitude. Normally, she would ride the national championships ahead of the Giro d’Italia but, for the first time in 15 years, she’s decided to skip it so that she can fully prepare for the summer.
“I want to prepare myself optimally and move forward in optimal form to the Giro and Tour de France, and the Dutch National Championships do not fit in for me,” she said. “That is reinforced by a course where I have little business. If they had organized it in South Limburg, I would have come back for it, but with a course that has also become a bit easier compared to last year, with the VAM mountain less often, I want to focus on the main goals. That’s not the national championships now.”