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Annemiek van Vleuten’s stage win and overall victory at Setmana Valenciana is about as in-character and true to form as it gets, especially when you consider where she was a little under five months ago.
⬇️Thanks for refreshing my memory. Can't believe it myself, I was like this 4,5 months ago and till half dec walking with crutches. Thanks to everyone, friends, family, team and @Rijnstate who all supported me to recover so quickly! https://t.co/pG1KgdD0A1— Annemiek van Vleuten (@AvVleuten) February 19, 2022
While the rest of us celebrated a beautiful first-ever Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Van Vleuten was flat on her back on a hospital gurney, her distinctive WorldTour leader’s jersey in tatters, ruing the day she agreed to partake in the historic event.
In the hours after the crash, Van Vleuten appeared uncharacteristically weary and pessimistic on social media – “Bye bye holiday. Bye bye recharging. I have done this often, but energy is running out.” – but her outlook soon improved.
With two breaks to her pelvis and a fractured shoulder, doctors in the local Roubaix hospital had told Van Vleuten to expect three weeks of total bed rest, but the 39-year-old took her first steps just the following day, and was filmed doing even more “40h later!”.
Van Vleuten was back on a bike a little over two weeks after Paris-Roubaix and she ended October with her regular road bike in Cantabria, Spain. Her recovery well and truly on track, the Dutch all-rounder headed out for another short block of training in Colombia, where she caught up with teammate Paula Patiño and Swiss WorldTour pro Simon Pellaud (Trek-Segafredo) for a few mid-December rides.
This week some nice rides with @paulapb291 and Swiss machine @PellaudSimon First time today to La Concepcíon and with Paula to Guatapé. A lot of roads still to discover for me and good training company around here. Today: first sprints after I broke my pubic bone in 2 places. 💪 pic.twitter.com/SFkjj8L8Ew— Annemiek van Vleuten (@AvVleuten) December 7, 2021
The Movistar leader would link back up with her Colombian teammate Patiño for the first race of her 2022 season, a return to the hilly stage race Setmana Valenciana where Van Vleuten netted her first GC win of 2021.
Back in its traditional early-season slot in February, Van Vleuten’s attempted title defence would come with question marks, but any doubts were put to bed just three days into her 2022 season when she attacked on Saturday’s Queen stage. The Paris-Roubaix crash a distant memory, Van Vleuten went on the final climb of Alto del Collao, soaring up the incline to a dominant stage victory and into the race lead.
Van Vleuten took a buffer of 1:05 into the final stage, and though it was another lumpy day out, its flat and far from technical finish looked good as far as the GC was concerned.
During stage 4, Movistar was put under pressure by a flying Australian TT champion Grace Brown, the last of three FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope riders who trailed Van Vleuten on GC after stage 3, but with a 2:27 gap to eat through, Brown had her work cut out. Together with the motivated sprint teams, Movistar never allowed the escape much more than 1:30 and Van Vleuten would celebrate victory behind stage winner Marta Bastianelli (UAE Team ADQ).