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Some riders seem to become magnets for crashing. Annemiek van Vleuten—for all her considerable strength and her dazzling palmares — is one such rider.
It’s hard to forget the image of the Dutchwoman from the road race at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, lying in the gutter after crashing on a descent. But that is just one of the crashes to have defined this rider’s career. While leading the Giro Donne in 2020, Van Vleuten crashed on stage seven into Maddaloni resulting in a broken elbow and shattered dreams of a third Giro title. Earlier this season, the 39-year-old came a cropper on a mountain bike ride and broke her wrist, missing out on the Spanish racing block as a result.
So when the Movistar rider locked up her brakes on the descent towards Aldeno while leading the race solo, skidding off the tarmac and bouncing off a road sign before hitting the deck, those watching on held their breath: was this another performance about to be undone by a crash? This time, luck was on her side. Van Vleuten was quick to pick herself back up and dust herself down, a bloody elbow and the chain hanging off her pink-adorned Canyon the only evidence of her spill.
Such was the buffer that Van Vleuten had ahead of a chasing Marta Cavalli that the crash barely made a dent on her lead. The two-time Giro winner continued her furious descent and crossed the line solo, almost a minute ahead of her rival and adding well over a minute to her now-unassailable GC margin.
“I made a stupid mistake on the descent,” said Van Vleuten after the stage. “I feel it’s a bit of a disappointment of today that I made such a stupid, unnecessary mistake. Sorry mum, watching me.
“But I’m all good so nothing happened. I managed to not make that but it was unnecessary so I feel a bit stupid for that.”
She may feel stupid for crashing but Van Vleuten’s move was a clever one. Showing that she is still very much the peloton’s most dominant climber, the maglia rosa rode away from her competition to extend her lead, and that is before Saturday’s stage nine sees the peloton tackle the ‘cima coppi’ of the race.
“Today I showed that my legs are fine, I have a good advantage so I am happy. It’s a beautiful stage tomorrow,” Van Vleuten concluded.