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Speaking to El Peloton this weekend, the celebrated Dutchwoman revealed that she bypassed an approach from superteam Trek-Segafredo because they’re already good enough.
“With such an awesome squad, Trek-Segafredo wouldn’t need me,” van Vleuten said Saturday. “I would’ve really loved to be part of the Trek team, because they have an amazing philosophy, as well as the equality they have achieved between the men’s and the women’s team.
“If they didn’t have such a strong roster already I would have signed immediately because then it would be also a challenge, but the way they are now it wouldn’t be a challenge anymore.”
With Trek-Segafredo already boasting the likes of Lizzie Deignan, Elisa Longo Borghini, and Ellen van Dijk, van Vleuten feared that her adding her own considerable firepower to the mix would tip the scales too heavily in the team’s favor. And with that would come the risk of sapping the life out of the typically aggressive and offensive dynamic of women’s racing.
“When Trek approached me, one of my questions was, ‘What do you expect from me to add to the team? Because your team is already full of stars,'” van Vleuten said. “In my reply to Ina [Teutenberg, Trek-Segafredo director] I also said, ‘Let’s keep women’s cycling interesting and don’t put all the good riders in one team.’
“When someone dominates so much it doesn’t make women’s cycling exciting. My heart is also passionate about making women’s cycling more interesting, and not making it less interesting.”
Rather than joining a team of established champions, it was the emerging talents at Team Movistar that appealed to van Vleuten. In 2021, the former world champ will link up with American rider Leah Thomas at a 14-strong Movistar roster that includes nine riders aged 26 or less as the team looks to plant its flag in the women’s scene.
Just as van Vleuten swerved a move to Trek-Segafredo for the benefit of the wider peloton, the 38-year-old is looking to help mentor a new generation of riders as she enters the twilight of her own career.
“With Movistar, it also helps that they have young talents,” she said. “It’s a driving force for me to have young talents around who can develop. It gives me extra energy to be able to help, to be a little part of that development. I see a lot of talented girls in Movistar. For sure I want to perform myself too, but I’m really looking forward to working with a young, talented team as well.”
One team that wasn’t interested in van Vleuten’s signature was the newly formed Jumbo-Visma women’s team. It’s just as well the Dutch squad didn’t contact their home star, because they would have been left disappointed.
“They never contacted me,” van Vleuten said. “But even if they had done so, I would have preferred not to ride in a Dutch team. I enjoy an environment with different cultures.”