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NINOVE, Belgium (VN) — Annemiek van Vleuten is on a high right now.
After storming to overall victory in Valencia last week, the Dutch rider switched into one-day racing mode at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and came out with victory once again.
She had previously indicated that she would likely be working for teammate Emma Norsgaard, but there was nothing and nobody that could hold van Vleuten back when she went clear over the top of the final climb of the Bosberg with less than 15 kilometers to go.
“I think this one is nice because it was very unexpected, and it was a team effort. It’s super nice to start the season with some good momentum with the team and we can continue like that,” van Vleuten said in her post-race press conference. “I think it’s a good flow that we are in with the team and the next one will be for someone else maybe. It’s a dream start.
“I still like [cycling] so much. I like the game, the training sessions, the team. I’m enjoying this so much and today was the cherry on the cake.”
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The only rider that could hang onto the wheels of van Vleuten over the Bosberg was SD Worx’s Demi Vollering and the pair eventually built up what proved to be an unassailable lead. However, taking Vollering with her left van Vleuten in a tricky situation.
SD Worx had both Marlen Reusser and Lotte Kopecky chasing behind so she couldn’t afford to hold back, but she also couldn’t get Vollering to work with her as she had teammates behind. It was something of a catch 22 for the Movistar rider, but there was nothing she could do about it.
She likened the situation to a mid-race fall, and she just had to make what she could out of the moment. All she knew was that letting Reusser and Kopecky back to her was not an option.
“When I crash, I accept the situation and continue, it was the same with Demi Vollering in my wheel,” van Vleuten explained. “I accepted the situation. I asked her if she wanted to ride and she said no I don’t want to ride, but I can understand it because she has two girls behind her. I just accept the situation and then try to make something that can be good for me.
“I still look for the opportunities there in that situation. If I let the other group come back with two more SD Worx girls in it then that is not a good situation for me. So, I thought that if maybe I continue and ride in front, I felt like I still wanted to go for it. I still thought that when it is a hard race I have a chance when I make a really long sprint and that was also the result.”
While it was a frustrating situation to be in, she doesn’t hold anything against Vollering for her tactics.
“In the final two kilometers, Emma joined the chase group. I tried to play that out as an argument, but she didn’t move. That’s racing. I made the best of the situation,” she said.
As van Vleuten and Vollering headed into the final kilometer, they had enough of a gap to play their own tactics in the sprint and not worry about being brought back. To give herself the best chance, van Vleuten started winding up first. It looked as though Vollering might have the gas to pass her before the line, but van Vleuten dug deep to get the win.
“After a hard race, I have a decent sprint. I felt that strong that I believed that it was possible if I rode smart,” van Vleuten said. “I hoped she would be on a bit of a gap. She was well-positioned. I felt she was coming next to me and then I felt like I was able to shift up. Then she had to sit back and then I knew it was possible.”