Annemiek van Vleuten’s Remarkable Cycling Career

By Megan Flottorp

As the final chapter of her illustrious professional racing career draws to a close, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) is once again the name on everyone’s lips in the world of cycling. With a recent victory in the Tour of Scandinavia under her belt, the 40-year-old superstar is set to conclude her 16-year professional cycling legacy next week at the Simac Ladies Tour on her home turf in the Netherlands.

A finale worthy of a legend

After conquering the Tour of Scandinavia, Van Vleuten’s calendar is now down to one last event: the Simac Ladies Tour, scheduled from September 5th to 10th. Approaching the final stretch of her career, the seasoned athlete expressed her happiness in Haderslev following her win, not only in securing GC victories but also in maintaining her competitiveness at the highest echelons of the sport.

“It’s nice for me that I am still fighting for the win in my last races. That’s why I enjoy cycling, not only for winning but because I am still in good shape. I am there in the mix in the front and have good legs. Then I can say goodbye to the sport with a smile on my face,” Van Vleuten shared with the media while receiving the yellow jersey and a trophy adorned with a spinning wheel and a piece of Norwegian granite.

A journey of triumphs and challenges

Annemiek van Vleuten’s cycling journey began in the town of Vleuten, Netherlands, where she was born on October 8, 1982. Her initial foray into cycling was a means of recovery from a football injury, a small step that would eventually lead to monumental accomplishments. She joined the amateur Therme Skin Care team in 2007, and it wasn’t long before her talent started to shine through.

Stepping into the professional arena with the Vrienden van het Platteland team in 2008, Annemiek showed promise. Still, it was her transition to the Rabobank-Liv team that truly marked her ascent in the sport. In 2010, she secured her first professional win at the Eurocup Ronde van Drenthe, and from there, there was no looking back.

Breakthrough moments

The year 2011 would become a watershed for Annemiek. Strong performances in classics and a triumph at the Tour des Flandres catapulted her into the limelight. The wins at the Open de Suède Vargarda and the GP de Plouay further solidified her status as a dominant force in women’s cycling. Her prowess continued to grow, leading to her first Dutch national championship title in 2012.

The following years saw Annemiek consistently achieving top positions and claiming victories. Wins at the Giro d’Italia Donne and stage victories at various races showcased her versatility as a rider. Her commitment to her craft was unwavering, even during the transition from one team to another.

Reign of dominance

Van Vleuten’s ascent reached new heights when she joined the Orica – AIS team (later known as Mitchelton-Scott) in 2016. Her dedication paid off with victories in time trial championships and impressive results in major races. However, her 2016 Rio Olympic Games experience was marred by a crash during the road race while leading, resulting in fractures. Remarkably, this setback only fueled her determination.

2017 witnessed Annemiek’s incredible consistency, culminating in a UCI Road World Championships victory in Bergen. The following years brought more national championships, Giro d’Italia triumphs, and numerous race wins. Her climb to the top was punctuated by the ability to bounce back from adversity, each setback transforming into a catalyst for her resurgence.

Legendary seasons

In a career studded with accomplishments, 2020 stood out. Her string of victories at the beginning of the year, including Strade Bianche and European Championships, showcased her unrivalled form. And even the global pandemic couldn’t halt her momentum. In 2021, Van Vleuten made her mark at the Tokyo Olympics, earning a gold medal in the time trial and a silver in the road race.

Then came the watershed year of 2022—a season that solidified Annemiek’s place in cycling history. Van Vleuten’s unprecedented achievement of winning all three Grand Tours—Giro Rosa, Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, and the Vuelta—left the cycling world in awe. Her ability to conquer the most gruelling challenges while maintaining a humble and gracious demeanour endeared her to fans and fellow athletes alike.

Elevating women’s cycling globally

Beyond her individual achievements, though, Annemiek van Vleuten has played a pivotal role in elevating the profile of women’s cycling on the global stage. As one of the most accomplished and recognisable names in the sport, her presence has been a catalyst for increased visibility and recognition of women’s racing.

Annemiek’s commitment to excellence and her unwavering dedication to her craft have shattered stereotypes and showcased the incredible athleticism and determination of female cyclists. Her success in high-profile races like the Giro Rosa and the Tour de France Femmes has garnered attention not only from dedicated cycling fans but also from a broader audience, drawing more eyes to women’s racing and inspiring a new generation of riders.

Her advocacy for equality and fairness within the sport has been equally impactful. Annemiek’s voice has resonated in the call for equitable treatment, equal prize money, and opportunities for women cyclists. Through her actions and statements, she has highlighted the disparities that persist and ignited important conversations about the need for change. Her impact will be felt for generations to come, and her legacy is an enduring testament to her commitment to making a positive difference in the world of cycling.

A legacy that will live on

As she prepares to ride her final race at the Simac Ladies Tour, Annemiek van Vleuten leaves behind a cycling legacy that will continue to inspire and resonate. Her journey is a testament to the power of determination, resilience, and a love for the sport. The cycling community is oh so grateful for the memories she has gifted us and the path she has paved for future champions.

Don’t miss her final farewell at the Simac Ladies Tour that begins next Tuesday, September 5th!