21 things you didn't know about Annemiek van Vleuten
Few, if any, riders can boast a palmarès as decorated as Annemiek van Vleuten’s. The Dutchwoman is a four-time world champion, with titles split evenly between the road and time trial, and has won each of the major stage races in France, Italy and Spain.
She has also got two Olympic medals, one gold and one silver, both earned in Tokyo in 2021.
With 2023 billed as her retirement year, here are 21 things you probably didn't know about Van Vleuten.
1. She was born in the village of Vleuten, a neighbourhood of the city of Utrecht. Her name, translated from Dutch, literally means 'Annemiek from Vleuten'.
2. She began her sporting life as a footballer, and played in midfield for local team SV Ratti until she was in her early twenties. She supports FC Twente.
3. A cruciate ligament knee tear in 2005 put a halt to Van Vleuten's footballing career. She took up cycling in her final year of university to keep fit after the injury, and quickly realised she had a knack for it.
4. She studied animal sciences and holds a master's degree in epidemiology.
5. Van Vleuten was known as a party animal at university. "I had parties until late at night," she told CyclingTips in 2020. "It was an utterly carefree time and is a memory I still cherish."
6. She entered the pro cycling ranks in 2008 at the age of 25, signing for Dutch team Vrienden van het Platteland.
7. Although Van Vleuten is most famous for her road results, she has claimed titles in other disciplines, winning the Dutch Marathon Mountain Bike Championships in 2017, on her 35th birthday.
8. She has also proven to be a strong track cyclist, and took a silver medal in the individual pursuit at the 2017 World Track Championships. The Dutchwoman finished a runner-up in the final to the USA's Chloé Dygert, who set a then world record time of 3:20.060.
9. Van Vleuten suffered with reduced blood flow to her legs during the early years of her career. She was diagnosed with having blocked iliac arteries, and underwent three surgeries between 2009 and 2013.
10. She has been known to train with WorldTour men's teams. In 2019 and 2020, she took part in the men's January training camps of her then team Mitchelton-Scott. “I did all the planned kilometres and all the planned altitude metres, only sometimes a little bit slower because I would drop off the back of the rides a little bit earlier,” she wrote in a blog post on Cyclingnews.
11. At the World Championships in 2022, Van Vleuten fractured her elbow in a crash in the mixed relay team time trial. She went on to win the road race, with her elbow wrapped up, just three days later.
12. She won her first road world title in Harrogate, North Yorkshire in 2019, with a 105km lone attack.
13. At the Rio Olympics in 2016, she was leading the road race solo when she crashed on a descent. She suffered three fractures to her spine, a concussion, and spent 24 hours in intensive care.
14. The Dutchwoman won a silver medal in the road race at the Toyko Olympics in 2021, although she thought she had won gold. With no race radio to tell her that Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer had gone clear from the day's breakaway, Van Vleuten celebrated over the line. "Ruud, I was wrong," she told her soigneur immediately afterwards. "I didn't realise anything."
15. In her free time, she plays the guitar, an activity she said is “like yoga, or mindfulness training”, in an interview with Cyclist. She also enjoys playing the board game Settlers of Catan with her friends.
16. Van Vleuten is a fan of Latin America, particularly Colombia, where she spent six weeks training at altitude at the start of 2023. "My favourite place is Colombia in the off-season because there's a different culture," she told VeloNews in 2021. The Dutchwoman has also been learning Spanish.
17. She holds the Strava QOM on the segment for the Planche des Belles Filles - the steep climb where she wrapped up the yellow jersey at the 2022 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
18. She has ridden the Tour of Flanders 15 times, more than any other race. Her two victories in the Monument came a decade apart, in 2011 and 2021.
19. Van Vleuten holds the record for the oldest Monument winner, male or female, with her 2022 victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, aged 39 years and 199 days.
20. No rider has raced alongside the Dutchwoman as much as her compatriot Marianne Vos. The duo spent six seasons together at Rabobank and have completed 244 race days in the same team.
21. On the morning of stage three of the 2022 Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, Van Vleuten completed a 50km training ride, and invited fans along with a call-out on Twitter. "Welcome as long as you can follow me in my wheel!" she joked.
Nice to meet the Spanish talent of the future at the finish. See you both in @wollongong2022 good luck!Tomorrow I will do an easy 50km spin to get into timezone of Australia. Leave at 8.30AM from Shell La Veguilla - Area de Reocin Cantabria pic.twitter.com/ENlCYmsgVeSeptember 8, 2022