Annemiek Van Vleuten installed herself among the pantheon of cycling greats after making history as the inaugural winner of the Tour de France Femmes, which she described as a “dream come true.”
The Dutchwoman did so in style, backing up her spectacular solo triumph in the Vosges on Saturday - when she claimed a lead of more than three minutes over her nearest rival - with a rampaging attack up the famous La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
The 39-year-old, who also won last month’s Giro Donne, only needed to keep pace with the peloton to add to her glittering road racing career after her “miracle” ride the day previous, but produced a flamboyant finish to be crowned the first female Tour winner in 33 years.
It capped an extraordinary, Lazarus-like turnaround for the 39-year-old, who had been suffering so badly from a stomach bug at the start of the week that she was unable to pack her own suitcase.
“Winning in yellow on the top, wow,” said Van Vleuten, who said she would be celebrating by eating ice cream and pizza. “It was not an easy stage. It was not an easy week. It’s been a super-big rollercoaster for me, and even today it was not easy. To finish here, solo, it’s the best way.
“I’m super proud to be the first winner of the Tour de France for the women when it’s back on the calendar, in this new version. I hope it’s a big start, and we can build this event into a bigger event for women. It’s a milestone to win this first one.”
🏁 🇳🇱@AvVleuten claims the win in La Super Planche des Belles Filles and wins the #TDFF!💛
🍿 Relive the last kilometre of stage 8.
🏁 🇳🇱@AvVleuten s’impose à La Super Planche des Belles Filles et remporte le #TDFF !💛
🍿 Revivez le dernier de la dernière étape.#WatchTheFemmes pic.twitter.com/WgOqRgON4l
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 31, 2022
Yet it was hardly a stress-free day for the Movistar rider. Several mechanical issues forced her to abandon a special yellow edition of her Canyon bike during the race from Lure in the Ognon valley and she ended up needing an astonishing six bike changes.
Tour protocols dictate it is considered poor form to attack the yellow jersey in such circumstances, but the bunch kicked on when Van Vleuten suffered her first setback with 55 kilometres remaining.
But in a measure of both her experience and collectedness, the Tokyo Olympic time trial champion remained unflappable, seemingly confident that her three-minute lead was unassailable.
Indeed, her place in sporting immortality was sealed atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles, a steep, sharp climb that ends on a gravel section. Organisers had hoped the terrain would play a key role in determining the winner. Not when you have a climber of Van Vleuten’s calibre.
She practically flew up the seven kilometre, 8.7 per cent gradient ascent, distancing herself from Demi Vollering (SD Worx) who she had beasted the previous day. Vollering gave chase in vain to finish second overall on the podium, with Poland’s Kasia Niewadoma (Canyon-SRAM) in third.
Even the motorbike camera toppled over as Van Vleuten neared the summit, before commending the success of the revived women’s event. “I really have the feeling that we’re in the Tour de France, that we’re not a sideshow,” she said.