Annemiek van Vleuten has broken her pelvis in two places in a crash during the inaugural women's Paris-Roubaix.
"Not a happy 2021 end for me," Van Vleuten said after the race, forced to abandon before live television pictures had even begun. "Stupid crash. Just wanted to get to the finish safe...result is broken pubic bone in two places and a long recovery staying in bed coming up. Bye bye holiday. Bye bye recharging. I have done this often but energy is running out."
Downbeat in tone, the Dutchwoman's season is now over, meaning she can't participate in the last two WorldTour events on the calendar, the Women's Tour and the Ronde van Drenthe, and so will just have to hope Elisa Longo Borghini won't usurp her lead of 668 points in the Women's WorldTour rankings.
“I was in good spirits at the [start]...I thought it was exciting,” Van Vleuten recalls of her emotions before the start. “I had also doubted for a long time whether I would start and had also decided that I did not want to do it in April, but now in October I thought I could take the risk.”
Van Vleuten was brought down in two crashes, the first seeing her out of contention for the victory, but was still determined to get to the finish before a second crash caused her multiple fractures.
“For the first stretch I was behind a crash. I actually fell over that. It was Kasia Niewiadoma who fell there where it was a big fight to sit up front on the first section," the 38-year-old explained. "I could continue, but by then my race was already over. Then I thought; I'll ride well and took girls with me in my wheel. I wanted to ride to experience it once. They say 'choose your battles' and I already knew that this was not my battle.
“Just before the Carrefour de l'Arbre, with 15 kilometers to go, I was behind two girls from Parkhotel Valkenburg. They slipped. As a result, I also had to brake and I fell, a fall in which I broke my pelvis in two places and also broke my shoulder. So at that time I was just riding to get to the finish, but now I'm really disappointed that I didn't just get off, because I have to pay a high price for this."
Van Vleuten was taken to Rijnstate Hospital, fearing she would be confined to bed to let her broken pelvis recover. Fortunately, she has not only been told she won't require surgery, but will also not have to be bed-bound, instead allowed to move around on crutches as long as it doesn't cause too much pain - although her broken shoulder will make that tricky.
"For now I have to process this bitter pill, that I have to end my season like this. It's been a great season, which I would have liked to enjoy after, but now I'm down again. Instead of charging myself, you enter a recovery period again," Van Vleuten said.
"Of course, everyone says that you will come out stronger there, but I think that is really nonsense. I really wanted to give myself a nice holiday and I really don't need this to come out stronger. And of course, I will go for it, but I do notice that the energy does run out if you have to come back after injuries and you have to devote your off-season to recovering and change all plans."
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