Annemiek Van Vleuten has opened up on her struggles with weight that have dogged her throughout her career, saying "it's one of the not so nice aspects of cycling".
She said that often having to feel hungry had been a challenge, although she added she had never "crossed the line" into destructive eating patterns.
The Dutch Movistar rider, 40, is currently participating in her final race – the Simac Ladies Tour in the Netherlands – which ends, along with Van Vleuten's pro career, in Arnhem on Sunday 10 September.
"Many cyclists have a difficult relationship with food," she told Dutch news outlet NOS. "It's all around you. That temptation to eat. The more you limit yourself, the greater the need becomes. It's a 24-hour job. My relationship with it? I think it is a struggle. That, together with my injuries, is one of the not so nice aspects of cycling. That you always have to pay attention."
She said pointed to the Tour de France Femmes in particular, as a race that necessitated "a bit of an unnatural weight".
"It is still healthy," she said, "but it is not my balance weight. I have to focus very much on it, weigh everything, to reach the weight with which I want to go to the Tour to win."
Van Vleuten was fourth in this season's TDFF and won last year's inaugural edition, but she predicted that in 10 years' time such a feat would no longer be possible for a rider like herself, whom she classifies as "broader built".
"By nature I am not necessarily a climber," she said. "In 10 years I will no longer be able to win the Tour de France, because there will be so many specialists. Actually, I am more of a Flandrien. I am a bit broader built. Then to limit yourself that way with nutrition is not fun."
She added: "I also see it with my male colleagues: it is very difficult. It is a very difficult balance. Have I ever crossed the line? No. My performance has always been top. I have never been overtrained."
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