Annemiek van Vleuten has said that 2021 was her best season yet, adding "[I] exceeded my goals" and stating that taking gold in the Tokyo Olympics was her best performance.
In a video interview published by her team, Movistar, on Thursday, the former world champion also said she was surprised by the level of the squad in her first year there, and that she was still hungry for more.
The 39-year old said: "I think it’s maybe my best year. Overall, I achieved all my goals. Maybe even exceeded my goals. I also think it’s my best season because in the Tokyo Olympics I had my best performance."
Van Vleuten won silver in the road race, which was tinged with disappointment as she thought she had in fact won. Whereas, in fact, Anna Kiesenhofer had already crossed the line in first. However, just three days later Van Vleuten won gold in the Olympic Games individual time trial.
On that, she said: "I think the most special feeling of the Tokyo Olympics during the time trial was that I really was 'on the flow' that day... You don’t feel the pain, you don’t count the kilometres, I was only really focused on my task. Go as hard as possible, pushing loads of power."
She also won the Tour of Flanders, the Clásica San Sebastián and Dwars door Vlaanderen in 2021, part of the 12 wins she had in total.
The Tour of Flanders was one of team boss Sebastián Unzué's goals at the beginning of the season, Van Vleuten revealed.
"To join the team and finish it off in Flanders ten years later, I was waiting so long for the second win in Flanders," she said.
"Having all the team there, doing it together, it was a real team effort. I saw the happiness of the team after the finish, that was gold for me. That made it even more special, to win Flanders with this team."
2021 was the Dutchwoman's first year with Movistar, after five years with what is now Team BikeExchange. She admitted that she was surprised at the level of the team when she joined; this was only Movistar's second year at WorldTour level.
"I didn't expect that they were so professional already," she explained. "It's really nice to race with a younger team, because I can add a lot of my experience, to give a bit back to them. It was a really nice combination."
She argued that she was not alone in making the team more successful. "I don't think I am the factor of change. With Emma [Norsgaard] also there, we're racing a lot of times for the win.
"That's already making a huge difference in the motivation, in the focus of everyone. And also how other teams look at our team. Movistar is a team they will really take into account."
Van Vleuten crashed out of Paris-Roubaix, meaning she ended the season "in a not so nice way", but said "doctors confirmed I will not have any problems in the future".
As for the future, the 39-year old said she was still motivated to continue: "I see a lot of challenges, and if I still see a lot of challenges, it makes me hungry to continue."
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