Annemiek van Vleuten has announced she will retire from professional cycling at the end of the 2023 season.
She has also signed a new one-year deal to her contract with Movistar, keeping her with the Spanish-based squad until her retirement.
The Dutchwoman turned professional in 2009 with DSB Bank–Nederland bloeit (now Liv Racing–Xstra), and has competed at the head of the women's peloton for the majority of her career, picking up 89 wins thus far.
She joined Movistar at the start of the 2021 season, meaning she will spend a full three years with the team before hanging up her wheels.
Her relentless mindset doesn't mean she will slow down as she heads into retirement, though. Instead, Van Vleuten seems determined to keep improving during the final 18 months of her career.
“I’d like to contribute a bit more to the team’s improvement, just like I’ve done with the Movistar Team for the past two years, in 2023," Van Vleuten said.
"To be part of it is why I wanted to re-sign for another season. Two years feels too short, while three is a nicer period. I’m fully confident the organisation will continue to improve in 2024 and the years after that.
She added she was “still super motivated" but aware that "there will be a moment when I’ll have to stop."
"It suits me better to stop when I’m still at my highest level, playing the game at the front in the biggest events. I just want to finish on a high, and doing it with this wonderful group of people feels like the right thing to do," she said.
“I’m sure I’ll stop with a little tear in my eye, because I love this sport so much, but I’d like to leave cycling, the ‘professional athlete’ part of it, at the top.”
When December 2023 rolls around, Van Vleuten will be 41-years-old and exiting the sport as one of its most successful riders. During her career she has picked up a plethora of titles, including wins at the 2018 and 2019 Giro Rosa, four Monuments and seven Classics victories, a gold medal in the time trial at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well as becoming the time trial world champion on two occasions, and the road world champion, too.
And yet, there is is still time for her to achieve plenty more.
She told Cycling Weekly in March that she is targeting success in the inaugural Tour de France Femmes - starting on July 24 - before suggesting she might make her July more "challenging" by competing in the Giro Donne just a couple of weeks beforehand.
With her involvement in the Giro Donne confirmed, Van Vleuten certainly isn't showing any signs of slowing down. In 2022 alone she has won three races, with overall victory at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, and has finished second in a further three races.
For the Movistar rider, though, improving both individually and as a team is still going to be her main focus over the next 18 months.
“My career, my driving force as a professional athlete, has always been about improving, not winning," Van Vleuten explained. "Refining every physical ability or mental aspect on the bike, both as an individual and together with the team I’m part of, is what really gives me energy.
“Some people will surely wonder why I’m retiring before the Paris Olympics. For me, this, my career, has always been about finding motivating, long-term projects, like the Movistar Team and every organisation I’ve been part of, that I can invest my energy in. It’s not strictly about specific goals or races. It doesn’t look like the Alpe d’Huez is going to feature on the 2024 course, either, but as you can understand, that’s not the most important reason."
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