Annemiek van Vleuten has hinted at an after-life in cycling once she retires at the end of the season.
The 40-year-old, who signed her first full-time professional contract in 2010, will ride her last race at next month’s Simac Ladies Tour, calling time on a career in which she has won four world titles and an Olympic gold medal.
This year has brought a series of goodbyes for the Dutchwoman. On Sunday, she took part in her final UCI World Championships, placing eighth and racing with a smile on her face in Glasgow. Asked by Cycling Weekly afterwards if she had post-retirement plans, Van Vleuten assured us that she will remain “in the sport”.
“I will not train anymore,” she said. “Maybe I will do events, but not at a high level anymore. Maybe I will do some gravel, but I will not do any interval [training] anymore to prepare for it.
“I’m happy just to stop being stressed about needing to keep my level high. That’s not what I want. But you will see me in the sport. I want to continue at something, but I think first [I need] a year to see a bit what I want to do, and take my time.”
In Glasgow, a flat tyre in the final lap of the road race circuit punctured Van Vleuten's rainbow jersey defence, but allowed her time to savour the crowds, who celebrated her decorated career.
When she passed through the mixed media zone afterwards, she beamed with positivity, and patiently answered every question she was posed.
“If you asked me what I would like to do, I’d like to work on the mental coaching side with athletes, with young athletes,” she said of her future.
“I’ve worked for a long time already with a mental coach, so I think it’s really, really good to be open about [mental health]. Sometimes, I get the question like, ‘What issue made you start working with a mental coach?’ And I’m like, ‘No issue. I just want to get better in every area.'
“With my young team-mates, I like to help them a little bit on this mental coaching part. That’s something that gives me energy, so I think in that area, you will see me.”
No doubts about retiring
This year, Van Vleuten has shown that her level is still high enough to compete with the world’s best. She won both the Vuelta Femenina and the Giro d’Italia Donne, and finished fourth behind the winner Demi Vollering (SD Worx) at last month’s Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Still, the Dutchwoman made clear, she has no intention to go back on her retirement. “The more people ask me, ‘Do you have doubts about retiring?, and are begging me to continue, the more I think it’s a really good moment to stop,” she said. “It’s nice if people want me to continue. It’s better than them asking you, ‘When are you going to stop?’ It gives me the feeling that I still entertain people.
“I’m still full of energy to get the best out of myself in races and it makes me proud that I still have that attitude. I know that if I continue too long, that level will go down, the energy level.
“I’m proud also of how I raced today. I’m proud to say goodbye to the sport like this.”
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