Annemiek van Vleuten plans to come out swinging this season as she targets the Classics.
The Dutch superstar has evolved from a one-day specialist into a dangerous climber and stage racer in recent seasons, but this year turning her focus back to the spring.
Van Vleuten dominated across the board in 2019, winning Strade Bianche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Giro Rosa and then capping it off with her first World Championship road race victory in Yorkshire.
The 37-year-old said: “Usually I’m a slow starter in the spring Classics, but this time I expect to be ready for [Omloop Het] Nieuwsblad and carry that forward, so this is pretty exciting for me.
“They’re all races that really suit me, I don’t particularly like the weather but I can deal with it.”
The Mitchelton-Scott rider’s winter training has been brutal, with the Dutch national champion training with the men’s squad during their point-to-point camp in Italy and spending a lot of time riding at altitude in Colombia.
Van Vleuten hope the intense preparation will put her in good stead for the early season as she starts racing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 29, then heads back to Strade Bianche on March 7.
She said: “I’m not racing a lot, but the races I am doing, I am really targeting. After coming so close a few times last year I am really looking forward to racing them again this year. If you come second then there is the possibility to win.
“I will be proud to wear the rainbow jersey in races, as a champion, and of course if I can win in the jersey it would be very special, but winning is always special, whether you’re wearing the jersey or not.”
After Strade Bianche, she will then race Dwars door Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallone and then Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Van Vleuten added: “I think this pre-season has been my best preparation so far from the last five or six years,” Van Vleuten indicated. “I have had no setbacks.”
“I started with a really good off-season; happy, relaxed, going on a holiday and then the training has been going really well since then, especially going to Colombia twice, so I am really looking forward to the spring.
“Knowing how my preparation was last year, with the big setback and injury from the 2019 world champs and still doing so well in the Classics campaign, it really gives me a bit more confidence and belief that I will be a contender in every race at the start of the season.”