Annemiek van Vleuten says she thought about writing history after she attacked with 100km left to race in the women’s road race at the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships.
The Dutch rider launched her bid for the rainbow jersey with two thirds of the 149km from Bradford to Harrogate left to race, leaving her rivals behind on the Lofthouse climb.
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But Van Vleuten, 36, admits she thought it was “stupid” to try and ride to the line solo, but that she pressed on when her coach told to commit to the attack.
Speaking after the Yorkshire 2019 women’s race, Van Vleuten said: “All day I thought it was super stupid, what I was doing.
“I thought my national coach would say ‘this is stupid, stop and wait for that group’, but she said ‘no it’s super good for us, continue.’
“I was thinking today that maybe I can write history by winning with 100km solo. I was thinking it’s not possible, but if it’s possible, it’s epic.”
Van Vleuten formed part of a staggering array of talent in the Dutch team, which included former world champions Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos.
She explained that the plan was to set a hard pace on the Norwood Edge and Lofthouse climbs, before Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen would attack near the top of Lofthouse to create a select group, then reassessing the situation at the bottom of the following descent.
However, when Van Vleuten attacked she found herself alone on the descent as she rode down towards the Dutch national coach, who was waiting at the bottom with a whiteboard to issue instructions (with no race radios allowed in World Championships).
The coach told Van Vleuten to continue the attack, while Van der Breggen was able to sit in the wheels as part of a eight-rider chasing group that included Lizzie Deignan (GBr) and Chloe Dygert (USA).
“I forced myself to focus on the course,” Van Vleuten said, “on the technical skills, on the eating and drinking and I didn’t want to think about anything thing else until I was in the last kilometre.
“I got really nervous when Chloe Dygert started trying to come across.I know she’s special after the time trial on Tuesday.
“Later the gap got to over two minutes and I thought ‘maybe this is possible today.’ Then I got goosebumps.”
Van Vleuten adds the rainbow jersey road race to her already illustrious palmarès, which includes two Worlds TT titles, two editions of La Course, and back-to-back victories in the Giro Rosa. The victory is also redemption after a disappointing end to the Worlds last year, when she crashed and suffered a broken knee, still finishing in the top 10.
“Last year in Innsbruck was one of my biggest disappointments,” she said, “especially because I had an amazing year.
“I was the world champion in the time trial but I only had two days to enjoy it.
“That made last year super-hard because I went straight into an operation, I was worried if I could ever recover, I cancelled my holiday, and the worst thing was that I didn’t have any time to enjoy my season and enjoy my world title.”
She added: “I’m super-happy and over the moon today because I have now finally time to really enjoy this jersey and the best thing is that I can wear for the whole year.”