Fresh from her stunning World Championship road race victory, Annemiek van Vleuten has admitted she has "doubts" over her planned 2023 retirement.
It capped a record-setting year in which the 39-year-old won the Giro d'Italia Donne, the Tour de France Femmes, and the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, before her almost-unbelievable rainbow jersey-winning ride.
Van Vleuten is due to retire at the end of 2023, by which time she will be 41; this is when her current contract with Movistar runs out.
“Sometimes I start to have doubts, yes,” she said of that decision.
“I would prefer to retire if I think ‘I’m starting to get weaker now.’ But this is really my best year ever,” Van Vleuten explained during her appearance on Dutch television show Jinek (opens in new tab).
“I will be 40 next week, which is really unbelievable. But it’s my driving force to get better. It’s not about winning, but the urge to improve myself.”
Add her victories at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Liège-Bastogne-Liège to the pile, plus second places at the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche, then one could argue that this is one of the best seasons by any rider ever, male or female. It certainly puts Remco Evenepoel's golden year into perspective.
Despite all this, it looked like 2022 could end with disappointment for Van Vleuten, after she slid out minutes after starting the TTT last week, coming down heavily once she had descended the start ramp. She was disbelieving as viewers when she managed to catch the lead group by surprise in the road race days later, powering past and holding on to take her second victory.
“After that crash, I had completely said goodbye to the idea that I could become world champion,” she said.
“I had set myself 100 percent to be a servant for Marianne. It wasn’t until the last kilometer that I thought there might be a chance that I could go home with this jersey with my broken elbow. The first thing I felt the next day was ‘what have I done with my elbow?’ But then I thought, ‘yes, that elbow, but I am also world champion'."
“There’s still disbelief. I had completely parked the belief that I could win. I spent 159 kilometers doing work for Marianne, just to be able to finish the worlds with a good feeling.”
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