Fresh from a record-breaking year where she won the inaugaural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift amongst a haul of stunning victories, including the World Championship road race and the Giro d'Italia Donne, Annemiek van Vleuten is ready for next year's Tour.
She was one of the stars of the route presentation, held in Paris on Thursday, and while her dream of Alpe d'Huez being included in the race is yet to be realised, she can still be happy that a climb as iconic as the Tourmalet is in.
For the first time in the Tour's short life, there will be an individual time trial too, which will close the whole event out. It should be just the thing to help the two-time time trial world champion close out victory for a second time.
“I’m happy to see some famous climbs in the route for next year with the Tourmalet finish. It makes me already excited. It was important that we have an uphill finish with a climb that has a big name,” Van Vleuten said.
“It also makes me happy to see a time trial at this Tour de France. Last year, we had an awesome start and this year they have fine-tuned the parcours and I think they did a good job.”
The only summit finish comes on stage seven, the penultimate day, when the iconic Col du Tourmalet will become the first hors catégorie climb ever scaled in the Tour de France Femmes. The peloton will climb the Col d’Aspin first, before taking on the eastern ascent of the 17km-long Pyrenean giant from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan.
Standing at 2,115m altitude, the Tourmalet will mark the race’s highest ascent to date, trumping last year’s 1,193m Col du Platzerwasel by almost 1,000m. While this is the only mountain stage, there are other hilly stages peppered throughout that will test the peloton.
“For sure, there are opportunities with the uphill finish, but there are also some really tricky stages," Van Vleuten said. "I’m happy that there is no gravel. I think it’s a good balanced program.
"For myself, the most important will be the uphill finish but it’s also really important in the six days before to have the focus."
She will be present at the second edition of the Tour in the rainbow stripes after a second World Championship road race victory, but the yellow jersey was the peak of her career.
“I think to win the first edition of the Tour de France this year was the most special thing that I have achieved in my career, especially because of the impact that it had,” Van Vleuten said.
“To win a stage race and to win the first Tour de France, I felt that cycling fans and also non-cycling fans would have watched it at home and so many spectators. I was not used to that and, when I went home, I was aware that some people that don’t like cycling were watching it and it made me super proud. It’s the biggest thing I achieved in my career.”
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