By winning stage eight of the Giro Donne Annemiek van Vleuten made a third title almost inevitable. But despite her amazing and unequalled strength and race craft, she has one weakness.
While she is far from the peloton’s worst descender she is not the best and that showed during Friday’s stage in Trentino.
All that was left for the 39 to do to win the stage was to ride the stage’s remains 4.9km but on a ride hand hairpin bend she went in too hot and went down on her right side. As befits a champion of her standing, she picked herself and the bike up, got bak on and not only won the stage but extended the gap she had when crashed.
Despite her extended advantage she was not too happy.
“In the final kilometres I made stupid mistake on the descent, so I feel it’s a bit disappointment that I made such a stupid, unnecessary mistake,” she told the post race TV interviewer.
“Sorry mum, sorry mum watching me, but I’m all good so nothing happened I managed to not make it bad but, it was unnecessary so I feel a bit stupid for that.”
Thirty minutes later, as she headed from her warm down to the press tent she could be seen walking gingerly, though not limping, but insisted she felt fine, despite a swelling on her right forearm having emerged.
“I’m feeling fine. I felt that I could not make the corner so I just went straight into the bars to prevent a severe crash. It was bit stupid and unnecessary as I had a good lead, so that was a small not-so-good from today. I was stupid but I’m fine.”
That descent was ridden twice, the first time in the middle of the race after the climb of Passo Bordala, the second time from Lago di Cei coming only 12km from the line. The first time Elisa Longo Borghini and her Trek-Segafredo team mate Lucinda Brand set about putting the pressure on all three overall GC podium positions.
And they succeeded. Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) was dropped, while Van Veuten found herself forced to chase after being caught win the wrong side of a split. While she clearly got back on, it is a tactic other teams will continue to use.
Otherwise the day went to plan for the Dutchwoman and her Movistar squad.
“Exactly why you saw on television was the team plan, to set it up in the last climb and then I could take time on the GC riders today,” she explained said. “Jelena Erić, my team mate did an awesome job to lead me out for one kilometre, but then you feel the nerves that she has set this up for me so I need to go.”
As you might expect Van Vleuten rarely gives a clue about plans for future stages, but her track record is one of using every day that suits her abilities to grind the opposition into the dust.
“I’m not going to tell that much, we will have a meeting with the team and we will make a plan and for sure. I’m not so clear on the GC now but I think it will be up to also the girls that want to go on the podium.
“I think that for this year that the ninth stage was the best stage for me to do something because of my recovery and all my endurance that I do, every day I feel recovered so yeah I know it’s in my advantage.”
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