It’s hard to believe that there is anything left outstanding on Annemiek van Vleuten’s CV. The Dutch cycling superstar has been a leading light in the sport for well over a decade, helping to push women’s cycling on the global stage. But while her legacy is already more than assured, with Olympic medals, prestigious stage race victories and world titles already won, 2022 has a new race on the calendar and it is one Van Vleuten has her eye on.
The women have raced versions of La Course for a number of years now, the one-day race being attached to the end of Tour de France in 2014. But as women’s cycling has grown, so have the voices calling for parity between the sexes when it comes to the major races. And those voices - including van Vleuten’s - have been listened to.
In 2022, the Tour de France Femmes will take place, an eight-day stage race that starts in Paris the day the men’s version finishes, and takes in white gravel roads, sprint finishes and gruelling mountain days. It is a far more fitting way for the professional women’s peloton to show their skills to the wider world - something van Vleuten is keen to point out.
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“I think the milestone for me, is the organisation of the Tour de France really wants now to organise it for us. It’s not that we need to beg for it, it’s like we came to a point where women’s cycling is so interesting that they are keen to organise it, and I think that that’s the milestone,” she tells Eurosport when asked whether racing in the Tour de France Femmes was set to be a personal career highlight.
“Women’s cycling has become so commercially interesting that it’s now super cool to sell a four-week Tour de France package, three weeks for the guys and one week for the girls and that’s the milestone.”
Van Vleuten has worn the rainbow jersey, the pink jersey of the Giro Rosa. Surely, she must be planning to mount a challenge on the yellow jersey this summer? The Dutch racer is the elder stateswoman of an incredibly strong Movistar line up, but gone are the days of racing anything in a bid to earn a living.

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“I’m happy that my team allows me to only target races that suit me. In the past I did races with echelons and stuff, not something I enjoy. I enjoy watching but not doing it myself! It helps me keep my motivation high that I can line up for races that suit me.”
It cannot be overestimated how different the women’s racing scene is since Van Vleuten made her bow in 2008. In those days, the whole team travelled in one van, “with the bikes in the back as well,” van Vleuten smiled, pointing out there was no money for flights.
From the days where her first victory in the Tour of Flanders in 2011 garnered just one second of television coverage - because “the cameras were there for the guys” to racing eight days of the Tour de France Femmes - Van Vleuten seems content with where her sport is headed. And the fact that when she sets out from Paris to fight for the yellow jersey, she and the rest of the women on the start line have been given an interesting course to match their talents, something she is keen to give credit for where credit is due.
“It’s a super balanced course, shout out to the organisation for what they have put together. It’s not every day a mountain stage, the first five stages is not courses that really suit me so I need to survive them,” she said with a rare hint of a grimace.
“We’ll see the yellow jersey swapping around which is good and interesting, because it’s super important that it needs to be exciting. Finishing on a famous climb in the Super Planche des Belles Filles, it has everything. The final day, the day before - it’s hard and I like hard races.”
Speaking of hard races, before Van Vleuten sets her sights on Paris, there is the Tour of Flanders to consider. She is the defending champion and a two-time winner, having made an audacious solo break last year on the Paterberg. As she said, she likes hard races and the Tour of Flanders is just that, cobbles and climbs combining to more often than not, make it a race of attrition.

Podium / Annemiek Van Vleuten of Netherlands and Movistar Team Women Celebration, during the 18th Ronde van Vlaanderen - Tour of Flanders 2021, Women's Elite a 152,4km race frim Oudenaarde to Oudenaarde / Champagne / Mask / Covid Safety Measures / #RVV21

Image credit: Getty Images

“The harder the race, the more options there are to attack,” Van Vleuten said simply when asked about her tactics last year.
“I was surprised last year, on the 300m Paterberg I could make the difference there. Normally I could never make a difference on a 300m climb but after everyone is tired, it’s possible.
“I don’t like to be bored in races - in the Tour of Flanders, you are constantly positioning for a climb, a cobbled section, you want to recover but then you need to get into position for the next obstacle, it’s like a rollercoaster.”
With such a jam-packed season, it is just as well that Movistar are letting their star rider pick and choose her battles. And her early season form in the classics should give an indication of whether a tilt at the yellow jersey is feasible come July. Van Vleuten might be in the twilight of her career, turning forty later this year, but the fire clearly still burns bright. If she could take home that yellow jersey, surely her legacy would be complete?
“For me, it’s not important to get the recognition, for me it’s important that the level gets higher,” she said simply. Which is just the sentiment you’d expect from someone who has put so much into the sport she loves.
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