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A Dutch Classic – An Interview with Annemiek van Vleuten

It has been well documented that Classics riders, the “hardmen” and “hardwomen” of the peloton, are cut from a different cloth. This unique group within the cycling fraternity/sorority relishes the opportunity to test themselves over rigorous parcours and are further emboldened the more inclement the weather becomes.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla Pro Cycling) will be the first one tell you that she is a Classics rider. And she does so with such a zest and eagerness as if to let you know that she is ready, at this moment, to battle through both adversary and adversity regardless of the circumstance.

This Classics mentality has served the 32-year-old from Vleuten well during a career that has seen its fair share of ups and downs; the latter due to stenotic arteries in her legs, which have twice required surgery.

As one of the leaders for the Bigla Pro Cycling Team, the 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen Vrouwen champion has brought a toughness to the Swiss based outfit that has the team out front animating races and on the podium at day’s end.

In my conversation with Annemiek, we discuss her current form, the reasons she continues to keep updated on scientific literature, and why Settlers of Catan will not become a team pursuit.

Lenny B (LB): You road well in the Strade Bianche and at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, finished second at Flèche Wallone, and recently won the Ronde van Lekkerkerk. How are you feeling about your current form…are there any aspects of your form are you still working on/concerned about?

Annemiek van Vleuten (AVV): Very good. I never thought I would be as good as I am now and I don’t know how good I can become. The time trial is something I have yet to train for, but I will be training on that part from now on!*

*At the time of this writing, Annemiek has since competed in a time trial, albeit at the shorter prologue distance. Regaled in the red, white and blue as the reigning Dutch National Time Trial Champion, she would finish second during the Grand Prix Elsy Jacobs Prologue.

LB: You have described yourself as a Classics rider. Which Classic is your favorite? Why?

AVV: Flanders is the one that suits me the best. With its history, it is the most beautiful one! As a former winner, I also have a special relationship with that race…☺

LB: What races are you targeting for the rest of the 2015 season?

AVV: The Baku European Games time trial and road race, the [Dutch] National Championships time trial and road race, and the Giro Rosa. I plan to go to altitude to prepare for those races mid-May. In the end, I of course hope to be selected for the time trial and road race at Worlds [in Richmond].

LB: You have been a part of, as well as taken some significant wins in your career. Which victory is your most memorable…most significant?

AVV: Tour of Flanders!

LB: You stated that you studied Animal Science and like to read scientific papers when you are off the bike. Do you want to pursue a career in the sciences/medicine?

AVV: No, after my [cycling] career I hope to continue with something in sport (science) coaching. Not a specific sport, but where I can make people more enthusiastic about getting healthy and get on the bike.

I don’t know yet, but a scientific career, to sit all day in an office behind a computer, is not something that suits me. ☺

LB: What do you like/find interesting about the sciences? Do you take a scientific/calculated approach to your riding/racing?

AVV: Yes, I read a lot and I sometimes have discussions with my trainer. I would like to understand what I am doing. When I understand the goal and how it works in my body I am far more motivated to go for the training goal!

And with nutrition I want to understand what good is for my body.

Post podium walk - Annemiek van Vleuten - Flèche Wallonne

LB: What was the last scientific paper that you read?

AVV: Something about altitude training.

LB: You were a soccer/football player when you were younger. What position did you play? Do you still follow the sport? If yes, what did you think about the most recent World Cup…Robin van Persie’s diving header? Who is your favorite player?

AVV: I was midfielder, on the left or right side, because my condition was good and I was fast. But my technique was not so good. I don’t follow it that much. I sometimes miss the game, working together for one goal, and that is to win as a team. In cycling, only the winner is on the podium at the end [of the race]. In soccer, the team is completely together. I get that same feeling again when I do a team time trial!

My favorite player is Arjen Robben! He is sympathetic and a great sportsman. He is a good positive example and very talented.

LB: You race, but do you follow the sport of cycling? If yes, who is your favorite rider?

AVV: Yes, I follow almost everything. I have a lot of respect for [Robert] Gesink (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) with all the bad luck he had last years, but he keeps fighting. As rider I like to watch, I like Bauke Mollema and Wilco Kelderman. My favorite non-Dutch rider is Sep Vanmarcke, maybe because I am a bit of the same type of rider as him.

LB: If you were in UCI President, Brian Cookson, how would you change women’s cycling?

AVV: The first step is to get from every World Tour race to also have a women’s version. Let’s start with Paris Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and of course the Amstel Gold Race! I think it would be very good for the promotion of women’s cycling to race those kinds of Monuments.

LB: How would your family or friends describe you? How would your teammates describe you?

AVV: A team player…positive, never give up, knows what I want to achieve and goes for it.

LB: I read that you enjoy Settlers of Catan. That game is very addictive. Have you taught your teammates to play?

AVV: No time for that during the season. And I like to play it with non-cycling friends, people I have known since my time as a student. It’s a nice way to catch up with them!

LB: If you had to choose one, World Championship Gold or Olympic Gold? Why?

AVV: Both! For people around the world, the Olympic [Gold] has more ‘value,’ but to wear the rainbow jersey is very special also!

Photos: Sean Robinson

Lenny B
Leonard Basobas - Among my many and varied interests are cycling and writing. I am deeply passionate about both. Strangely enough, neither has come very easy to me.I had such a horrible crash as a small child that I did not attempt to ride again until the 6th grade. From that point forward, you could say that I have had a love affair with two-wheels. When I was not out on my bike, I could be found tearing apart or putting back together other bikes. The frames and parts found in my parents’ basement today are a testament to that fact. Around the same time that I began riding again, a young rider named Greg Lemond had just won the U23 World Championships. Following his career was my entry point into the sport of cycling, but I never participated in organized racing until I was past my cycling prime. Today, a healthy curiosity about racing has me lining up on the road and in the nearest velodrome.In regard to writing, I am not a trained journalist. My writing, instead, strikes a creative bent in the form of short stories, at least when I not writing for my day job in clinical research. Although I have yet to be published for my creative writing, I have authored several abstracts and papers, and been published as the lead author for a paper in a well-known peer reviewed medical journal.I have covered the sport of cycling, as both writer and photographer, at such races as the Amgen Tour of California (2008 to 2014) and the US Pro Cycling Challenge. I was also the featured Guest Contributor for LIVESTRONG.com, commentating and moderating the site's live blogging feed during the 2009 Tour de France.