Annemiek van Vleuten blog: Emotions riding high on the Piazza del Campo
My victory at Strade Bianche was so special and such a surprise, particularly when I think about the long recovery from my knee injury in the off-season or the fact that I haven't won a spring Classic since the 2011 Tour of Flanders.
I always assumed that it wasn't possible for me to be racing for victories so early in the season, because no matter how hard I tried to be in peak form in the spring, it usually didn't happen until May. So when I placed my targets on Strade Bianche and the Ardennes Classics, my coach Louis Delahaije said, "It will be hard, but we will aim for it."
I noticed at my altitude camp in Tenerife that I was performing at a higher level compared to other years in February. I didn't train differently, and so there are no real secrets to my comeback. Louis believes in building general fitness, and that it’s important to ride your bike for many hours, while also going in and out of your comfort zones.
A key success factor, for me, however, is to find ways to enjoy doing the work. I like to travel to beautiful places to train, and I arrange for visits with friends and family so that I also have a good time when I'm not riding. For example, I had a training-camp holiday after Christmas in Gran Canaria with my friend Sjoerd. I was invited to train with the men’s team in January, which was an entirely new experience for me. And I had opportunities to ride with new people in Tenerife (and I must give a special shout out to Jumbo-Visma!). All of these things have helped in my early-season success.
I truly believe that happy cyclists perform better.
Despite all the physical training, however, nothing could prepare me for what it would feel like to win Strade Bianche. As I crossed the finish line in Siena's Piazza del Campo, I felt so many emotions. There was a mix of happiness, disbelief and surprise.
The Ardennes Classics
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