Movistar Team has been led since 2021by a woman who’s considered to be the world’s top female cyclist: Annemiek van Vleuten, one of the most competitive, award-winning sportswomen around. Her ability to adapt, combined with her perseverance and endurance,have earned her the title of Olympic time trial champion at Tokyo 2020, where she also won the silver medal in the road race, and resulted inachievements including world champion individual time trial cyclist in 2017 and 2018 and eight medals at the Road World Cup from 2013 to 2021 (taking the gold in 2019). The four-times Dutch women’s champion actually has few titles left to claim. She spoke to us about her experience at her training camps in the Canary Islands since 2015.
Annemiek has a talent for making the most of misfortune, and that’s exactly how she got into cycling - after a setback. Her dream of being a footballer was thwarted by ongoing knee injuries, but instead of giving up sport, she decided to buy a second-hand bike and try cycling, and discovered that she liked it.
Her love of cycling led to her debut as a professional cyclist at the age of 26, in 2007, when she finished third in the Tour Féminin en Limousin. In 2010 she hit the big time: champion in the Novilon Eurocup, second in the Tour de Drenthe, third in the Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo, fourth in the Dutch time trial championship, winner of the Route de France… the Dutch cyclist became a household name across Europe.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Annemiek had a spectacular crash that stopped her taking the gold medal in the time trial.The accident left her with concussion and three fractured vertebrae. Two weeks later she got back on her bike, and a month after that she won the Tour of Belgium prologue. Tipped for the gold medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics time trial, she not only won that event, but also took the silver medal in the road cycling.
One thing that defines Annemiek is her ability to overcome adversity and make sacrifices. Despite suffering numerous injuries throughout her career, she continues to challenge herself and keep going. After 15 years of competing, she remains unstoppable, as witnessed by her 87 UCI wins and 78% average wins in the time trials she’s taken part in over the last few years. Since 2021 she’s led Movistar Team, after forming part of teams including Rabobank, Bigla and Orica/Mitchelton.
Van Vleuten remains unstoppable, as witnessed by her 87 UCI wins and 78% average wins in the time trials she’s taken part in over the last few years.
Altitude, climbs, landscapes, goodweather… These are some of the advantages she sees in the Canary Islands for year-round training.
“My favourite route is Valle de la Muerte, on Gran Canaria,” she says, adding that the highlight of this section, which starts in San Nicolás, is the amazing scenery. It’s definitely one of the most demanding routes on the island, with lots of climbs and one of the most beautiful valleys on Gran Canaria.
On Tenerifeshe’s a big fan of cycling at Mount Teide, an ideal route for professional cyclists because they can train at an altitude of more than 2,000 metres with average elevation changes of 4.5% to 5.5%. She also enjoys cycling at Anaga,for the changes in pace due to the climbs and flat areas. She admits that she loves the route through Masca because it’s very demanding, with gradients of 19 to 20%, and has magical views: “I must’ve been there about 20 times and it still amazes me,” she says.
Altitude, climbs, landscapes, good weather… These are some of the advantages she sees in the Canary Islands compared to The Netherlands for training any time of year, adding that training in the Islands definitely recharges her batteries.
In 2021, she also prepared for the Tour of Flanders in Tenerife, and after three weeks of training on the island, she won the Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Ronde van Vlaanderen. She was also a placegetter in the Amstel Gold Race and came fourth in the Flèche and second in Liege.
Annemiek is proud of discovering the Islands by bike and taking in their fragrances and colours, striking up a friendship with the owner of her favourite bar in the small village of Chío, and spending seven hours training in Anaga, a place she defines as magical. When she talks about the Canary Islands she can’t help smiling, because, as she says, training here recharges her batteries.
“In The Netherlands I have to go looking for the sun, but here I can train in short sleeves,” she says. Another unique feature of the Islands she mentions isthe variety of roads, with a multitude of climbs and descents that test cyclists andprepare them for competitions.
Tenerife plays a key role in her training programmetowards upcoming goals: the Tour of Flanders, the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Annemiek says that after competing for these titles, she’ll focus on multi-stage road races, including the Giro d’Italia Femminile and the Tour de France Femmes, for which her preparation at Mount Teide will be essential: “It’s worked for me before. After training on Tenerife, I won the Tour de Valencia, including an uphill stage, and the Omloop het Nieuwsblad, in Belgium, and came second in the Strade Bianche,” she says.