The end of Van Vleuten

Annemiek has already accumulated several goodbyes and farewells. She received applause from the Tour Femmes, with the entire staff waiting for her arrival at the finish line. She also said goodbye from the World Championships, greeting the audience present. The last one, until further notice, took place at home, at the Simac Ladies Tour. As it could not be otherwise, Van Vleuten said goodbye after the victory, and since the rider had to make an appearance on the podium, she received a new tribute. If we think it through, it is the toll for having won so much and so good. There are important races ahead, we are sure to have some more farewells left.

Women’s cycling will miss Miek. Not so their rivals, who now come to life after the tyranny of the Dutch with the perspective of inheriting the empire the Dutch inherited herself from another Dutch. Vollering has replaced the Movistar cyclist, without forgetting the fact that two of the three Grand Tours have still fallen on the side of her rival, who has continued to mark territory until the very end of her competitive cycling life. The champions are like that, and even more if they are Dutch and have developed their cycling tradition in the last decade. They are invincible entities, breathless, always starving for triumph and deserved competitive fame.

Now it’s Vollering’s reign, learning in the defeat against the previous champion in practical classes as drivers learn how to drive, champs need to learn how to access the win. Van Vleuten leaves a huge gap in cycling, a good part of the media gain in recent years has been built around her figure. Without it, the castle can remain in the air, at least for a reasonable time. Behind, absolute nothingness. Demi is not as recognizable, or recognized, or both. Kopecky, neither. The power of their team is. Therein lies a large part of the fear of the double world champion’s retirement.

Legacy and example. Because it is not just about audiences and amplification, but about encouraging cycling, inspiring, even more so in a world that has gained as much momentum as that of women’s cycling, riding a wave of which Van Vleuten has been a great reference. Movistar will also suffer from this decline. And now what? The professional career comes to an end, but the person continues. It is easy to imagine that in one way or another she will end up relating her future to her future former team. Time will tell, surely the first thing will be to find new challenges, both professional and of a more personal nature.

It was not easy to get here. The ideas of quitting had already floated over her head a year before, dying with the rainbow, at whose side she was forced to stay. In this very 2023 it has been confirmed that if not the decline, there was a small drop in results. Down because the level had been so high in recent seasons, because in this “annus horribilis” (sarcastic) is going to be closed by the Dutchwoman with victories that other rivals would merely dream of.

And from now on what will happen in cycling? In moments of change in hierarchies, spaces must be occupied by other figures. Without Van Vleuten in the front, SD Worx’s dominance could be indisputable. Open sky at Movistar so that other colleagues can take advantage of the opportunity to grow. Also for those other names that have been sounding strongly and that threaten to reach the summit. The summit has been left deserted, which will bring us new names. Also to new comparisons, with that surname of being the new Annemiek, a burden that can fall on anyone who shows their head in the peloton. Careful, Demi.

Written by Jorge Matesanz

Pics: Getty Sport / Movistar // Cover: Sprint Cycling Agency

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