2011’s edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen was arguably the first really big win for Annemiek van Vleuten. That was also the last year to date that the Flemish classic featured the much missed Kapelmuur and the Bosberg. However, some other races have started to include the iconic cobbled hill and made it their hallmark. This is the case of the Lotto Belgium Tour. And it may also become the hallmark of the Wageningense rider.
As incredible as it may seem, Annemiek van Vleuten has just won the Lotto Belgium Tour, her very first race after that Olympic crash everyone knows about. She dominated the ITT prologue, lost the leader jersey to Lucinda Brand (RaboLiv) on the first stage due to bonus seconds, and then Brand’s teammate Marianne Vos got it after winning the sprint of the second stage.
RaboLiv had a near ideal situation before the last stage thanks to strong riders Vos, Brand and De Jong being on top of the GC, but no race is easy when one has to climb the Kapelmuur + Bosberg twice and then finish again on the first slopes of the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High 5) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands team) attacked on the Muur before the Dutch rider was able to go solo on the Bosberg, showing that in spite of her post-crash injuries and relaxed recovery training rides she’s still retaining a good dose of that amazing form she had in Rio.
A superb time triallist, Van Vleuten was able to open a big gap during her ride towards Geraardsbergen and ultimately win the stage and regain the leader jersey of the Lotto Belgium Tour by a comfortable margin. It’s also her first win in a road race —that is, not an ITT, which she has won plenty— in two years. The previous one was precisely here, in 2014, in this race, which also featured the Kapelmuur in the last stage. No doubt the Muur likes Van Vleuten, and Van Vleuten likes the Muur.