Annemiek van Vleuten admits her time trial victory at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics means more following her horror crash at Rio 2016.
The Netherlands’ 38-year-old former world champion claimed gold by finishing quicker than Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser and team-mate Anna van der Breggen.
There were huge concerns five years ago when Van Vleuten suffered a serious crash while leading the road race, falling off her bike on a sharp turn before she was taken to hospital. Miraculously, she was not there for long.
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“I can’t believe it. I knew the journey to get here was not optimal preparation but [I was] still having a lot of fun,” Van Vleuten told Eurosport.
It was not that I really needed it as a reward but it makes it extra beautiful. Also the whole story about it being more for the people around me that believed in more and made it extra beautiful. This is really a gold that shines brighter because of what happened in 2016.
Van Vleuten and the Dutch team also suffered slight embarrassment in Sunday’s road race, when she celebrated ‘victory’ without knowing that Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer had already crossed the line having broken away earlier in the race - she had to settle for silver instead.
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“I used it as fuel. At the National Championships in June I didn’t have a really good feeling but I went to a training camp and had a really good time there.
“The road race was for me the first in a race situation where I felt awesome. Everyone around me was talking about the miscommunication [after believing she had won Tokyo’s road race] and no-one was talking about the performance. I closed myself on social media as I knew I was in really good shape which gave me extra confidence today.”
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Despite the disappointment five years ago, Van Vleuten insisted she had not obsessed about burying any demons.
“Every time I thought about the result I stopped because my thoughts were going until the finish line. I worked so hard for it but there was also a lot of work beforehand with the Dutch mechanic because this project started way before.”
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