Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) produced a “performance of a lifetime” after earlier travails on Stage 8 had left her “flustered”, that is according to Dani Christmas and Dani Rowe who were speaking on the latest episode of The Breakaway.
The 39-year-old suffered an untimely mechanical on Stage 8 of the Tour de France Femmes that saw her change bikes three times. She also suffered a puncture. Each time she would re-join the main group.
Then, despite expending that energy to get back on, she rode away on Super Planche des Belles Filles to conquer the iconic climb as she was crowned winner of the Tour de France Femmes.
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First, she had to swap bikes with Sheyla Gutierrez ahead of the descent of the Cote d’Esmoulieres and descended more cautiously than usual.
However, the drama did not end there. Shorn of team-mates – Gutierrez returned to the team car to change bikes – Van Vleuten fell 30 seconds behind the polka dot jersey group of Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and had to chase back on herself.
But again the drama had not ended as she changed bikes a further two times. First on to her yellow bike, which she had ridden at the very start of the day in the neutral zone – at the bottom of the second climb, the Ballon d’Alsace - but she was not happy with that set-up again, so changed bikes to her preferred first bike.
She then suffered a puncture.
And yet, despite expending all that effort to get back on each time, she powered away to win on Super Planche in yellow to further burnish her legacy.
Recounting the issues, Adam Blythe said:
“She'd gone through the mill a bit today,” began Blythe.
“Then she's still flipping rode off at the end of it. I mean, she's just unreal.”
However, while Van Vleuten tore away from the rest of the field on the Super Planche des Belles Filles, her earlier travails had seen her flustered, said Dani Christmas.
“This was one of the first times that we've ever seen her looking a bit flustered,” began Christmas.
“I lost count how many bike changes that she made. And wearing that yellow jersey, all the pressure is on. And she's probably thinking, how many more bike changes will they wait until they try and go up the road.
“So yeah, it was one of the first times we've seen her just looking a little bit flustered.”

Highlights: Van Vleuten tames Super Planche to seal Tour de France Femmes win

Speaking on a later segment of The Breakaway, Dani Rowe said it was the performance of a lifetime.
“She's been waiting for this moment," said Rowe.
“It's just so fitting for her to win in that yellow jersey - inspiring the next generation of girls that are going to come through. It's just incredible.
“And I don't think we would have wanted to see anyone else win. Especially as she had a tummy bug four days ago, and she couldn't eat for two days. [Yet] she still pulled out that performance of a lifetime."

‘Didn’t eat for two days!’ - Van Vleuten produces 'performance of a lifetime'

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