Adam Blythe and Orla Chennaoui believe that Annemiek van Vleuten's retirement from cycling could be good for the sport, hailing her as an "all-time great" but suggesting that the Dutch rider is perhaps too dominant.
Van Vleuten secured overall victory at the Tour de France Femmes, dominating the final two stages of the race to take a commanding win more than three minutes ahead of Demi Vollering despite struggling with illness during the opening days of the Tour.
It added another significant crown to a glittering palmares for a rider who only took up cycling professionally at the age of 26, Van Vleuten completing a Giro Donne/Tour de France Femmes double at the first opportunity after securing her third pink jersey in Italy earlier in July.
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The Dutchwoman signed a one-year contract extension this summer through to the end of 2023, when she intends to call time on a career that has also included four monument wins, two Olympic medals and three world titles.
Eurosport's Chennaoui and Blythe admit that they will be sad to see Van Vleuten bow out, but feel the 39-year-old's retirement could give way to a more competitive era of racing.
"I don't think anyone can replace her," assessed Eurosport expert Blythe. "To be honest, I hope no one ever does replace her.
"It is great watching her, but she is so much better than everyone else that everyone is playing catch-up all the time.
"I think if it is more closely compacted at the front and it is more fought out for those wins then we are going to get more entertainment out of it, selfishly."
Chennaoui agreed, saying that the inaugural Tour de France Femmes had showed again just how clear of the peloton an in-form Van Vleuten can be.
"I absolutely love Annemiek van Vleuten for so many reasons, not least because she pays attention to everything that is said and written about her - so if you are watching this, Annemiek, we genuinely love you," Chennaoui said.
"[But] whenever a champion like that retires it does leave a void and the gap between the rest is just that bit closer.
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"If she wasn't in this race, then we've got a 1'19" gap between second and third, four riders within a minute of third, so the battle for the yellow jersey would have been closer.
"It's fantastic to see Annemiek winning in the way that she does, but really it is a good thing if there is nobody to replace her in the way that she races and the way that she wins.
"It will make the fight all the closer. Everyone else has risen so much in the last five or six years and we have such a level of competition, breadth and depth in the peloton, but we lose sight of that because she is so much better. When she goes, it means we can see the rest of the peloton for what it is - highly competitive and really exciting."
In all, Van Vleuten has 95 major victories in her career, many of which have come in the last five years as she improves with age.
Her retirement will follow that of long-time rival and compatriot Anna van der Breggen, who moved into a directeur sportif role at SD Worx at the end of 2021.
Like Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten seems set to retire while still among the best riders in the world, but Chennaoui believes there is a certain beauty to bowing out while on top.
"It is always sad to see champions start to wane, isn't it?" Chennaoui said.
"We saw it this year with Anna van der Breggen, she retired at the very top, but again people were asking 'why are you doing that when you could keep winning?' She did win until the very end, but I guess if you can walk away from it, it is hard, but it is a beautiful thing to do."
Blythe described Van Vleuten's decision as brave, but agreed with Chennaoui that the Dutchwoman had probably chosen the "best time to retire".
"But she has won everything - what else is there for her to win?" the former British champion added. "Cycling - completed it mate!
"She's only going to get stronger and I just think this is the best time to retire when you are the very, very best at the top. You will go down in those history books for stopping as one of the all-time greats.
"She has won everything she could win, pretty much, and we've heard her say she likes a plan.
"This might be part of the plan. She's not bothered, really, about the end goal, she just likes executing a plan."
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