It’s hard to imagine the women’s peloton without Annemiek van Vleuten but the 39-year-old announced on Wednesday that 2023 will be her final season as a professional.
Along with the announcement that the Dutchwoman extended her contract with her current Movistar team for another year, Van Vleuten expressed her intention to retire while still at the top of her game. She also emphasised her goal to continue the development she has seen within the Spanish team for another season.
“Individual-wise, I didn’t feel like stopping right now – I’m still super motivated, while also aware that there will be a moment when I’ll have to stop,” Van Vleuten said. “And it suits me better to stop when I’m still at my highest level, playing the game at the front in the biggest events. I just want to finish on a high, and doing it with this wonderful group of people feels like the right thing to do.”
By retiring at the end of next year Van Vleuten will miss out on the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 which many believed would mark the end of her career. Van Vleuten addressed this in her statement saying:
“Some people will surely wonder why I’m retiring before the Paris Olympics,” she said. “For me, this, my career, has always been about finding motivating, long-term projects, like the Movistar Team and every organisation I’ve been part of, that I can invest my energy in. It’s not strictly about specific goals or races. It doesn’t look like the Alpe d’Huez is going to feature on the 2024 course, either (laughs), but as you can understand, that’s not the most important reason.
“My career, my driving force as a professional athlete, has always been about improving, not winning. Refining every physical ability or mental aspect on the bike, both as an individual and together with the team I’m part of, is what really gives me energy.”
Prior to Van Vleuten’s move to Movistar in 2021, the team had been stacked with young Spanish talent. Since signing the multi-time world champion and adding young Danish star Emma Norsgaard to the roster Movistar has become a dominant force in the women’s peloton. The team has grown to have an international roster that can not only secure WorldTour wins but support their top riders at all the key races on the calendar.
“I’d like to contribute a bit more to the team’s improvement, just like I’ve done with the Movistar Team for the past two years, in 2023. To be part of it is why I wanted to re-sign for another season. We’re on the way up, we’re developing, and it’d be sad to stop halfway through that development process. Two years feels like too short, while three is a nicer period. I’m fully confident the organisation will continue to improve in 2024 and the years after that.
“The main reason, as I explained, to retire in 2023 is to do so while on top of my game, to round out that improvement process we and the team took up in 2021, and look for new challenges in life. I’m sure I’ll stop with a little tear in my eye, because I love this sport so much, but I’d like to leave cycling, the ‘professional athlete’ part of it, at the top.”
For now, Van Vleuten will be racing at the 10-day Giro d’Italia Donne starting on Thursday followed by the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift from the 24th of July.