Annemiek van Vleuten is not a robot

The Movistar leader and pre-race favourite explains that a "stomach infection" is behind her uncharacteristic performances so far.

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It’s not a sight that we are accustomed to: Annemiek van Vleuten getting distanced on a climb and struggling to get back to the group in front of her. But on stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift that’s what happened to the Movistar rider.

After losing 50 seconds on the whirlwind that was stage 2, Van Vleuten had ground to make up on stage 3’s hillier course from Reims to Épernay but found herself distanced as the group of GC favourites she was with battled it out for bonus seconds at the top of the short Mont Bernon climb.

The 39-year-old made it back to her rivals but was once again out of contention on the final climb, finishing 34 seconds behind the winner, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.

Despite bleeding yet more precious seconds on GC, Van Vleuten described stage 3 as: “Actually an awesome day compared to yesterday,” explaining how she began to feel unwell after the first stage with “a stomach infection” that left her unable to eat or drink on Monday’s stage.

“I was actually really sick,” she said after stage 3. “I had a real stomach infection. I had all the symptoms apart from having flu. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, I was super tired. The last thing I was thinking about was racing.

“So yesterday when I woke up I was also like feeling so shit so I could not event think about finishing yesterday’s stage and then losing only less than a minute was a big achievement. Today I was quite optimistic because I could have breakfast and I felt also quite normal again.”

Despite the fact that she is now 1’14” behind on the general classification Van Vleuten says she is not concerned about her chances for taking the yellow jersey. “I’m not worrying about the things I don’t have in control,” she said. “But yesterday was like super worse so today I feel already 100,000 times better than yesterday so the only way is up and today was fine.”

Van Vleuten will be hoping to make a full recovery by Wednesday’s gravel stage in order to limit any further losses. “I know what to expect so I have confidence,” she said of stage 4. “I won two times Strade Bianche but I’m just not so keen to have gravel in stage racing. The bad luck factor – that’s the only thing that was not really attracting me ”

Movistar women’s team’s general manager, Sebastián Unzué, did not seem concerned with Van Vleuten’s time losses. “I think that the time she lost is nothing to be extremely worried about. I think the Tour de France is going to be really long,” Unzué said.

“She’s not a robot. She can also have some bad days. I think it’s normal and I don’t think it’s something to be worried about. We know Annemiek, she’s tough as hell and tomorrow she will be already putting up a battle and I’m sure that when we get to the high mountain finishes she is going to be for sure solid and trying to win the race.”

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