Van Vleuten very nearly quit the Tour on stage 2

The Dutchwoman was so sick she was unable to pack her suitcase herself.

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On Saturday’s stage 7 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) put in a ride for the ages to turn the race on its head.

After being 1:28 down on GC at the start of the day, she finished the stage 3:14 ahead of her nearest rival, Demi Vollering (SD Worx). But it almost didn’t happen.

Five days earlier, Van Vleuten nearly pulled out of the race as a result of a stomach bug.

“Super close,” she said in her post-stage 7 press conference after being asked how close she was to leaving the Tour. “Because on day 2 I couldn’t even put my things in my suitcase. My teammates had to push me also all the time so I was really in a bad situation.”

On stage 2 Van Vleuten finished in the third group on the road while a group of six rode away to contest the stage win. Van Vleuten ended that day 34 seconds down on stage winner and new maillot jaune Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma). She said later that she was in a bad place.

“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.”

Then on stage 3, Van Vleuten was dropped by the group of favourites and lost another 20 seconds. Despite losing more time, Van Vleuten described it as “actually an awesome day compared to yesterday.”

Van Vleuten continued to improve, and while she was dropped on the gravel of stage 4, her rivals didn’t capitalise and she was able to fight back and finish with the other GC leaders.

Fast forward to stage 7 – the race’s first mountain stage – and Van Vleuten was sitting nearly 90 seconds off yellow. She attacked on the first of three big climbs, taking Vollering with her, before going it alone with more than 60 km to go. It was quite the turnaround.

“The whole Tour has been a rollercoaster,” she said afterwards, wearing the maillot jaune for the first time. “I could not believe that it was still possible after being so sick and then being now here in the yellow jersey, because I was so close to quitting the race.

“It’s a little bit of a miracle.”

One stage remains in the race, with Van Vleuten the big favourite to win a second-straight stage and extend her already sizeable lead in the GC.

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