Van Vleuten Boels over the competition
The 2018 Boels Ladies Tour started in Arnhem, a city Annemiek van Vleuten described as her “back yard”. The 36-year-old world time trial champion lives in Wageningen, a few kilometres to the west, just north of the Rhine. Back yard it may be but Van Vleuten is not in need of home advantage at the moment – especially in time trials. Prior to the Boels Ladies Tour prologue, the Dutchwoman won three of the four TTs she started this year. She also won the Giro Rosa in emphatic style.
In Arnhem, home advantage and fact the riders were faced with a short 3.3km prologue course didn’t stop Van Vleuten from diligently preparing, in the hope of maximising any advantage she could over her rivals. “I rode the course in reconnaissance until I was not allowed to any more, trying to find the perfect line,” Van Vleuten said after the stage.
The result was an improvement on her TT strike rate, as she took another victory, this time by a significant seven seconds over her compatriot Anna van der Breggen. Ellen van Dijk was third.
The following day’s road stage started in Nijmegen, just south of the Rhine and also within the bounds of Van Vleuten’s stamping ground. It was based on seven laps of a fairly hard circuit around the village of Berg en Dal, a name which gives a flavour of the up-and-down countryside of the LimburgGelderland borderland. On the last ascent of the steep and narrow climb of Oude Holleweg, Van der Breggen, Van Vleuten and Elisa Longo Borghini carved out a slim advantage. It fizzled out when Van der Breggen stopped contributing.
Soon after, Van Vleuten attacked again and this time, without company, her escape was emphatic. Van der Breggen tried to follow but the moment had passed and she merely succeeded in dragging Longo Borghini, Van Dijk and Amanda Spratt – Van Vleuten’s team-mate, and therefore dead weight, into a fruitless pursuit. The current state of Van Vleuten’s form and mental imperviousness was shown when she went the wrong way at a road fork, but still got back on the course before her pursuers, nursing a 12second advantage to the line.
And so went the 2018 general classification. Stages 2 and 3 ended in sprints that were won by the 2016 world champion Amalie Dideriksen. On stage 4, the nominal queen stage in Limburg, Dideriksen turned loyal team-mate and played a role in hampering the late chase of Chantal Blaak, who soloed to her fifth win of the season and the last before she tries to defend her rainbow jersey in Innsbruck a few weeks later.
On the eve of the closing 18.6km time trial, Van Vleuten was in firm control. She had a 22-second lead over Sunweb’s Lucinda Brand and almost 30 seconds on BTC City Ljubljana’s Eugenia Bujak. However, Brand crashed on one of the corners and was forced to continue on her road bike, and Bujak was 1:40 slower
than Van Vleuten, whose winning speed was 46.5km/ h. In place of Brand and Bujak, Van der Breggen and Van Dijk moved into second and third place respectively on the podium.
They say the time trial is the race of truth and the truth is that as Van Vleuten headed into the Worlds week, she was in supreme form, and the new leader of the Women’s World Tour.
“It was a good dress rehearsal for the World Championships,” an imperiouslooking Van Vleuten said.
Dideriksen gets a hug from Van der Breggen after winning stage 3
Boels- Dolmans had to watch as Van Vleuten won the race for Mitchelton-Scott
Van Vleuten wins the Boels Tour GC for the second year in a row, as she ramps up for the Worlds