Just five months ago she lay motionless on the roadway after a sickening crash down a high-speed descent during the Women’s Olympic Road Race in Rio.
Today that same rider, Annemiek van Vleuten of Orica-Scott, enjoyed one of her best post-recovery races to date winning the Deakin Elite Women’s event at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong.
34yo van Vleuten, who was not one of the team’s protected riders going into the WorldTour race, worked hard with a chase group of 3 fellow riders to catch tearaway Brit Emma Pooley in the closing minutes of the 133km race.
“I was not one of the leaders for the day,” van Vleuten said.
“I’m targeting the start of March so I said I would like to help my teammates. I have surprised myself. In the Tour Down Under I was struggling uphill but today I was one of the better riders uphill.
With the team’s designated riders being Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt, van Vleuten said she noticed on the climbs they’d dropped back and she was the sole team rider in contention.
“I had already done some work so I felt pressure thinking maybe I have to also finish this race off,” she said
“I think this is one of my strengths that I am a bit older and I have a big engine.”
Van Vleuten was part of a chase group of four who caught solo leader Emma Pooley, of the Holden Women’s Cycling Team, with just over 2km to go. The Dutch veteran comfortably won the race in a thrilling sprint finish.
“I knew that I was the fastest of the (final) group but there was also extra pressure because you don’t want them to surprise you,” she said.
The men will line up for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Sunday with the race telecast live on the 7 network. The network will also be live stream the event, which is expected to be watched by an audience of millions around the globe.