In a candid discussion at Rouleur Live, Annemiek van Vleuten openly expressed her contentment with a future that is not meticulously planned out, contrary to the structured approach that defined her professional cycling career. The accomplished Dutch cyclist, known for her impressive tally of 104 victories, retired in September during the Simac Ladies Tour. While uncertain about her precise career trajectory beyond cycling, van Vleuten hinted at having some ideas for what’s next.
Life after the Tour de France Femmes initially seemed daunting for van Vleuten, who admitted to being slightly apprehensive about the lack of immediate goals post-retirement. Accustomed to a goal-oriented lifestyle, it took her some time to adjust to a new rhythm without those targets. Reflecting on her past, she recalled periods where she thrived without strict objectives and is now welcoming a return to that mindset, at least for the upcoming year.
Van Vleuten, who this year alone claimed victories in La Vuelta Femenina, the Giro Donne, and the Tour of Scandinavia, is considering remaining within the realm of sports, albeit in a different role. She expressed a desire to work on the mental aspect of sport with younger athletes, an element she believes is often underestimated. By providing support and sharing her wealth of experience, van Vleuten hopes to help these athletes achieve their full potential.
The mental toll of racing, rather than physical limitations, was the primary factor in van Vleuten’s decision to retire after a 16-year career. Despite feeling at a standstill in terms of personal development within the sport, she still enjoys riding for leisure, indulging in one or two bike rides a week. Van Vleuten’s relentless pursuit of self-improvement and her inability to find new areas to excel in cycling prompted her to seek new challenges outside the professional circuit.
Van Vleuten has amassed an incredible set of accolades, including four Giro Donne wins, four world champion titles, and victories at the Tour of Flanders, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and La Course by Le Tour de France. Almost two months after retiring, she has found tranquillity in her decision and has discovered ways to fill her days, a stark contrast to her previous life of training and racing. Unburdened by the demands of professional sport, van Vleuten no longer fears a void but rather takes satisfaction in tackling a long list of tasks at home, which grew during her years of frequent travel.
As she looks back on her illustrious career, van Vleuten reflects positively, acknowledging both the sacrifices and the immense self-discovery she experienced. The journey, marked by overcoming disappointments and enjoying diverse experiences, was a fulfilling one for her. Despite the challenges, the varied life of a professional cyclist ensured that her career was anything but dull, and now, she embraces the next chapter with an open mind and a heart at peace.