• Annemiek van Vleuten, The Discussion with Matthew Keenan, brought to you by Bikebug. (Getty)Source: Getty
Annemiek van Vleuten really loves racing bikes. No, really, really, really, really loves it. Get some more insight into an engaging and refreshing pro cyclist by catching up on last night's The Discussion with Matthew Keenan, brought to you by Bikebug.
By
Cycling Central

25 Nov 2016 - 1:55 PM  UPDATED 25 Nov 2016 - 2:18 PM

We've heard it before from riders: "I love riding my bike," "I love racing." But watch and listen to Annamiek van Vleuten's exuberance about it, you find yourself immediately looking for your bike and some gutter action.

"I like tough races, I like hard racing, epic racing and I also want to show it to the world."

The Dutchwoman's 'epic' love for competition was probably why she could get back on her bike only a week after her Rio Olympic road race crash. Or maybe her body was just too scared of her not to heal quickly. As it was, the Orica-AIS rider said her injuries weren't serious.

"I think I was really lucky. The doctors told me I was very lucky I did not have any severe injuries. So, three broken verterbrae and a concussion but..." the 34-year-old said.  

"After one week...I think normal maybe people wait and see and go after four weeks on the bike but I went after one week see how it go, went well did alright and challenged myself a little bit and maybe a little bit accept the pain in the broken vertebrae.

"But I also did not ignore the signals because I had a severe concussion so I took it very serious. I had contact with my doctor, I didn't do anything crazy."

Annemiek Van Vleuten's condition after Olympics crash not critical
Annemiek van Vleuten was in the lead of the womens Olympic road race before crashing in sickening fashion on the descent from the final climb. Lying immobile in the gutter, everyone feared the worst but updates on her condition have been relatively positive given the potential severity of the fall.

But that first week of recovery where she was ordered to not go within a whiff of a bicycle, TV or even a mobile phone was extremely tough. 

"It was one of the hardest weeks I had in my cycling career. I think because I could only think back of losing the gold medal and waking up with (a) bad feeling in your stomach...you could only think about that.

"I realised...I did not have a goal anymore...everything was like...over...nothing to look forward anymore."

"Once I could look forward again and have a goal like go for World Championships Qatar and prepare myself for that...I felt happy again." 

Within a month, she was not only back on her bike, she was triumphant. She won two stages and the overall classification at the Lotto Belgium Tour beginning of September, and in October finished fifth in the individual time trial at the road world championships in Qatar. 

And if that wasn't enough: "I was 48 hours home after world championships, packed my back pack and took my mountain bike and my road bike and I'm here (Australia) until they send me back."

On her mountain bike she finished second overall in Australia's tough Crocodile Trophy mountain bike race in Cairns. Van Vleuten said she was after adventure, even if she did get a little lost on one stage and she doesn't really rate her mountain bike skills. 

"(Laughing) I did a bit of sightseeing in outback Australia..extra kilometres without water without food, it's nice!

"My technique is very bad...was also a bit scared, one of my main goals was finishing without any injuries. So I took it very easy although some stages I could ride hard...I did not want to race for results at all I just wanted experience to meet some new people I had a lot of fun with them during the race. 

"One of the best things about the Crocodile Trophy is you sleep in a tent, you shower outside you go to the (outside) toilets you don't have a mattress at all...back to basics. 

"I was so tired after a stage of six hours and then you have to clean your bike yourself, repair it yourself and I think that's one of the best things about it." 

Van Vleuten's love of a tough race and showcasing women's cycling made her dislike the course for the women's world road race title in Qatar. 

"I was disappointed with the world championships...they did not send us out of the city for some gutter action, Dutch crosswinds, it would've been epic and serious, great to watch on the television so it was a missed opportunity."

Why women's cycling still can't have nicer things
From the grass roots to the elite, investing properly and smartly in women's cycling should be a no-brainer. But instead, it's often treated by many as the drunk relative you have to invite to Christmas but who you wish would just sod off.

Van Vleuten will spend January as super domestique for Aussie Amanda Spratt at the Santos Women's Tour and whoever is the Orica-AIS team leader for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The reigning Dutch national time trial champion's own goals for 2017 include the Amstel Gold Race and the Tour of Flanders. 

"I think Amstel Gold race is really my agenda, it's really special to have such a big race, finally. Because we fight and we ask already so long time and I'm super happy...super motivated to show there what i'm capable of.

"Flanders also. I've won it before 2011 but I want to win it again."

Asked why Dutch women are so good at cycling, Van Vleuten responded:

"Every Dutch girl is a bit maybe made out of iron."

It's certainly true in Annemiek's case anyway.