• Annemiek van Vleuten crosses the line for victory at the 2nd Clasica Femenina Navarra (AAP)Source: AAP
Mitchelton-Scott's Annemiek van Vleuten won all three races in Spain this weekend that restarted the women's road cycling season after its pandemic pause, leaving some to wonder 'how can we stop the world champion'?
Cycling Central

Trek-Segafredo, Michelton-Scott
27 Jul 2020 - 10:38 AM 

Van Vleuten's victories at the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa (Thursday 23 July), the Clasica Femenina Navarra (Friday 24 July) and Durango-Durango (Sunday 26 July) were forged with daring solo attacks in all three races.

Before the coronavirus forced the season to pause, the world champion won the only race she started in much the same manner - with an attack on the iconic Muur-Kapelmuur at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. 

It was in fact van Vleuten's fifth consecutive victory. 

“I cannot remember winning four races in a row, actually five, because the world championships started it," she said.  

“I don’t want to be arrogant; it is unbelievable for me to win these three races; I cannot have believed this would have happened.

“I have to say Friday (Clasica Femenina Navarra) was the biggest surprise but today (Durango-Durango) I knew the final so I knew if it stayed together then it would be good for me. It was a super steep climb which I know really well."

'How can we beat the world champion?' 

It was a question Elisa Longo Borghini asked herself and her DS in the car, Ina Teutenberg, while off the front with van Vleuten during the Clasica Femenina Navarra. 

For a while there, the Italian looked like she had the answer, pulling away on the third climb of the day with half the race to come. But she soon had the rainbow jersey with her for company. 

“We knew there was a section of 15kms with a few uphills and small open roads, and Elisa just seized the moment and got away," Teutenberg explained.

"It was a good situation for us as we had Lizzie (Deignan) and Ellen (van Dijk) chaperoning the chase group.”

After finishing fourth behind van Vleuten, Mavi Garcia (Ale), and Anna van der Breggen at the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa the preceding day when the world champion fired up the afterburners, Longo Borghini was satisfied with how the finale to the Clasica Femenina Navarra unfolded. 

“Today was an adventure,” Longo Borghini said. “I went pretty early in a break and was at first solo, and then Annemiek joined me. In the final climb with 20kms to go, she dropped me.

"But I didn’t surrender and finished second. I am satisfied; I am feeling good, and I am surprised because I just came from altitude. This is a good sign for the upcoming races.”

Van Vleuten powered away on the final climb at Durango-Durango with Longo Borghini finishing third behind the Mitchelton-Scott rider and van der Breggen. 

Peter Sagan proved many times the rainbow jersey curse held no power over him, and van Vleuten too said there's no point angling for that story with her either. 

"At first, they wanted to interview me about the curse of the rainbow jersey, but I am really happy I don’t have that curse," she said.

“To win every race in the jersey; for sure I cannot keep this record but for now it is nice."

It's a record Longo Borghini's DS Teutenberg hopes van Vleuten can't keep for much longer.

“Yes, van Vleuten did win these races solo, but she’s world champion for a reason, and we know that,” Teutenberg said. 

"But I think there will be times coming where we can get there, outsmart her, or outplay her with tactics. The season has just restarted, and we hope this will not be repeated every bike race we go to now.

“Elisa just took the race in her hands, and she just missed a tiny bit there at the end on the last climb, but I think we did a fantastic race, and Elisa is in really good shape coming off this break."

Spare a thought for...Australian Lauren Kitchen...

The FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope rider came down hard during the Clasica Femenina Navarra breaking her collarbone. 

In 2018, she faced a hard road back after crashing out of the Amstel Gold. She recently wrote about her experience for Voxwomen.