Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten ended three-months of racing and training ‘Down Under’ with a stunning win in the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race in Geelong today.
The win was overdue fortune for van Vleuten who suffered a horrific crash in the closing kilometres of last year’s Rio Olympic Games women’s road race while leading. She sustained three fractured vertebrae and a concussion.
A member of the Australian ORICA-SCOTT team, van Vleuten, 34, won Saturday’s 113.3km race that had 87 starters from 15 teams, by beating four fellow breakaway companions.
Second was American Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthCare), while Japan’s Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle High5) was third.
Fourth and fifth respectively were Australian Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dream Team) and Briton Emma Pooley (Holden).
Meanwhile, Italian Susanna Zorzi (Drops) finished sixth at 27 seconds, and Kirsten Wild (Cyclance) of the Netherlands was seventh after winning the bunch sprint at 33 seconds.
It was a thrilling finale to the race that was broadcast live and in full on Channel 7 for the first time since the 2010 UCI World Road Championships were held in Geelong.
For van Vleuten the outcome was certainly not planned.
“I was not the leader for today,” said van Vleuten who started with the aim of helping last year’s Australian winner Amanda Spratt and Australian champion Katrin Garfoot.
Van Vleuten also hopes to return to Geelong next year to defend her Deakin University Elite Women’s Race title.
“I am really impressed with the organisation,” van Vleuten said. “It went really well with all the TV coverage, a wonderful course, a big race, a lot of people are out here. So yeah … I would love to come back next year.”
Tracey Gaudry, Vice President of the Union Cycliste International, President UCI Women’s Commission and President of the Oceania Cycling Confederation labelled the race as a “spectacle” for women’s racing.
“A Japanese rider, an American rider, a Dutch rider …,” Gaudry said of the international podium that resulted.
“What does that do for women’s cycling? It shows that the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race really is on the world stage.”