Stretching from Utrecht to Ocean Grove, Annemiek van Vleuten’s champion legacy spans far and wide as one of the greatest cyclists of the modern era.

The Dutchwoman’s decision to retire from the professional circuit this year, presents us an opportunity to reflect on her storied career, and the impact she had on her sport.

Racing in the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race on two occasions, van Vleuten raced to victory in 2017, the ninth of 29 individual classics wins of her career.

Riding then for the Australian-based GreenEDGE team (formally ORICA-SCOTT, currently Team Jayco-AlUla), van Vleuten positioned her way to the front of a five-woman breakaway in the final kilometre, overpowering her rivals in the final hundred metres to win ahead of American Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthCare) and Japan’s Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle High5) in third.

Fourth and fifth respectively were Australian Lucy Kennedy (High5 Dream Team) and Briton Emma Pooley (Holden).

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.

After the race, van Vleuten revealed the outcome was not expected.

“I was not the leader for today,” said van Vleuten who started with the aim of helping previous Australian winner Amanda Spratt and Australian champion Katrin Garfoot.

“I am really impressed with the organisation,” van Vleuten said at the time. “It went really well with all the TV coverage, a wonderful course, a big race, a lot of people are out here.”


After 16 years in the peloton, van Vleuten retires as a four-time UCI World Champion, Olympic gold medallist in 2020, and a GC winner across all Grand Tours.

Famously in 2016, while leading the road race at the Rio Olympic Games, she crashed a mere 12km from the finish. With a severe concussion and three lumbar spinal fractures, it was a reminder of how fine the line is between individual glory and ever-present danger.

Five years later at the Tokyo Olympics, disaster stuck again. Crashing with 60km remaining, she rejoined the race and attacked within the final 2km, securing second place but unaware that Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer had already crossed the line ahead of her. Redemption came the following day, when she won that elusive gold in the Time Trial.

A near faultless 2022 campaign saw the then 39-year old win her third Giro Donne and overcome an early race illness to triumph at the 8-stage Tour de France Femmes. In doing so, she became the first woman to complete a Giro-Tour double in the same year.

Van Vleuten then wrote her name into the history books on Australian shores at the UCI World Championships in Wollongong. A fractured elbow as the result of crash in the mixed team relay put her health in doubt for the road race three days later, and as such, was content with domestique duties for countrywoman Marianne Vos. However, an opportunistic attack with 700m remaining saw an astounded van Vleuten win her fourth career rainbow jersey and cement herself as one of only three cyclists in history to have won the Triple Crown of Cycling (two Grand Tour wins + World Champion in the same year) alongside Eddy Merckx (1974) and Stephen Roche (1987).


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“I was the domestique today, with the broken elbow,” said a shocked Van Vleuten. “And now I’m world champion… This is the best victory of my whole career.”

But of all her records and achievements, it’ll be van Vleuten’s impact on the sport as a role model to aspiring girls and women of all levels that’ll be remembered above all else.

Overseeing a transformational age of elite women’s cycling, where professionalism, media interest and prizemoney have all risen, van Vleuten was the preeminent but modest champion of our sport.

“I’m super proud of being part of the whole development of women’s cycling,” she said. “When I started it was an amateur sport, and now it’s a professional sport. I’m proud to have been a little part of that.”

For the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, she retires as a true champion whose distinguished name will forever be etched on our honour board.

Chapeau Annemiek.