A Conversation with
Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten’s career speaks for itself. She is a multi-time, multi-discipline National and World Champion. She boasts a bevy of Grand Tour jerseys, titles, records, and even a pair of Olympic medals. The only rider to have won all three major women’s races, the Giro Donne, Tour de France Femmes, and La Vuelta Femenina, she has pushed the sport forward continually over the course of her career—a career that has ended with Annemiek’s retirement following her final race of the 2023 season. As she looks ahead to what the next chapter holds, we asked Annemiek to share a few memories from her time at the top. 


What’s the coolest place you’ve ridden your bike, and what makes it so cool?

The coolest place I’ve ridden my bike — I can say, it’s almost a magical place for me — is Livigno, actually on the top of Passo Foscagno in Hotel Interalpen where I prepared for all my big goals. I could always really recharge my batteries in the mountains.

There, I found my love for the mountains; I love riding there. Training there was not an effort. On the contrary, it gave me energy. And then, on top of that, after being there always came so many nice results. So, yeah, it’s a perfect place for me. 


Outside of any race, when did you feel the happiest riding your bike?

The happiest I feel is always in Italy, on the Passo Foscagno, on Mortirolo, Stelvio, Gavia — in the mountains with my bike, simple life. Recharge the batteries and prepare for my big goals. But I think the love is still there even without needing to prepare for any big goals. 


Your mindset and resilience, both in training and in racing, have always been some of the most distinctive features of your sporting career. Is there any advice you would give to the younger generation of cyclists in these areas?

The advice I would like to give to the youngest generation is to start working with a mental coach or a psychologist quite early in your career. Don’t wait to have a problem or anxiety or whatever. I think it’s just part of getting better, to also work on the mental side of the sport. I started working on it in 2012, and it gave me a lot of support. I’m sure that my results have also come from working with a mental coach. 


You have been an iconic protagonist of the evolution of women’s cycling. How do you see the sport continuing to evolve into the future?

I hope that my sport will evolve even further. We have made big steps, but it’s really important that we keep it interesting, and that means that, I hope, the level will rise in general — that more riders will compete with each other. We came from a really small top, and already it’s bigger. It needs to have even more competitors fighting for the win. And I hope they’re coming from more countries. It’s nice that the Dutchies are so strong, and the Italians also, I have to say. But we need more women competing from different countries — and also from those countries outside of Europe. 


Balancing a professional cycling career with personal life can be demanding. How did you manage to find that balance and maintain your passion for the sport?

I think one of the secrets behind my successful career is that I always tried to have that balance in my life: training hard, but also keeping time for friends and family. It was limited, but it was also nice that I always invited them to come visit me at Passo Foscagno in Livigno. That helped a lot. But I think that one of the important things for keeping that balance is to not strive for perfection in your career. I found that being a perfect athlete 95% of the time and maybe 5% of the time allowing a little bit of cheating — not going to bed on time, not always eating the perfect things, keeping more balance in your cycling life — you become a happier athlete if you don’t always strive to be a perfect athlete. 

What’s your favorite memory with fizik?

Last year, after becoming World Champion, within 24 hours I received a message from fizik with a design of the new shoes they’d made for me. That made me smile, that the sponsor was so fast in making a design for a custom shoe. It had rainbow bands as well as red for the Vuelta, yellow for the Tour de France win, and pink for the Giro win. It was a very colorful shoe, and I wore them with honor this year. 
Thank you, Annemiek. 



Words – Annemiek Van Vleuten
Photo – Tornanti