Annemiek van Vleuten is waiting on a decision from the Dutch federation’s medical team to clear her to compete in the elite women’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships on Saturday. The defending champion is recovering from a fractured wrist sustained in a crash at the Giro Rosa last week.
Van Vleuten confirmed to Cyclingnews in a phone interview on Thursday evening that her wrist felt pain-free when riding and that she has expressed to the federation, KNWU, that she wants to start the road race in an attempt to defend her world title.
“My wrist feels quite good and I can’t complain because, for me, it’s a miracle how it feels,” Van Vleuten told Cyclingnews. “I don’t have pain on the bike and I can grab my handlebars, 100 per cent. I don’t have any problems with bike handling and that is something that was important in my decision.”
Van Vleuten said that it is not entirely her decision, but rather a decision made by the federation’s medical team, after they consider the extent of her injuries and whether it is safe for her to race. Van Vleuten confirmed the decision would be made on Friday.
‘The doctors told me that if I crashed again, it’s not a problem, and would not damage it more,” Van Vleuten said. “It’s a special case, and the reason that I have less pain. They didn’t give me complete anaesthetic. I just had local anaesthetic, and I was conscious through the procedure and it only took 30 minutes. They put in a metal plate, which is why it’s stronger than before, which can stay in or come out later. My wrist doesn’t feel great when I wake up, but I can’t complain because I’m not in too much pain and I can handle my bike 100 per cent.
“We decide on Friday, together with the medical staff, but if it were up to only me, I want to start and I feel ready to start. It’s also safe to start. If it were only up to me, I would definitely ride, but it still has to be cleared through the doctor.”
Van Vleuten fractured her wrist in a crash during stage 7 at the Giro Rosa on September 17, which forced her to abandon while she was in the race lead. She initially thought she would be sidelined from the World Championships, where she was selected to race the time trial and the road race. However, following a successful surgery where she had a metal plate inserted, and a special brace fitted, along with consultation from medical staff, she would now like to race.
“I don’t want to be a role model, or for people to think that it’s cool to race with a broken wrist,” said Van Vleuten, who travelled to Imola on Thursday. “I want to be cautious with that. I don’t think this would be possible with every broken wrist, but I was lucky in the way it broke and with the 30-minute surgery needed to correct it. I don’t want people to think that it’s possible to ride with a broken wrist, or that it’s cool. No, it’s not cool, it’s shit, but I was very lucky that I don’t have pain. I have also had good advice from doctors.”
Van Vleuten said she didn’t take additional days off the bike due to the crash, with the exception of the one day for surgery. She is feeling strong after competing at the Giro Rosa, and believes that she can carry that strength into the World Championships. She is confident that if she starts the race, she has a shot at winning the world title again.
“I rode the course and I’m happy that it’s all new asphalt, so that helps my wrist,” she said. “I had a good test on my bike yesterday and that gave me confidence for the road race. After the Giro, it was all about resting. I didn’t have complete anaesthetic, just local anaesthetic. I was fully awake for my surgery, and so I only had one day off the bike and to recover from the Giro.
“My legs are still there and I have nothing to lose. If it is up to me, I would like to still race,” Van Vleuten said. “I feel confident and at least I’m happy because I felt like my season was over but it isn’t over.”
Dygert is a champion
Van Vleuten gave up her spot to Ellen van Dijk for the time trial at the World Championships. Anna van der Breggen won the world title in the discipline, her first after placing second four times, while Van Dijk finished with the bronze medal.
“I am super proud of Anna and Ellen, and it felt good that Ellen could race and she proved that it was a good decision to take my place,” Van Vleuten said.
“Anna is the first time a world champion [in the time trial] and she will be delighted. I think it was a very good start at the World Championships for the Dutch federation.”
Defending champion Chloé Dygert (USA) appeared to be on her way to winning the event when she crashed on a descent on the return to the finish line in Imola. Dygert was airlifted to hospital, however, her injuries have not been confirmed. Van Vleuten said she sent Dygert a text message wishing her a fast recovery.
“I was watching the time trial, and I have already sent Chloé a message telling her that I feel so much for her because I know what she is feeling right now,” she said.
“I have also made my own mistake on the descent, and I don’t know what happened or why she crashed, but I’m sending her healing vibes. I know how she will wake up feeling tomorrow morning. I hope she’s OK and feeling comfortable because she is a champion.”