Van Vleuten in warm bath at Movistar: ‘Pontifical on the picture next to Valverde’

Annemiek van Vleuten is answering her phone nowadays with buenas tardes.

The European Champion made the transition to Movistar this winter and although she still has to work on her Spanish to have a level conversation with fellow former world champion Alejandro Valverde, her first experiences exceed her expectations.

โ€œ I expected a little more maรฑana maรฑanaโ€, says Van Vleuten at Langs de Lijn En Omstreken after she went to training camp with the team for the first time. โ€œI also saw the Netflix documentary (from which it could be concluded that professionalism sometimes leaves something to be desired by the team, red.), so I was curious. But theyre doing really well.โ€

โ€œ They appointed a new performance manager last year and you can notice that he does set things in motion. This makes things a lot more professional than they were used to before,โ€ says Van Vleuten.

โ€œ In addition, it feels like a hot bath, its a warm family that I ended up in. I was very nice received.โ€

Pontifical in the middle

Van Vleuten is one of the eye-catchers of the Spanish team, which also has top riders such as Alejandro Valverde, Miguel Angel Lopez, Enric Mas and Marc Soler under contract. That she would literally be in the center of attention, surprised her anyway.

Although more and more cycling teams have men and womens teams, it is not yet common for both teams to receive equal attention. Van Vleuten is pleased with the strong signal that her team sends with it.

โ€œ They had taken a team photo and they just put me pontifically in the middle. They put the men very much equal to the women, which I noticed during the last training camp. Also by the riders I was very positively surprised. They werent separated teams.โ€

Van Vleuten trained not only with her own teammates, but also with the riders from the mens team. She did that with her previous employer, but former world champion Valverde didnt drive around there.

Yet Van Vleuten has not yet abandoned the wheel of the unbeatable . โ€œId love to, but I know my place. The group of Alejandro was the last group I wanted to ride with, because they drive really fast uphill. Im already very happy to be able to hook up with the classics. If they give gas, I will already be in a lot of troubleโ€, says Van Vleuten.

โ€œ I already have a lot of training with unloading and coming back, but that will make me stronger.โ€

Van Vleuten made the transition to Movistar after five years with Mitchelton-Scott, Australia, where she signed a contract for two years.

The 38-year-old rider, who, in addition to world titles (one on the road and two in the time trial) also has two final victories in the Giro Rosa, hopes to be able to contribute to the development of womens cycling with her new Spanish team.

โ€œ It makes the womens cyclist more interesting if not only the Dutch riders get the prizes. There is a lot of talent and sometimes they only need a little push to make the move and get to the places of honor.โ€

Classics and Tokyo

Van Vleutens teammate Valverde announced during the team presentation on Thursday that he will start his final season as a rider. The 40-year-old former world champion has set the Olympic Games in Tokyo as his main goal. For the two years younger Van Vleuten this is also an important goal, but there is more on her wish list.

โ€œ Until May the Ardennes classics, the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Strade Bianche are very red in my agenda. First, the focus is entirely on that. Then I shift my focus to Tokyo.โ€