Fans won’t have to wait long to see the recently-retired Annemiek van Vleuten pin a race number to her jersey as she confirmed her start at the upcoming UCI Gravel World Championships in Italy next month.
Van Vleuten rode her final road race at the Simac Ladies Tour earlier in September following 16 years at the top of the sport. She will compete on the gravel in the elite women’s start for a rainbow jersey on October 7, confirming on Dutch newspaper AD’s podcast In Het Wiel.
“In a crazy mood I said ‘yes’ to that,” joked Van Vleuten. “The team [Movistar] liked it, the sponsors liked it and I also found it funny to participate.”
Unlike fellow retiree Alejandro Valverde, Van Vlueten had no plans to consistently race off-road in the coming season but hoped to see her former Movistar teammate at the event for a parting gift from the sport.
“I have no ambitions in a gravel career, so I think I will end it here,” said Van Vleuten. “I’m going to ride this in my retirement. I’m not prepared for it and I’m not going to train for it. I’m going to participate and have a nice photo with Alejandro Valverde.”
No official start list is out for the race yet, with only nations such as the USA confirming an actual roster, but Van Vleuten is expected to compete for a strong Dutch squad alongside countrywoman Demi Vollering, who confirmed her intentions to race to WielerFlits after the European Championships road race, and Lorena Wiebes.
Vollering, the Tour de France Femmes winner from this season, has competed on gravel before and won the inaugural Dutch women’s national championships in the discipline in 2021 ahead of Floortje Mackaij and Wiebes.
If the stars of the road are to win, however, they will have to get past the likes of defending UCI Gravel World Champion and multi-disciplinary superstar Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who won the title for France in 2022 after a two-up sprint with Switzerland’s Sina Frei.
The Dutch roster could include more experienced riders off the road in Fem van Empel, who won the national title a couple of weeks ago, or Pauliena Rooijakers, who finished second that day and has won two rounds of the Gravel World Series in 2023 at Houffa Gravel and Gravel One Fifty.
The elite women’s race at the Gravel World Championships takes place on a 140km route on Saturday, October 7, the day before Van Vleuten’s 41st birthday, with the elite men’s race the following day across 169km.