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Annemiek van Vleuten, Dutch cyclist to come back from crash to win gold, sets retirement

Annemiek van Vleuten

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 25: Annemiek van Vleuten of Team Netherlands competing on Women’s Road Race during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Fuji International Speedway on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan (Photo by Ronald Hoogendoorn/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

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Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten, who had a horrific crash at the 2016 Olympics, then won gold in Tokyo, said she will retire after the 2023 season.

“Some people will surely wonder why I’m retiring before the Paris Olympics,” van Vleuten, 39, said in a press release. “It’s not strictly about specific goals or races.

“The main reason, as I explained, to retire in 2023 is to do so while on top of my game, to round out that improvement process we and the [Movistar professional] team took up in 2021, and look for new challenges in life. I’m sure I’ll stop with a little tear in my eye, because I love this sport so much, but I’d like to leave cycling, the ‘professional athlete’ part of it, at the top.”

In the 2016 Olympic road race, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped into a ditch while leading with about seven miles to go.

She was hospitalized in intensive care, then returned to her bike 10 days later and competed in the world championship two months later.

Van Vleuten bagged world titles in 2017 (time trial), 2018 (time trial) and 2019 (road race).

Then at the Tokyo Games, she took silver in the road race behind Austrian Anna Kiesenhofer. Three days later, she won the time trial by 56 seconds, the largest margin in the event’s Olympic history (since 1996).

Anna van der Breggen, van Vleuten’s primary rival and countrywoman, retired last year.

After the Olympics, Dutch cycling saw the resurgence of 35-year-olds Ellen van Dijk, who won the world time trial title eight years after her previous gold, and Marianne Vos, who earned road race silver for her first world medal since 2013.

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