In her own words: Van Vleuten blames herself for awful Rio crash

Posted on: August 10th, 2016

The cuts and bruises from her awful crash at the Olympics are clear on the face of Annemiek van Vleuten. But she says the mental impact of losing her chance at gold will be much harder to recover from.

Leading the Olympic road race on solo on Sunday with just over 10km remaining and with a gap of one minute on the three women who would win medals – with Mara Abbott in between – Annemiek van Vleuten crashed so heavily there were fears for her life.

She has been diagnosed with three small fractures to her spin and heavy concussion. But in this dispatch from her hospital bed in Rio – published on her website – she suggests the mental scars of seeing her chance at glory whipped away will be the hardest part of her recovery.

By Annemiek van Vleuten

An update from the hospital in Rio de Janeiro, where I am in good hands. A message with very mixed feelings.

Normally I am able to look forward after a disappointment, but now I know there probably won’t be a chance like this anymore.

When you are in such good shape and can excel like this, it is very difficult to accept this. I was so close, but gave it away and it was my fault.

On the other hand; I am very proud that I was able to perform like this. I was hoping to surprise everyone, but that I was actually able to attack Abbott, I did not expect.

At the Olympics I wanted to excel and that I did. Maybe I discovered a side of myself which I didn’t even knew.

That is a motivation for me to continue. I am very proud of this, but it’s hard to accept it ended like this.

Of course the ‘what if’ question plays in my head. I have to do something with that in the processing of this.

I am very happy that the physical injuries are not that bad. But mentally it’s difficult.

Especially when I woke up this morning. The first two hours I kept looking back at the race and that’s really hard.

For such a long time you work towards a goal and then this is how it ends. It will really take some time to leave that behind. All the sweet messages I’ve got do help me. If I read them, I can look back on a great performance.

The reactions of everyone around me are heart-warming and I’ve had a lot of visits. My Orica-AIS teamies Katrin Garfoot, Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt visited me together with team manager Martin Barras and I had a visit of Marianne Vos and Dutch head coach Johan Lammers… and UCI president Brian Cookson came by.

Today I can leave the hospital and I will be taken to a hotel nearby. Not to the Olympic village, because I need rest and the idea is that I can recover the best in the hotel.

The intention is to fly home Friday and hopefully I can. The concussion is the reason that they want to keep me here.

As I said, I had a lot of messages. On the website and social media, but for example also a letter in which almost all the riders in the peloton had left a get well wish.

Marianne gave me that. I am very happy with all those messages. But I am not allowed to use my phone a lot and therefore I can’t answer most of them.

That’s why I post this message on my website for all everyone. I want to thank you all for the super sweet and warm messages!



Battered but still smiling