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Rio cycling crash inspires van Vleuten

AAP logoAAP 6 days ago Roger Vaughan

Annamiek van Vleuten's horrifying crash at the Rio Olympic Games has left the Dutch cycling star with a new perspective.

The 34-year-old made an astonishing recovery from the spill, returning to competition only a month later.

The Orica-Scott rider will continue her early-season preparations from Saturday at the Santos Women's Tour in Adelaide.

Van Vleuten was leading the Olympic women's road race, within 10km of the finish, when she overcooked a corner on the controversial Vista Chinesa descent.

After hitting the ground hard, van Vleuten was motionless for several moments and it left onlookers fearing the worst.

She suffered three fractured vertebrae, concussion and a nasty black eye.

But four weeks later, the hard-as-nails Dutch star returned to competition at the Lotto Belgian Tour - and won it.

The crash and its aftermath left van Vleuten with a potent mix of emotions - relief at her full recovery, lingering disappointment at coming so close to a potential Olympic gold medal and also pride in how she has handled the whole matter.

"I had so many positive reactions to how I dealt with my disappointment and how I just continued," she told AAP.

"I found out there's more to life than a gold medal - it was good in some ways, for myself, my development.

"It looks horrible, (but) for me, it's really good to watch it, then I realise the impact on all the people, my friends and family.

"I know how it ended and I'm still alive."

It had also proved a powerful spur for van Vleuten, a top-class rider who finished fifth in the individual time trial last October at the world championships.

"Sometimes, I'm reminded about what happened in Rio and I was so close to a gold medal," she said.

"That's pretty hard to deal with but, at the same time, I'm proud of what I achieved that day.

"It's something that inspires me for the coming season."

Immediately after the world titles, van Vleuten travelled to Australia and has been here since.

She competed in the famous Crocodile Trophy mountain bike race, winning three stages, and then went on holidays for several weeks.

After riding in the Bay Classic series, van Vleuten will continue using the Santos Women's Tour as preparation for the European spring classics.

She is particularly keen to win the first women's Amstel Gold in her home country.

The famous Ardennes classic has added a women's race and its punchy climbs suit van Vleuten.

Her Australian Orica-Scott teammate Amanda Spratt has also targeted Amstel-Gold and van Vleuten hopes they can be at the pointy end of the race together.

"I really hope Spratty and myself - and actually even more of us - will be in the last 10km, so we can play the game in Amstel Gold," she said.

"If I can't win, I'd love Spratty to win."

This is van Vleuten's second year with the Australian team and she is rapt.

"It's one of the best things I did in my career, to move to this team - I really feel at home ... it feels like a family," she said.

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