“Ladies and gentlemen, your cyclo-cross women’s world champion…MARIANNE VOS!”
MC at the UCI, CX World Championships, Louisville, Kentucky, USA 2013
Standing out from the crowd
She races, not just rides, 12 months of the year. And each year from 2007 to 2011, she has won silver at the World Road Race Championships; a dedicated expert of Track, Road, MTB and CX. Today, she is the current holder of 5 World Cups. She is the World CX champion; she is the double-Classics Champion; the women’s Giro d’Italia Champion; she is the Olympic Road Race Champion; and now, she is finally the World Road Race Champion. She is Marianne Vos.
Like all triumphant athletes before her, Vos’ story starts in the early mornings of her early years. From the age of 6, Vos sees cycling as something to aspire to, as she watches her older brother compete. Just two years later, she begins to race.
Now counting more wins than birthday candles, Vos is reflecting the talent within women’s pro-peloton. Some might argue it’s still early days and other illustrious careers are better poised to raise the torch. After all we aren’t short of greats: like our very own Beryl Burton – winner of over 90 domestic titles, 7 world titles and a TT record that no man could outdo for 2 solid years. Then there’s our modern day Victoria Pendleton and Nicole Cooke – the first lady in history to carry both the World Champ colours and Olympic Gold in the same year. Marianne Vos now holds this title too.
The iconic moment Vos takes victory on the mall
Never the easy line
Where Vos stands out, is her tenacity to outclass opponents. Leading many to fear her presence anywhere from bunch-sprints to solo escapes; the competition just can’t pin her down. In a sport where almost anything can happen, and often does, Vos is getting it to come together all at the right time. There is simply no one like Vos.
Rather than shouting about it from the rooftops, Vos chooses disciplines much closer to the ground to make the world sit up in awe. In modern-cycling the question of doping is going to shadow anyone who beats the bunch so convincingly. Yet VeloNews describes her as the most successful female cyclist of all time. Vos responds by saying that it is sad that cyclists are proven guilty, until found innocent, but believes that it is getting better.
“We need to get all stories from the past out now, to be able to look to the future. Cycling needs to be more transparent with a strong anti-doping system and independent organizations working on that. I truly believe it’s getting better, but we’re not there yet. We have to keep fighting for a clean sport and show and share the passion of cycling. I believe that cycling has a future, because it’s still a fantastic sport.” – Marianne Vos on Velonews
World Cyclo-Cross Championships: Is there anyone else in this race?
What spurs Vos on? Perhaps far more frustrating than drug allegations, has been overcoming second place, 5 times in a row, in the most coveted race, the World Championships. But Vos has overcome and now wears the Rainbow Jersey with style. More likely her success is her ability to take her raw-talent, train herself, and lead a team that is willing to work together towards everything they set their hearts to. People like, Ellen van Dijk, Annemiek van Vleuten, and more recently, Anna van der Breggen on the Ronde. David Millar describes Vos during the World Champs as an athlete who maintains “Consistency beyond belief”. Combined with her team, they created exceptional attacks on Box-Hill during the 2012 Olympics. Ultimately, rewarding Vos a victory on the rain-spent finish line of the mall. More success with the Dutch national team , and the Rabobank Liv/Giant pro team, are testimonies to Vos’ extraordinary work ethic. She now wants to return to Mountain Biking after an 8 year absence.
What is apparent is Vos’ support from the public. Something our Victoria Pendleton felt she lacks. Pendleton reflects on her most successful year, stating in the Guaridan Sport: “You have to be realistic. I’d love to be more famous, have lots of people supporting me, people knowing my name, but I need a tennis racket, or a golf club, or to play football. Being a female I don’t stand a chance.”
Some may wonder if Marianne Vos’ popularity stems from being brought up in the heartland of pro-cycling, but the public from the continent as well as stateside in the US are coming out in their droves to witness her distinct talents. Of course this doesn’t necessarily equate to equal pay, sponsorship or media coverage as the men’s, but it is a massive step forward to eventual recognition and change.
“Consistency beyond belief” – David Millar
Leontien van Moorsel has been described as the greatest Dutch Female Pro-Cyclist, but Vos has now won more than Leontien. So what’s next? Two days after conquering the Mur de Huy at the Fleche-Wallone she flew to Monterey, California, USA to win an MTB race. She then followed this up the next day to win her fifth Cyclo-Cross Championships. If Vos would ever make a career change, then travelling could be an option. Thankfully for now, she’s sticking to two wheels.
So let’s see what Vos has got:
Marianne Vos brings the house down with her fifth CX victory in Kentucky, USA.
A determined Marianne succeeds at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen This video with English commentary shows that even national-team members, like Ellen van Dijk, find it tough to keep on Vos’ wheel:
Vos shows she’s human after all, by sharing her nerves and goals at a post Flanders Interview with Paved Mag.
With over 132 competitors from 37 countries the World champs 2012 vid via BBC in English: 3hrs. As Vos lines up seemingly calmly to the start line, she is described as being “So popular. So talented. Had she been in the men’s circuit, she would have a tremendous career.” Marianne may care, but she’s not listening today. In the world of cycling, the French say there is a big difference between first and second; no-one remembers you if you’re second. Today all Vos wants after coming second 5 times before, is gold.
“It’s true that the women don’t get the racing they deserve. Their program is depleted compared to the men’s. But it doesn’t take away the great talents that go into the sport, and as we’ve seen in the Olympics the racing can be just as exciting if not more than the men.” – David Millar
What to look out for:
2.24hrs – Talk of race tactics without radio and shot of the great Dutch country
2.50hrs – Vos’ Cauberg attack
3.18.45 – Grabbing the flag for victory
The Local Girl
The local girl wins at Dwingeloo. This footage, covered in Dutch, shows there is no doubting the drama is ever present of women’s pro-racing, 4.40mins in and the limbs are hugged in despair. Vos later reveals that a bidon is more than just a bottle, but a neck massage tool as well. She eventually takes a strong sprint to take the win.
Never Looking Back
The term ‘lifestyle’ has grown in popularity to describe the world of cycling. A lifestyle is supposed to reflect the attitudes and values of a person or a community. Marianne Vos sums up why we love cycling: “I don’t look back too much. The most important [thing] for me is to enjoy the ride. I don’t look back on the results too much, but if I’m looking back, I can have a big smile on my face.”
Lifestyles again! She is right though when she says ‘enjoy the ride’. Nothing more, nothing less. No bullshit from Vos. Years ago I used to wear a ‘Skateboarding is not a crime’ T-shirt. I might get a ‘Cycling is not a lifestyle’ jersey made up for 2013. What’s the betting Rapha beat me to it? Not!