Catching Up with World Champion Marianne Vos on Worlds, MTB and Women in Cycling
by Molly Hurford
When Marianne Vos’s name popped up on the start list at Sea Otter, you could see the ripple of excitement that went through the crowd. Vos has claimed almost every title available, from Gold medalist to multiple-time-and-discipline World Champion, and now she’s taking on mountain biking. No one was surprised when she took the win, first in the short track, and then again in the cross country race. No one, that is, except for her. She even told us later that her technical skills still “need a lot of work.”
We sat down with her at Sea Otter for a story in our upcoming women-focused issue of Cyclocross Magazine and found out her thoughts about Worlds, three months after the race, and where her mountain bike season is headed.
On World Championships of Cyclocross
Even though Vos has told the story of her race – taking off from the gun and soloing to yet another victory – it’s always interesting to hear the recount once the dust has settled. We also wanted to know how she felt about the race being held in the US. “It was really cool,” she said. “The course was changing a lot, but it was good for me. Slippery, a bit technically, but you still had to keep up, to make the pace. It was perfect for me. And the crowds were amazing, they were yelling for everybody. They were yelling for the Americans, of course, but I got great support.”
And as for the race-day shift from Sunday to Saturday? Vos is ever the professional, and when I asked if she was upset or annoyed by the change, she merely said, “I was OK with it, I’m flexible. It was OK. But it was strange. You prepare for a race on Sunday and then on Friday they tell you, ‘Tomorrow’s your race.’”
That said, she added philosophically, “It was good for us to have the race on Saturday so we could have the party.”
And as for the rest of her team, they were thrilled. Three of the podiums went to the Dutch (women, U23 and Junior) and they couldn’t have been happier. “The atmosphere on the team was amazing, we had such good results. We hoped to go for three times gold in the elite. It was the dream and it ended up like that.”
What Came Next?
No one can accuse Vos of resting on her laurels. In fact, after Worlds, she didn’t get much rest at all. With a MTB race in Cyprus a mere month later, and the whole world watching to see how she would perform, Vos got right back to training. “I had a little break and I had good training camps. So it was a break with training camps,” she laughs. “I had a few weeks with less pressure, no races. But I went into MTB right after the Worlds. I had one week off and then went to Spain to do technical training, which is really important for me to work on now.”
She took the win in Cyprus in early March.
For her, the trickiest part, and the challenge that she loves, is, “The combination [of road and MTB]. This is the first year I’ve tried a combination of these disciplines and trying to figure out how it works in training and the best preparation and how it works to switch from the one to the other.”
“The good thing about mountain biking is if you’re good, you’ll be up in front. And in road racing, you have to think about the tactics. That’s also nice and it’s a game I like too. But in MTB you can be relaxed and if you do your own prep, it’s good.”
“It works quite good,” she continued. “I have to work on the technical skills a lot. These downhills are crazy. And road training is also good for MTBs, so it’s not a problem to switch from MTB to road and have the speed. I thought it would be a problem, but it’s going quite good.”
While some women were surely nervous about Vos’s sudden appearance on the MTB scene, at least they can rest easy knowing that Vos won’t be heading to MTB Worlds … yet. “Not on the plan for this year. I’ll do two World Cups and I’m excited to do these and see how it works out. Then next year I’ll try to do more MTB races, and I’ll have to grab points and qualify for the Olympics. It will be great.”
And the end goal? Just a double gold medal. “I’ll have to make sure that I can have the perfect combination of these two disciplines for Rio 2016, but that’s three years to go.”
Last weekend, Vos took 11th place in the first of the World Cup races for the year, just behind fellow ’cross competitor Katerina Nash.
The Women’s Issue
When I ask about how she’s seen the landscape change in cycling with regards to women, Vos lights up. “It’s really growing and we are on the way up. It gets more attention, people are coming to races more and more. It’s grown. It’s getting more and more professional and we get more respect from the crowds and that’s nice.”
She adds, “Here in the US, we’re so much more equal to the men than back in Europe because there’s still the traditional view of cycling as a men’s sport and it’s hard for us to break that tradition, to get it out of the minds of the people. But here the respect is huge for women’s cycling. It’s also nice to get here and hear people so enthusiastic about women’s racing.”
And if she could do any race that’s currently restricted to men, she pauses for a minute to think about it. “Paris Roubaix? That would be awesome,” she says slowly. “The big dream would be the Tour De France. I hope it will be there in my career.”
Speaking of Her Career…
When she makes the Tour de France statement, I say something along the lines of, “Well, you have another 15 years at least.” A bit of perspective: Vos is only 26 right now, and half of the women’s team at Worlds from the US was over 35.
But Vos demurs. “I will not make it that long. I’m still excited and motivated but I don’t think I’ll make it another 15 years.”
What would she do otherwise? I was surprised that she hadn’t always had bike racing at the top of her career list. “I wanted to become a doctor.” She pauses, and chuckles. “I won’t make it full-time college now though.”
Vos is possibly the most humble superstar I’ve ever met. When I ask what it’s like to be arguably the most famous decorated person in cycling racing right now, she just says, “I’m not thinking about that. I just go to races wanting to have fun and of course it’s great getting recognized and people are just so enthusiastic and they come by to say hello and that’s really great, but I’m just enjoying my time as a cyclist.”
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