Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) is well known for her dogged determination and she was finally rewarded for it with victory on Stoke-on-Trent on the fourth stage of the Aviva Women’s Tour. The Dutch woman had to bury herself on the final climb to make it stick, however, and the effort was evident as she hunched over her handlebars by the finish while she struggled to recover.
Vos had suffered two near misses in the opening stages and it was those that spurred her on up the steep climb to the finish line. "In the first two stages I got close but not really that close and then to take a victory is really nice," Vos said after the stage.
"The final kilometre was more up than I expected. On google maps, it looked like a wide road and pretty nice with a few roundabouts but then it was like boom. They were still at 10 seconds I think so I decided to go there because otherwise you might not get the chance. I knew that I had a chance in the sprint but if there’s still four in the lead then you’re just sprinting for fifth and that wasn’t the plan today."
It wasn’t a straightforward day for Vos, who had to chase on after getting caught behind a big crash on the approach to the first climb of the day. She also lost her teammate Anna Van Der Breggen after she was forced to abandon following the crash. Vos was then left behind on the second climb of the day in Oakamoor, when Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervelo-Bigla) and Elisa Longo Borghini and Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5) escaped up the road.
The move was similar to that of the previous stage, which saw Moolman-Pasio drive the decisive split that saw Vos lose 36 seconds in the general classification. More than sufficiently experienced in this sort of situation, Vos kept her cool and utilised the help of some other interested parties in bringing the quartet back.
"I just thought, ok, I need to keep my own rhythm going up the hill and to see how far we could get and try to catch them," she explained. "On the climb they were the best, but a group came over the climb and we had to start the chase.
"I saw some of Canyon-SRAM and some from Liv-Plantur and they wanted to go for a sprint and see if we could catch the four girls. I looked around and saw that I had not that many teammates so I knew that I had to work."
Vos earned 10 bonus seconds at the finish line as well as five between the two intermediate sprints, two more than race leader Armitstead. All of that means that she’s just a stone’s throw away from the yellow jersey she wore after stage 2, at just 15 seconds down. When prompted in her post-stage press conference, Armitstead named Vos as the rider that she fears the most in the general classification fight. Vos knows full well that despite the bonus seconds available throughout the stage, it is not going to be a simple task.
"It’s going to be difficult," she said. "I can take some seconds but Lizzie won’t give the yellow jersey away that easily. There is one more day to go and there are still a lot of teams going away empty handed and I expect they will want to go for a stage victory. It’s going to be a fast and interesting stage."