Marianne Vos: I have missed cyclo-cross

Former world champion returns to the dirt in Scheldecross

Her name is Marianne Vos. It's been 685 days since her last cyclo-cross race. For the seven-time world champion in the discipline, to say that she has missed racing 'cross is an understatement. She returns to the dirt in Saturday's Soudal Scheldecross Antwerp, the fifth round of the DVV Trophy.

"I am really looking forward to this race," Vos said in an interview published by the race organisers Golazo. "I just like cyclo-cross a lot, and I really missed this world. I'm ready for a brief but nice season."

Vos is scheduled to compete in 10 'cross races including the Dutch national and World championships, though not Sunday's World Cup in Namur. The Antwerp race will be a stepping stone back into the fray, and she is keeping her expectations low.

"It is a fast course in Antwerp, which will be in my favour, but after the World Championships on the road in Qatar in October I stepped off the gas a bit. Then I worked on my base, and only increased the intensity in recent weeks during a camp in South Africa. So I have deliberately chosen not to train much for 'cross, and expect that I will still need a number of races.

"Moreover, I have to start on the last row, a completely new situation for me. Many people asked me: 'what is it, the last row?' I've looked at the list of participants once and saw that there will be 50 riders at the start: that is a whole lot of riders you have to pass."

Vos was out of competition for nearly a full year after deciding to take a step back from struggles with injury and over-training. When she came back to the road in March this year, she had to acknowledge that she was not the dominant rider she had been.

"I was not 100 per cent right away and that was hard to accept. I made tiny steps forward, but saw each step as a victory."

Her ambitions for the 'cross season remain as high as ever now that she has seen glimmers of her old form during the road season.

"I will need some time, but I am ambitious," Vos said, adding that she plans to be in good form for the national and World Championships, but is waiting until then to see if it will be possible to stand on the podium once again - and where.

"In my absence is there was a new level in women's 'cross. You will see more girls compete for the victory, the attention is growing, and there are more races live on TV," she added. "I can only be satisfied with this progress. In the Netherlands we have done well with De Jong, De Boer, Kaptheijns and Brand... If I have been able to inspire them even a tiny bit, I'm already very happy."

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