While current world cyclo-cross champion Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) may have had an abbreviated 'cross season, her results were nothing short of impressive. Of the eight races she entered since the middle of December, she has been on the podium every time, including four first places, one of which her first ever Dutch National Championship title.
Her most recent victory was in Pont Château, France last weekend. It was her first World Cup win of the season, and not so coincidentally, it was also the first World Cup this season where she had a first-row starting position thanks to her quick collection of UCI points over the short month of competing.
"In Pont-Château I was able to race my own race from start to finish. But in my first two World Cup events, I started off with chasing other riders," explained Vos to Cyclingnews from Gran Canaria where she is training for a week with the Dutch National Road Team.
Going into World Championships, held January 30 in Sankt Wendel, Germany, Vos is naturally feeling solid about her chances to earn a fourth World Cyclo-Cross Championship title. "Until now my season is going how I hoped and I have done the training I wanted to do, so I'm looking forward to the race.
"I've done Worlds in Sankt Wendel six years ago and I liked the course. It's hilly and hard because there's not much recuperation. Of course, depending on the weather, it can be slippery, muddy or fast. But I don't really mind what the conditions are," said Vos.
Her biggest challenge is expected to come from USA rider Katie Compton (Planet Bike) who has won all four World Cups she entered this season. When asked about the expected battle between her and Compton, Vos says, "Compton dominated the races she did and I'm the current World Champion, so it not strange people talk about this duel between us."
What will be different about this duel, though, is that it will be the first time they both line up side by side on the front row.
"For sure it will make a difference to start in the same row. But Katie was really strong in the races I've seen, so it's going to be tough to beat her. For sure it's going to be an interesting and exciting race," said Vos, "But there are more favorites for the title."
"I know [Hanka] Kupfernagel is aiming for a medal in front of her home crowd. And there are two other Dutchies in the [Dutch National] Team who want to make the podium orange [in the form of ZZPR.nl's Daphny van den Brand and BrainWash's Sanne van Paassen]."
If Vos realizes her dream to hold onto the rainbow jersey for a third consecutive year, do not expect to see it for the rest of the season. Directly after the World Championships, she goes back to the track to qualify for Manchester World Cup and World Championships. "This plan will not change by my result at Worlds. I must do the races and training I need to get myself on a higher level for the Olympics."
When asked if she'd feel any regrets for skipping out on the last of the 'cross events if she were able to retain the jersey, Vos thoughtfully responded, "I planned my race schedule myself because I think this is the best for me, so I've no regrets. Of course I would have liked to do more races, but I surely appreciate the few races I have been able to do." As for her plans for next winter, she will make her decision after track season.