Four-time winner taking different approach this year
A different build up to La Flèche Wallonne has four-time winner Marianne Vos (Rabo Women) unsure of her form heading into the World Cup race on Wednesday.
Vos has not raced on the road since winning the Tour of Flanders, instead concentrating on her mountain bike with an eye to getting the balance right given her planned dual focus for the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympic Games. It's not about being bored with the road, it's about adding to her motivation, she says. It's a thrill.
"Normally I should have done last week's Energiewacht Tour ... so that's going to be a different feeling," the reigning World Champion told Cyclingnews on Tuesday at the team presentation in Huy. "I don't think it affects me that much but on Thursday I leave to the Sea Otter Classic so with the travelling and the different schedule it's something different but I want to try it for the coming years also."
Vos admits that she arrives for the battle up the Mur de Huy with "less pressure" following her much-longed-for victory at the Tour of Flanders earlier this month. More than anything, Vos explained, adding The Ronde to her palmares was a relief.
"Of course it's good for your confidence but it was more the main goal for this month," she said. "In the classics that was my main focus because after winning Flèche four times I really wanted to add that one badly."
In 2012, Vos was on the verge of a third-consecutive win at La Flèche Wallonne when Evelyn Stevens (Specialized - lululemon) outsprinted the Dutchwoman on the last rise heading to the finish line.
It's not a loss that is driving the 25-year-old upon her return however.
"Getting second is not too bad of course but for me, being a four-time winner, you don't want to get second," Vos admitted. "I don't want to make up for last year I just want to go for the win. We have a strong team; we have more cards to play and I hope we can use that tomorrow."
Vos holds a 39-point lead over nearest rival Eleonora Van Dijk (Specialized - lululemon) with another 15 points back to Emma Johansson (Orica - AIS) after three World Cup rounds. Admitting that points certainly play a role in tactics for the race, Vos said that regardless, it is about getting across the line first and perhaps claiming a fifth Flèche Wallonne title.
"For tomorrow for the team, the win and the race is more important than the World Cup lead."
At 1300 metres, the Mur is as long as it is intense, with an average gradient of 9.3 percent on the ascent. It's a climb that Vos knows as well as any and yet, so challenging is it that it makes it almost impossible for her to pinpoint an exact spot where Flèche can be won or lost, other than the finish line.
"It's always a question until you get up there," Vos told Cyclingnews. "Last year I had to close a gap on the Côte de Bousalle, the climb before the Mur de Huy and it was pretty good and we were in a nice break. Clara Hughes did the lead out for Evelyn Stevens and I was there in the last corner and 150 metres to go. Normally that's the point where I can push and I can make it to the finish. Last year I tried the same but 150 metres on such a hard long climb is seriously long. And Stevens was really strong last year so it depends on how the race goes and how fresh everybody is. You have to anticipate the moment."