Blanka Kata Vas: Multi-discipline cycling star inspired by Vos and Ferrand-Prévot

Hungarian Blanka Kata Vas (SD Worx) wins UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Overijse 2021
Hungarian Blanka Kata Vas (SD Worx) wins UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Overijse 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Multi-discipline cycling star Blanka Kata Vas (SD Worx) has been generating a lot of excitement among the cycling world through her sparkling performances in road racing, mountain biking and cyclo-cross. 

The 20-year-old Hungarian rider grew up inspired by women's cycling icons and multi-discipline World Champions Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot with similar athlete characteristics. She hopes to follow a similar career pathway.

"Yes, they are an inspiration for me. I know that I can do these three disciplines together and because they could do it. It gives me a bigger motivation because I know I can race with them, too," Vas told Cyclingnews in a Zoom interview Thursday.

Vas has been racing in three disciplines for close to five years. She jumped into the spotlight with fourth place in the Tokyo Olympic Games cross-country mountain bike event behind the all-Swiss podium; gold medallist Jolanda Neff, silver medallist Sina Frei and bronze medallist Linda Indergand. 

She went on to finish fourth in the elite women's road race at the Flanders World Championships behind new World Champion Elisa Balsamo (Italy), Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland). Last weekend, she won her first-ever cyclo-cross World Cup in Overijse.

Retired multi-discipline professional rider Lars Boom signed a two-year contract with SD Worx to work in a managerial role that officially started on October 1. He is also coaching Vas through the cyclo-cross season.

Boom told Cyclingnews that, like Vos and Ferrand-Prévot, Vas is the kind of champion that the sport of cycling sees once or twice in a generation.

"Yes, you can say that it's one or two [riders] in a generation, and it's special to work with [Blanka]," Boom said.

"I have a soft spot for cyclo-cross and mountain biking, and we are happy that she is riding with SD Worx. If she wants to do all three disciplines, then it's good for us. We are also looking forward to seeing what she can do in the Classics. We need to plan well with a good schedule in all the races that she wants to do and what we, as a team, want her to do. I think we can see great things in the future for her."

Boom met with Vas at the mountain bike World Cup in Les Gets, and he began working with her as a coach this fall. He noted her technical skills in off-road racing as being her standout strength.

"It's nice to see, and every day I'm still sometimes surprised by her strengths, mainly I'm always surprised at how good she is, technically, on a 'cross bike and a mountain bike. For me, it's enjoyable to see her riding a bike in that way," Boom said.

Cyclo-cross World Championships: the big goal

Hungarian Kata Blanka Vas Dutch Marianne Vos and Dutch Denise Betsema celebrates on the podium after the womens elite race at the Jingle cross stage 3 out of 16 in the World Cup Cyclocross in Iowa City Iowa USA Sunday 17 October 2021 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

Hungarian Blanka Kata Vas with Dutch Marianne Vos on the podium at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Iowa City 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

After her victory at the Overijse World Cup, Vas will head to the UEC Cyclo-cross European Championships this weekend. She will compete for the title in the elite women’s event held on November 6 at the Col du Vam in the Netherlands. 

“I’m in good shape now, and if I have a good day, I can be on the podium or win the race. But, the level is so high, higher than it was in the under-23 category, so I hope that I can have a good day and do my best, and we will see,” Vas said.

Her bigger targets lay further into the season at the UCI Road World Championships held in Fayetteville from January 28-30.

“After European Championships, I will race in the Tabor World Cup and then take a rest without racing. I will start again in the middle of December, and the big goal is the World Championships,” she said.

The Dutch team have dominated cyclo-cross with riders Lucinda Brand, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Denise Betsema, Annemarie Worst, Yara Kastelijn, and Vos.

Boom acknowledged that the Dutch women’s team is powerful but pointed out that cyclo-cross is typically raced individually, and every rider aims to win the rainbow jersey. He also pointed to American Champion Clara Honsinger as a rider to watch.

“Everyone wants to be world champion. It can be an all-Dutch team, but they are still individual riders. Clara Honsinger is also riding strong, and the course in Fayetteville will suit her well, so I think there will be a big fight. Mainly there are a lot of individual riders who can win,” he said.

Curious about the Spring Classics

OVERIJSE BELGIUM OCTOBER 31 Blanka Vas Kata of Hungary Team SD Worx competes during the 62nd Druivencross Overijse UCI CycloCross Worldcup 2021 Womens Elite DruivencrossOverijse CXWorldCup UCIcyclocrossWC on October 31 2021 in Overijse Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Blanka Kata Vas (SD Worx) competes at Druivencross Overijse (Image credit: Getty Images)

The women's road racing season will begin in February, where Vas will embark on her first full season with SD Worx, after signing with the team in June of 2021. She said that one of the reasons she chose to sign a contract with SD Worx was because they gave her the flexibility to continue racing in the road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross.

"It was important because I need the freedom, and I have it here. It was the more important thing I looked for," Vas said. "This season was a bit strange because I mostly raced with my mountain bike, and I didn't meet my [road] teammates. Next year, I want to do more road races and spend more time with the team."

Boom said the team is curious to see how Vas will fare over the cobblestoned one-day races in Belgium, and while her schedule isn't confirmed, he hopes to see her racing in the Spring Classics.

"We need to finish the cyclo-cross season with World Championships and maybe a few races afterward. The season on the road for the women doesn't start early, end of February, so that we can plan a little bit. We will have a camp in December and speak with other riders and make a plan of what 2022 will be like," Boom said.

"For sure, she also wants to see what she can do in the Classics in Belgium, and the team is curious how she will like it and how she will ride the cobblestones. We are curious about that," Boom said, while she will still have a focus on three disciplines. 

"The main goal is that we want the riders to perform well, and to perform over a long period in a career and that after a few years they don't stop because of burnout, or something. 

"It's important that she take some time to rest. She likes to train sometimes without any races, and that's a good thing, to split the season into more parts, instead of one or two, and focus on different periods in the year, but resting is very important."

Vas said that, for the moment, she plans to continue her pursuits in road racing, mountain biking and cyclo-cross, not only in terms of performance but also because they bring joy to her career. 

"I want to combine all three disciplines because I think it's working well, and I enjoy them, so why not," she said. "I want to do it because I enjoy it, and if it [gets to be] too much, maybe I would choose one or two [disciplines]. I enjoy them all now."

Asked if she saw her career having the same longevity as Vos and Ferrand-Prévot, for the next 15 years, Blanka Vas said, "yes."

IZU JAPAN JULY 27 Kata Blanka Vas of Team Hungary jumps during the Womens Crosscountry race on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Izu Mountain Bike Course on July 27 2021 in Izu Shizuoka Japan Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Blanka Kata Vas (Hungary) placed fourth in the mountain bike event at the Tokyo Olympic Games (Image credit: Getty Images)

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