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Marianne Vos: I love the sport so much

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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Marianne Vos at Jumbo-Visma Women's Team camp in Alicante, Spain 2021 (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)
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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Marianne Vos and Jumbo-Visma Women's Team meet in Alicante, Spain 2021 (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)
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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Jumbo-Visma Women's Team meet in Alicante, Spain 2021 (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)
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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Jumbo-Visma Women's Team meet in Alicante, Spain 2021 (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)
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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Jumbo-Visma Women's Team meet in Alicante, Spain 2021 (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)
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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Jumbo-Visma Women's Team meet in Alicante, Spain 2021 (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)
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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Marianne Vos and Esra Tromp at Jumbo-Visma Women's Team camp in Alicante, Spain 2021 (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)

During the Jumbo-Visma training camp in Spain, Marianne Vos rode up alongside her team support vehicle and said to her director Esra Tromp: "Wow, look at that squad in front of us, I'm so happy." 

Just ahead were the eleven other members of the newly launched women's team wearing their yellow and black jerseys, stretched out along the coastal road of Alicante. 

Vos has signed a three-year deal to lead this programme through the end of 2023. She is moving into her sixteenth year of a spectacular career that has seen her become one of the most recognisable athletes in professional cycling history

She's a 12-time world champion, two-time Olympic gold medallist, and has secured hundreds of other victories. She has also used her knowledge and experience to push for the growth of women's cycling and inspire future generations. 

Vos said that she's thought about how long she wants to stay in the sport but that she's not yet ready to consider retirement. Signing with Jumbo-Visma, in many ways, marks a new beginning and a revitalisation of her motivation to continue to perform at the highest level. 

"I have thought about it, but I love the sport so much," Vos told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview. 

"To be a part of this new project, I knew that it was a unique chance for me, and that I didn't want to just step into this team for one year. I wanted to be part of the whole movement. I know that it's a high-level sport and you never know how long you can keep doing it. Health is important, but as long as I can keep doing it at the level that I am at now and improve, I think these three years will fly by quickly."

Vos had been with the same organisation since securing her first road race world title in Salzburg back in 2006. First, it was DSB-Ballast Nedam, and then the team's sponsorship changed over the years to Nederland Bloeit, Rabobank Women Team, WM3 Energie, WaowDeals Pro Cycling and CCC-Liv. However, the team structure was always the same. Her move to Jumbo-Visma marks the first time in her career that she has changed team organisations.

"It wasn't easy to choose to leave my former team behind," Vos admitted. 

"On the other hand, I felt if there was a moment in my career to make a change, then this was the right moment to go to this new team. Change can be hard, and it can also cost energy, but I also felt that it was an opportunity for this change to trigger my growth, help me to move forward, and add some new excitement - like a kid in a candy store."

'I want to keep learning and improving'

Vos has an airtight palmares and has easily been one of the best riders in the world for well over a decade, with 12 world championship titles across three disciplines – road, cyclo-cross and track – along with two gold medals in road and track racing at the Olympic Games. She has also won Flèche Wallonne five times, and 28 stage wins and three overall titles at the Giro Rosa. The list goes on and on. 

She's determined to improve upon her own excellence during the next three years at Jumbo-Visma, a team that's promised her the whole shebang - a world-class programme, complete with a professional organisation, training facility and plans, nutrition and equipment, and an environment that would allow a professional athlete to thrive.

"As an athlete, you always look for improvement," Vos said. 

"I have a lot of experience, but I want to keep learning and improving, and I knew that this structure and organisation had so much experience and ability to work on so many details, also with the men's team, and that it would add something for me. To be racing for this team for three years and to grow with the team was certainly a good option for me and something I wanted to be a part of."

Vos will lead a team that includes a mix of experience but mostly youth; Anouska Koster, Riejanne Markus, Romy Kasper, Pernille Mathiesen, Jip van den Bos, Julie Van De Velde, Anna Henderson, Aafke Soet, Karlijn Swinkels, Nancy Van der Burg, and Teuntje Beekhuis. 

The team will compete at some smaller races while also aiming to win major events on the Women’s WorldTour. Vos will target on Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Olympic Games and the Road World Championships.

"I like the atmosphere in our team where there's no hierarchy, and everyone is in the same place and not treated differently," Vos said. 

"Of course, as one of the older and more experienced riders, I'm very happy when the younger riders have questions and that they come to me. And I'm happy to share my experience so that they can learn. I can also learn from them, and so this is a good balance, even a more experienced rider can still learn."

Vos said that her main focus would be on competing at the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games. The event, which was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled from July 23 to August 8 but faces a possible cancellation due to the new surges of the virus worldwide.

"There are no huge gaps in my palmares that I feel like I have to fill, but I want to improve and be a better rider," Vos said. 

"I want our team to grow together; that's the biggest goal. Of course, there are races that I want to win [for the first time] and others that I want to win again, and for this season, as an Olympic season, it will be a very important season."

Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma Women)

Jumbo-Visma Women's team director Esra Tromp and Marianne Vos at the team camp in Spain (Image credit: Team Jumbo-Visma)

Progress

Vos featured in Cyclingnews' The Power List: The 50 most influential people in cycling in 2020 for being a natural leader who guides, inspires and commands respect by setting the highest standards of professionalism. 

For these reasons, she has been elected as a member of the UCI Athletes' Commission, the riders' representative on the UCI Road Commission, and as one of the eight members of The Cyclists' Alliance (TCA) Rider Council. 

She was one of four women, alongside Kathryn Bertine, Emma Pooley and Chrissie Wellington, who formed Le Tour Entier, and set up a successful petition calling on the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and Christian Prudhomme for a women's Tour de France. It was this petition, with nearly 100,000 signatures, that led to ASO launching La Course.

Vos said that she's happy to contribute to the increased level of professionalism in women's cycling but that it wasn't something she initially set out to accomplish at the beginning of her career.

"It has never been a goal, but it has been nice to be part of the growth of our sport," Vos told Cyclingnews

"It wasn't that I wanted to lead or be the one to make a difference, I just want to be able to share my knowledge and my experiences from over the years, and if that can be of value for a union or a federation, then I'm glad to be able to share and help."

Vos has won La Course twice in its seven editions, and although it's one of the most popular one-day events on the Women's WorldTour, ASO has been criticised for not living up to its promise to grow it into a stage race alongside the Tour de France. 

That could change as ASO plan a women's stage race for France in 2022. It has recently been reported that ASO is expected to host an eight-day women's race that would start in Paris on the same day the men finished their stage 21 of Tour de France on the Champs Elysées.

"It's great to have races that can be seen, that the media want to cover, and that fans can watch," Vos said. 

"It's great that there might be a [women's] Tour de France because we've seen that races like Tour of Flanders, Flèche Wallonne, Giro d'Italia, all events that people recognise by their names, are historic races. The fans know the races, riders, teams, and people identify themselves with specific teams. I'd like to see a women's Tour de France that has different stages; the possibility of a time trial, mountains, sprints, and all different specialties would give opportunities for different riders to step up and show themselves."

Many would like to see a women's Tour de France title, a yellow jersey and all the branding, bells and whistles that goes along with the men's Grand Tour. Vos believes that the marquee branding would help but that there are other standalone women's races that offer exceptional organisation and marketing, too. 

"Of course, this is something I don't know the answer to," Vos said. 

"If you look at the Women's Tour [in Britain], which was separate from any other race, they do an excellent job at branding their event and bringing out the sponsors, media and fans. In one way, it's also possible to have [a women's stage race in France] separate from the Tour de France. Still, I also know that in more traditional cycling nations, the recognition and identification of a race that has the history in men's cycling is bigger, so yes, I would say that [Tour de France branding] would help."

Legacy

Vos is starting her sixteenth season in the professional peloton, and we can expect to see more of her best performances over the next three years as she starts her new adventure with Jumbo-Visma.

"I want to focus on big races and improve myself, but it's important for me to not think about this as being the final [years]," Vos said. "I want to be the best of myself in the next few years. I want to give my best in what I am doing now."

There are a lot of factors that come into play when an athlete decides whether it's the right time to retire. When that time should come for Vos, she would like to be remembered for more than just her victories. 

"It isn't that I want to leave something behind of leave a mark on the sport, but I hope that if people would Google me, that it's not only my results that count. For me, my passion for the sport is more important than a medal. 

"Being happy and the way that I am around people is more important than winning a race. If I want to leave a legacy behind, it won't be with a medal or a title."