The return of US cyclo-cross racing and throngs of costumed, horn-blowing fans was in full gear Sunday at the opening UCI World Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin, where Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) returned to the top step of the podium.
It was her first race of this year's cyclo-cross season, having been part of women's road racing history just one week ago with a second-place finish in the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes.
"Coming out of the road season, you normally come out with a certain shape that is nice to take with you to cyclo-cross, but of course it is a different style of racing," Vos told Cyclingnews after her return to 'cross ended with a victory.
"It's incredible that just last Sunday was Paris-Roubaix and now we're here. So yeah, I can't get around it either. I have to admit that Paris-Roubaix was a little bit of cyclo-cross so it was a good warm-up for this race."
While the cheers were loudest as the head-to-head duel played out between Vos and Brand within sight of the finish line, the battle formed from the 52-rider field on the final lap across the maze-like course of snaking turns, two flyovers and its signature climb, Trek Factory Hill.
"It was a last lap full sprint. All the race was kind of intense. Of course it's kind of hard to keep up the speeds, sometimes I needed time to recover, but the last lap was full gas for some of the sections. Yes, it was a fast race," Vos said about adding a second win in Waterloo to her robust palmarès, having won in her last outing back in 2018.
The Dutch duo was joined at the start of the final circuit by Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), who had charged back after a dropped chain with four laps to go, and Jolanda Neff (Tek Factory Racing), who had worked her way to the front from a start in 25th position.
The Swiss mountain bike Olympic gold medallist was soon dropped on the massive run-up, while Betsema lost space after taking her last lead on the twisting, technical section ahead of the final pit pass. Then, the race was the reigning world champion versus the seven-time world champion.
"Lucinda is of course a great racer, and you know you can't give her some space, you have to keep on riding. When I had a little gap over the last hill, I just gave everything I had," the the 34-year-old Vos said, working to get the best position for a final move.
"Actually I wanted to go down the hill first to be the first up Factory Hill, but Lucinda made a great move to pass me again. So I had to try some other thing and the next hill I just passed her in the corner and from then on I went to a bigger gear and gave it everything."
From an inside pass in the tight chicanes after the final climb, Vos held the lead for the victory, with Brand taking second. Betsema would follow five seconds behind Vos for third.
Vos last raced a full cyclo-cross season in 2018-2019, when she won the elite World Cup crown. She's coming off a long road season, where she has seven victories, as well as runner-up spots in her last two races, the World Championships road race and Paris-Roubaix.
She will continue her US expedition with the back-to-back World Cup races in Fayetteville on October 13 and then in Iowa City on October 17, but does not plan to race the full 16-race World Cup calendar.
"I'm not doing the full series. After this I'll have a rest and prepare for the second part of the season," said Vos, indicating the second half of the 'cross season would resume in December.
"Of course, it's nice to take some points, but also to take some of this cyclo-cross rhythm at the start of the season. It takes off a little bit of the pressure for the second half of the season. And of course, one thing is I like to race in America, and it's good to see the course in Fayetteville"
Fayetteville will serve as the host of the 2022 Worlds in early February and Vos is all-in for a return trip to the US.
"It's the atmosphere, it's the vibe, it's something different. Races in Europe we do all the time, so racing in America has a different atmosphere. If you ask the European riders, they all like to go here and enjoy the racing. The whole event is great – people are watching and racing and enjoying the sport."
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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).
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