The most successful rider at the Road Cycling World Championships in modern times has to be Marianne Vos, who started her Worlds with a win in the Juniors, and went on to win three elite gold medals and five silvers, not to mention her two Olympic golds on road and track, her two golds from Track World Champs, and her seven Cyclocross golds – and she’s still only 28!
This year, for the first time in her career, she’s not at Worlds, as she’s still recovering from the injuries and illness that derailed her 2015 road season, but the thing about Vos is she loves cycling, and has been following from home. I caught up with her to talk about the racing so far, what she thinks about the road course and who could win, her advice for juniors racing Worlds for the first time, the announcement about the brand new Women’s World Tour for 2016, and much more.
You can listen to this one, or read the transcript below…
How are you, Marianne?
I’m good. I’m not at the Worlds this time, but I’ll be watching closely
Is it strange not being there after being there every year since you were a junior.
It’s quite strange seeing it on television, and following it on social media, seeing my team mates and the women and guys from my country racing in America, and seeing the atmosphere there. Of course it hurts a little bit, but on the other hand, I’m happy to be able to follow it from the side, and I’ll be back to be there next time.
Of course they were going for a medal, and they hoped to go for gold or silver, but bronze was the best they could do on the day, and so they were happy with bronze. Gold and silver was such a close battle, and so was bronze. It was a really exciting race to watch, and I’ve been screaming from behind my computer and at the television!
It’s amazing to have the tv isn’t it? Even a couple of years we couldn’t watch it, and now can watch it live, we’ve got the live timing app, it’s wonderful!
Yeah, even though it’s sometimes hard to follow, because you don’t see all the times, and you can’t see all the GPS times, and it gets confusing, and you get even more nervous, like in the women’s Time Trial – but maybe it’s good, because it keeps it very, very, very exciting, but sometimes you think, well, it could have been better!
That was such a good race by [Vos’ team-mate] Anna van der Breggen in the ITT – wonderful for her to get silver, but a bit gutting for her not to win.
Yeah. She was feeling… of course happy with a medal at the World Championships, her first one, but then she was also disappointed as well, it was so close, and it hurts a little. But I think we have a deserving winner with Linda Villumsen, who had five medals before, silver and bronze, and she deserved this title. And I’m pretty sure Anna will take her chance later.
You must know how Linda felt, because you had all those years when you were on the podium, but not on the top step.
Yeah, of course, I know how it feels to get second, not to win, but still to be close, but maybe I’ve been lucky, because I won before, and for Linda this is the first time, and it’s great to see her in this jersey.
And she looked so happy, like she couldn’t believe it in all the videos – it made me feel a little bit teary to watch her.
Yeah, I saw the first video, where she had no words, and didn’t know what to say, and that’s what sport is all about, I think.
So obviously we have got the Junior and Elite road races to come – what do you think of the course? Do you know what it’s like?
I haven’t been there, and I’ve only seen it on videos and photos, so I only know that it has some good cobbles. I’ve seen the finish, of course, in the time trial, and that looks pretty hard. I’d heard before that it was a sprinter-like course, not too hard, not too selective, but I think it’s more hard than everybody thought, especially when you do it several times – and when you do the lap over and over again it will be hard, and I think the final will split the field up.
Elena Cecchini said the last kilometres are most like the GP Plouay World Cup than any other races, which I thought was very interesting, because I’d thought it was maybe more like the Philadelphia Classic World Cup where it was wide, and nothing happens, and then you have the climb!
Yeah, you have the climb, but before that it’s technical as well, and that makes it harder to keep it together, and to control the race, and I think that makes it better racing.
It’s interesting, because sometimes at Worlds, teams will ride a more conservative race, which is a clever tactic, but I’m hoping it’s going to be attacking.
It’s going to be interesting, because we have so many favourites, and so many good teams – who will take the responsibility in this race, nobody knows, who will attack, and who will ride defensively. I’m looking forward to watching the race. Of course I’m a little bit gutted to miss it, but the race will be good!
One of the things I find interesting is normally I’d say Lizzie Armitstead is the favourite, but she doesn’t have the strength of Boels Dolmans around her this time. Who do you think we should be watching, and how do you think the national teams will change it?
I’ve seen Lizzie in the last couple of weeks, only on videos and pictures, but she looks strong and happy, and she’s definitely ready for the Worlds, and I think she is one of the top favourites, but she might be isolated in the final, that would be difficult for her.
We have strong teams from the United States, that’s a really strong team, in their home country, and I think they will go for the title, they have several cards to play, but that also makes it difficult, deciding who to ride for. And of course we have Italy, they are always strong at World Championships, and they have different names to go for the title – Elisa Longo Borghini will be strong, Giorgia Bronzini will be strong.
There are several individuals who will be good – of course Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is going well, and is ready to defend her title, and the French team is behind her. We have Emma Johansson who is good as well, Alena Amialiusik will do well, and Kasia Niewiadoma…. and of course the Dutch team is ready to go for the title as well! We’ve seen Anna [van der Breggen] is in good shape, and you never know what the race will do!
The Dutch team are always so exciting to watch, and you’ve got some beautiful riders in that team.
Yeah, and they can go for different tactics, so it’s always difficult to say what they’re going to do, and that makes it hard to race against the Dutch team.
I’m glad you said Niewiadoma, because she’s on my list as a dark horse to win. The way she rode the European Under 23 Championships was wonderful, and it’s going to be exciting to see her riding as a solo rider.
Yeah, she doesn’t need to play her cards too early in the race, because she is more of an individual in the race, but of course they also have Kasia Pawlowska and some other riders, so she is not really an individual, but Poland is not the country to watch. For her it’s important to be there in the final, and make the right choices.
It’s a difficult race, and I’m interested to see what the course will do to the field, and how the riders will go into the race.
Will you be cheering just for the Dutch? It must be strange, because Pauline’s your team-mate, and Kasia’s your team-mate…. or will you be Dutch all the way?
Of course I’m Dutch all the way, when I’m there, I’m riding for orange. But this time I’m cheering for the Dutch, and after that I have my other team-mates in my heart, so for me, this time, it’s going several ways, and I hope it’s going to be good racing and the best will win.
Now, obviously before the elites we’ve got the Junior Road World Championships – what advice would you give the juniors who are lining up for the first time at their first Worlds?
That’s a difficult question! It’s always interesting in Junior Worlds, especially for the women, because they don’t have many opportunities to race against each other, so the Worlds is normally one of the first times they see their opponents. So it’s not easy to make a tactic, or to know what you need to do.
But on the other hand it makes it easier, because you just have to do what you always do, and race your own race, and follow your instincts, and race as you normally do, because of course Worlds is important, you focus on it and train for it, and you’re proud to represent your country, but in the end it is just another race, the only thing you can do is the best you can.
It must be so tempting – you could see in the Junior ITT, some riders that were going out too fast, and getting over excited. It must be a hard thing to put your nerves aside. Those crowds look fantastic as well – I can imagine when you’re lining up with all those people cheering for you, it must feel like something completely different!
Yeah, for juniors it’s great to be at the same Championships as the elite categories. I raced the Juniors in 2004 in Verona together with the elites, and then the UCI decided to split the Championships, and I’m very happy they changed this again, so now it’s together again, because now it’s one big Championship, it’s a great opportunity for juniors to have this feeling of racing in front of the big crowds, and to see all the pros riding. For me, that has been a fantastic experience and a good step up to feel how it is to be pro.
And next year of course we’ve heard they’re going to have a junior women’s Gent-Wevelgem, as well as the Trofeo da Moreno, so that’s another chance for the juniors to race same course, same time as the elites – that’s going to be wonderful.
These things are important for the development of cycling, men or women, and I’m happy that those organisations want to put on a junior race as well, so that’s going to be a good step up, and then they see their opponents for later in the year at Worlds.
What else do you think about the announcement of the new Women’s World Tour?
I’m happy the news is out! Of course it took some time to make these plans and finalise them, and to get them out, because these are steps you don’t take in one month, or a week, these take time, and the UCI has worked on this for one or two years, and now it’s out. 2016 will be the first year there’s the World Tour for women, and this is a good step for women’s cycling, to get a high level World Tour for the biggest races, the biggest teams and the best riders in the world competing against each other, with the right media coverage and the right structures around it.
It’s nice. I was a little bit worried when it looked like the Trofeo Binda wasn’t on there, but now we know Binda is on there, I’m happy!
Yeah, these are difficult things, because Gent-Wevelgem was on the same day, and they had discussions. Of course the UCI wants the best for cycling, and wants the best for the future of all cycling, and in this specific case, women’s cycling, and sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. But I’m really happy Trofeo Binda is still on the calendar, and moved to a week before, so we’ll have a fantastic build-up in the Classics.
And finally – how are you?
I’m back from a little holiday, and I’m pretty happy with where I am – of course, I’m still recovering, and I’m not able to do the training I’d normally do, but I hope to go into a good winter and be there next year again. It has been really tough not to train, and only to rest. Normally everybody would say “Ah, that’s easy, doing nothing!” but for me doing nothing is the hardest thing ever.
But it’s going well, and I feel like I’m getting there, and I’m more relaxed, and they go together, the head and body, and I have the feeling I’m getting there, and I’m getting excited to be able to train again, and to race next year. I need to be patient, and in sport you can never be sure about everything, so I’m not sure when I can return, or at which level I will return, but I’m doing my best, and one thing I know for sure is I still have a passion for cycling, and I’ll try my best to get back.
So, last thing – who’s going to win on Saturday?
Ohhhh! That’s the question! I’ll say….. BEEP!
Ha! OK, name three riders you’d be happy to see there on the podium!
I will name some favourites – for me they are Anna van der Breggen, Elizabeth Armitstead, an American, and Pauline!
Follow Marianne as she cheers on all the racing on her twitter, on her twitter, instagram, facebook and youtube, and find out more about her on her website – and you can listen to and read my interview with her from July as well.
Want more Worlds? Check out all my rider Q&As, video collections, podcasting and suggestions of who to follow under my Richmond 2015 tag – and if you need any help following the World Championships road race, my guide is here. As always, I’m funded to do all this by my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you all so much!