A good cannibal, Marianne Vos has devoured hundreds of successes on the roads, circuits and other cycling theaters that have been pushing her superior talent for over 15 years. Where the wheels of women’s cycling have hit in the 21st century, the Dutchman has triumphed. With one big exception: Roubaix and its legendary André Pétrieux velodrome.
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†Paris-Roubaix is one of the greatest races in cycling history‘ she notes today. It’s great to be a part of that, but I saw last year that it was a really tough race and it probably will be again. It helps to know what to expect. Until last year we only knew Paris-Roubaix on TV.†
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A great first
Little Marianne contracted the cycling virus at the age of 6, in the wake of her brother Anton. The Netherlands then looked for a successor to Jan Raas and Hennie Kuiper, successive winners in Roubaix in 1982 and 1983. The waiting orange would be rewarded in 2001 with the success of Servais Knaven in an edition that marked memories thanks to the rain and the fall of Philippe Gaumont in the gorge of Arenberg.
Vos was not yet 14 at the time, but his talent started to make a splash in his city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch, a large field of cyclocross), before conquering the province of North Brabant, and soon the whole country, soon. followed by the whole world. But he had to wait another two decades to captivate the public fascinated by his sharp trajectories on the muddy cobblestones of Mons-en-Pévèle or the Carrefour de l’Arbre.
On arrival, the Cannibal could only be satisfied with her second place: “We did what we could and Lizzie Deignan carried out a very brave attack (…). Overall it was great to do Paris-Roubaix†
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Balsamo: “An example for everyone”
A week earlier, it was already the second place that awaited him at the finish of the world championship on the road. The “Goat” (“Greatest of all time”) has won money there (6 times, including an incredible run of 5 2nd places between her first title, in 2006, and 2nd, in 2012) than gold, but she knows herself also distinguishable in defeat.
She is not only a champion on the bike, but also a great human being, very humble”, confides the current holder of the rainbow, Elisa Balsamo. Carried away by her emotions as world champion just crowned, the Italian was then accompanied by her Dutch eldest, who bent in particular to adjust her rival’s socks and let the azzurro shine as best it could on the Leuven stage.
At 11 years younger than Vos, Balsamo shows a dazzling smile and absolute admiration for the Batavian pioneer: “At one of my first professional races, I asked to take a picture with her. So stand next to her on stage [et même une marche au-dessus, ndlr], it’s extraordinary. I remember his incessant attacks at the World Cup when I was a kid… I was always impressed by his ability to win any type of race. I think she is an example for everyone in the packwe.”
The legend: 16 years after the first, Vos wins his 8th world title in cyclo-cross
The “Goat” did not wait for the “Queen”
Balsamo herself has developed a great versatility that has enabled her to take two medals (silver and bronze) at the last World Championships on track, also in Roubaix. And she could see her idol win a thirteenth rainbow jersey (8 in cyclo-cross, 3 on the road, 2 on the track), at the Fayetteville circuit, sixteen years after her first world title, at the age of 18.
it’s unbelievable“, Vos had remarked without gushing over the historic magnitude of this new triumph, which occupies a nice place next to his two Olympic titles (on the track in 2008, on the road in 2012). When she takes a step back on the journey she has taken since her first rounds with Anton, now a cycling photographer specializing in cycling, her pride rises: “My career will allow me to advance women’s cycling, become a strong voice for bigger events, more race days, equal treatment†
The Dutch star didn’t wait for the “Queen of the Classics” to open up to women to establish herself as the “Goat” of her sport. And this “gap” in her prolific track record won’t be enough to improve her legend, while the Jumbo-Visma women’s project, born around her final season, could well be the last of her career.
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