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After all, not only has the veteran Dutch star won just about every significant race in nearly two decades at the top, she was pivotal in helping the Tour de France Femmes reach the calendar after putting her prestige behind a campaign to push for a women’s Tour.
After a close call on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, Vos got it right Monday in trademark fashion. Tuesday turned out to be a dream ride as she rode with the maillot jaune on her back to the endless choir of cheers and applause in the chaotic third stage.
“It was a beautiful day to wear the jersey,” Vos said. “From inside the bunch to along the race with the spectators and fans, they were cheering for the maillot jaune. It’s something very special.
“Yesterday was such an intense day, not only during the race but afterward, because the Tour de France is such a big event. Everyone is watching. Emotions were through the roof, but you’re in a stage race as well, and you’re trying to find your focus as well.”
- Vos rides into the yellow jersey with stage win
- Van Vleuten suffering stomach bug, losing time
- Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig wins big in stage 3
Vos’ dream, however, quickly was brought back down to reality in an attack-riffled thrilling finale.
Challenges from SD-Worx and Trek-Segafredo meant she had to be on top of her game. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig won the stage, and Vos had to dig deep to defend yellow.
She wasn’t going to let it go without a fight, and she actually ended up widening her lead from 10 to 16 seconds.
“It was quite a big effort. I tried to stay in the right position going into the last corner on the bottom,” Vos said. “The legs hurt already, it had been quite a hard stage. I gave it all to stay in contention, and you never know what happens in the final. When Cecilie opened up her sprint, I didn’t have any speed and I gave it all to the line to defend.”
Ever the fair competitor, Vos wished arch-rival Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) the best as the Dutch star is struggling with illness, and lost time Monday and Tuesday to settle in ninth at 1:14 back.
“I know she’s a fighter and I hope she gets back to her best, and if she does, I know she will be fighting for the GC again,” she said.
‘There’s never an easy day at the Tour de France’
Gravel is on the menu Wednesday, and Vos knows that keeping yellow will be far from routine.
“There are no easy days in the Tour de France,” she said. “Not only because of the white roads, but also the climbs that come before are pretty punchy and hard. We all need to be prepared and focused all day to stay in the right position. Today my team did a really good job, and it’s all about recovery and being ready.”
Combined pro road wins for the 29 riders of the Jumbo Visma men’s team: 268
Pro road wins for Marianne Vos: 241#TdFFemmes
— Daniel Lloyd (@daniellloyd1) July 25, 2022
Big crowds cheered on the peloton, and Vos said she could feel the support from the French public lining the roads.
“The last 300 meters I didn’t see anything, but before, it was crazy crowds all day. There were rows of people coming into the city, not only in the final, but all day, and that’s something very special to experience, especially in the yellow jersey which is so iconic. It’s a really special day.”
Just three days into the race, Vos said she noted the level is higher at the Tour de France Femmes than at other races.
“The level is high, every team is so prepared. There is no moment you can let go because then you are in the back and you’re in trouble,” she said. “It’s the whole day fighting. For the team, it’s a really hard job to stay there and stay out of trouble.”
‘There is nothing on my bucket list’
Someone asked if she is the Wout van Aert of the women’s peloton, or if Van Aert is the Marianne Vos of the men’s peloton. Vos just laughed.
“Wout is Wout and Marianne is Marianne,” she said. “I’ve seen Wout racing, and he is the guy you are watching for. Also Jonas [Vingegaard] and Tadej [Pogačar] and Mathieu [van der Poel], those riders, they make the race, they show the beauty of the sport. In women’s cycling, we try to do our best to make good competition. It’s such a high level now in women’s cycling and you really have to fight for it. You cannot compare men’s cycling to women’s cycling, but I hope with our racing that we show what we have as well.”
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 26, 2022
So far, Vos is doing her part to live up to the bargain.
After achieving so much in her career, Vos is racing on pure passion, and the yellow jersey is simply the cherry on top of legendary palmarès.
“There is nothing on my ‘bucket list,’ I just love racing,” she said. “Having this Tour de France is something that we were looking forward to it, and having this now is something big. I just love to race and to be at the top of my game and at the highest level of competition along the year. I am really enjoying it right now.”