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Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) demonstrated why just why many regard her as the greatest cyclist of all time in the third and final North American leg of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup. Vos rode a consummate race, picking her moments to attack and delivering the power when it mattered.
“It was really hard,” Vos said after the race. “Very fast and a lot of hills. For me, it was a great experience this week. Three beautiful races and the atmosphere was amazing. I’m very happy to be here and of course, with these results, I can go home with great satisfaction. Now I’ll take a break and then build-up to the rest of the season.”
After the deluges of Fayetteville and the resulting mud-fest, the sunny weather in Iowa City was a welcome change for everyone, not least the pit crews, who had a very quiet race. Based on the Johnson County Fairground, the 3.4km course included tricky adverse camber descents and three tough climbs. Rainy weather can make the course very heavy but today it was hot, dusty and fast.
As in Fayetteville, Jolanda Neff was the fastest away from the start, closely chased by Vos and Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix). Lucinda Brand (Trek-Baloise Lions) and Clara Honsinger (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) both got shuffled backwards in the pack, putting them on the defensive on the first ascent of Mount Krumpit, where Vos made the pace. This steep and rutted climb was to become the focal point of the race. Racers who could not ride it from bottom to top didn’t have a realistic chance of being on the podium.
By the end of the first lap, Vos and Neff had a five-second gap ahead of a chasing group of nine, led by Pieterse, whose ability to bunny-hop the double planks helped her close down on Neff. Unfortunately, Vos had already jumped clear. Pieterse, using her mountain biker’s technical skill, chased Vos with Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) Kata Blanka Vas (SD Worx) and Annemarie Worst (777). Brand was resplendent in her rainbow jersey but looked to be suffering in the heat; on Mount Krumpit she was over-geared and forced to dismount.
At the start of the fourth lap, Betsema caught Vos and used her climbing ability to put Vos under pressure. Under-23 World Cup leader Blanka Vas was also climbing strongly and by the end of the lap she and Worst had got up to the two leaders. Blanka Vas pushed hard in the middle of the race, dragging Betsema and Vos away with her. The young Hungarian rider was enjoying herself on the climbs, turning a small gear and pedalling smoothly and she looked dangerous. But cyclocross racing can change in an instant. Blanka Vas’s back wheel slid out on a dusty uphill corner, forcing her to run the climb and lose touch with Betsema and Vos.
On the final lap, Vos attacked over the top of the bridge, giving her a clear run into the bottom of Mount Crumpet. Betsema had no answer and by the top of the climb Vos was clear. Riding her prototype Cervelo R5, the 31-year-old put together the final sections flawlessly to win by ten seconds.
At the finish Betsema was gracious in defeat, “I was just so on my limit. When Vos attacked I was really struggling to even stay on the bike. It was just a bit too much. I can only learn from these things and move forward. On the climb if you stayed on the bike you saved a lot of energy but running was perhaps quicker. I’ve really enjoyed it here in America and it will be nice to get home. I’m looking forward to Zonhoven, it is one of my favourite races. But first some family time.”
Blanka Vas was philosophical about the mistake that cost her a shot at victory, “I just slipped on the hill but I was already a little bit dead, so that’s why. I will take a break now and then start again at Overijse. I really like that track.”
So Vos returns to Europe with the World Cup leader’s jersey in her suitcase but while the Jumbo Visma rider will be taking a well-earned rest, Lucinda Brand, 10 points behind in the overall standings, will be looking to take over the lead in the forthcoming classic races at Zonhoven and Overijse.
2021 UCI Cyclocross World Cup Iowa City Elite Women’s Results
- Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), 53:46
- Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), at :10
- Kata Blanka Vas (Team SD Worx), at :36
- Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions), at :58
- Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix), at 1:01