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Marianne Vos: Growth of women’s cycling has been ‘incredible’

The highly decorated Dutch rider is looking forward to a return to the Tour de France next year, a moment she says will be 'really important' for women's racing.

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From wunderkind to highly decorated veteran, Marianne Vos has seen some sweeping changes in women’s cycling over the years.

With the introduction of innovations such as WorldTour teams, minimum salaries, and bigger races on the calendar in recent years, the sport is almost unrecognizable compared to when she first stepped into the pro ranks in 2006.

Vos describes the developments as “incredible” and believes the improvements are just as much about the rule changes in recent years as they are about the desire from teams to push for more.

“You definitely feel that all structures and teams are stepping up and it’s a very high level,” Vos told VeloNews. “Where that growth comes from, of course, there are some teams that have the parallel with the men’s teams where you can see the very professional influences, and teams that stand alone are also doing very well.

“There are definitely some steps that have been made by the rules of the WorldTour but also, by the teams themselves. They want to step up, they want to do better they want to improve. Over the last six years, I think it’s an incredible growth for cycling.”

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From a time when women’s teams were almost all run on a shoestring budget, to team paddocks full of busses and support staff, Vos has enjoyed seeing the rewards of a growing interest in the female side of the sport.

Also read: Marianne Vos: Rain and mud made first Paris-Roubaix Femmes ‘even more epic’

The increased coverage of the sport is helping to draw yet more fans and interest to it, which continues to feed into the big development push.

“Over the last two years, [the support] has increased a lot. It’s good to see all those sponsors stepping into cycling and they see the value of women’s cycling and if I look at the racing, it’s such a high level that it’s also really interesting for a fan to watch. The opportunity to see more of it also brings more excitement for spectators and for the fans at home,” Vos said.

Returning to the Tour de France

Vos has won a lot during her career, but perhaps one of the biggest successes she’s had is the way she has brought women’s cycling along with her triumphs and being part of the push to get a women’s Tour de France on the calendar again.

She is one of the few riders still racing that contested the Grand Boucle Féminine — a version of the women’s Tour de France that was run by a separate organization to the men’s — and she took third at it in its final edition in 2009.

Also read: Marianne Vos on what keeps her motivated: ‘It’s the game of racing, it’s never the same’

The Dutchwoman has used her platform as one of the biggest names in women’s cycling and has always been vocal about her desire to see it given fair treatment. She was part of the Le Tour Entier group set up in 2013, which also included Kathryn Bertine, Chrissie Wellington, and Emma Pooley, that launched a campaign that ultimately led to the creation of La Course.

A former winner of the one-day race, Vos looks fondly back at La Course but she’s excited to see the race step up to become a full-blown stage race.

“We had La Course over the last years and I think that already brought a lot of excitement for the cycling fans, and we’ve had some great races,” Vos told VeloNews. “Now, with the Tour de France doing the expansion to eight days, it’s going be a different race, it’s going to be a proper Tour.

“I think that ASO does a great job putting it on properly because I imagine that it’s pretty hard to put this in place and to do this as an organization. In this way, I think it can also increase attention, and for us, as riders, it’s going be really important and really cool to do a Tour de France.”

Excluding injury, Vos will be one of the lucky few to line up in Paris for the historic revival of the race at the end of July 2022. She will be doing so in the colors of Jumbo-Visma after singing with the team at the start of this year — the first team transfer she’d ever made in her career.

After racing at Continental level for 2021, the team is one of five set to step up to WorldTour next year if everything is in order. Despite not being allowed to compete on a WorldTour license, the team finished eighth in the ranking at the end of the year.

“It has been really nice. Already from the beginning, the environment felt good,” Vos said of her move to the team. “I felt at ease within the team and that’s very important. It’s also nice that from the start of the season, we got into the races with some good results and some really nice racing. That gives extra motivation, and also some satisfaction from the racing. Over the season, I think we’ve grown as a team. We can look back on a good season.”