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Marianne Vos’ route to Olympic road race detours through cyclocross worlds

After moving from CCC-Liv to the newly formed Jumbo-Visma women's squad, Vos has Olympic gold and the rainbow jersey in her eyes.

While Marianne Vos is on the newly formed Jumbo-Visma women’s team, her goals remain the same for 2021: Get back on the top of the podium.

Speaking from a Jumbo-Visma training camp in Alicante, Spain, the multi-discipline world champion has the 2021 UCI cyclocross world championships dead center of her immediate ambitions. She was quick to credit the Jumbo-Visma team with allowing her to depart training camp for the mud and barriers at the fast-approaching UCI cyclocross world championships.

“I’m very happy with the support of the team, and I don’t think there are many road teams that would implement this [freedom],” Vos said. “We made a program that not only in the cyclocross season where I want to do well in the races, as a priority, but also the priority to get as fit as possible.”

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With little precious time off following a November late-season end to road racing in 2020, Vos made sure to take time away from the bike so that she could come back refreshed and recharged, before jumping headlong into ‘cross season just weeks later.

The seven-time world cyclocross champion had a very short 2021 season so far. Just before she swapped the orange of CCC-Liv for the yellow and black of Jumbo-Visma, she scored a win at Ethias Cross. An off-the-podium performance at the UCI cyclocross World Cup Hulst on January 3rd seemed unusual, and Vos underscored this with a third-place at Zilvermeercross two weeks later.

“I’ve had a very short season and then it’s more intense, and it’s also, I know, pretty difficult to peak at that right moment,” she said. “Yeah, that level is very very high so when I came in I knew ‘Okay, a podium it’s going to be. It’s a good achievement. I just want to be as good as I can be on that day.’”

With UCI rainbow jerseys in cyclocross from 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, it would be a mistake to count Vos out, but she’ll be challenged by compatriot and defending ’cross world champ Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Lucinda Brand, who has been on a tear in 2021.

Vos, fourth from right, at the start of the women’s road race at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Photo: Tim De Waele

“I think we managed to feel good and feel fit and looking forward to those cyclocross races. But also, I think I can continue, then, towards the road season [that] follows pretty quick,” she said.

Once the cyclocross season is behind her, Vos plans to take a flying start on her road bike. The next big race on her schedule is the Tour of Flanders, currently on the calendar for Sunday, April 4.

Vos and the Jumbo-Visma women’s squad will make a run at the Amstel Gold Race (April 18) two weeks later, and then on to Liege-Bastogne-Liege (April 25) the following week.

“It’s going to be an interesting season,” Vos said in a video interview. “But I like to look at it goal-by-goal, so I don’t get too far ahead. But of course, there is a big goal with the Olympics, and later on, the world championships.”

The accomplished Dutchwoman is likely to be on a contingent for the Olympics from the Netherlands which is as high-achieving as she is. The Dutch team is likely to include defending Olympic road champion Anna van der Breggen, and 2019 world champion Annemiek van Vleuten.

While the 33-year-old Vos struck Olympic gold in 2008 on the track, and again in 2012 on the road, she finished in 9th at Rio while van der Breggen took the win ahead of van Vlueten, who crashed out while leading the race.

With some uncertainty about the Games swirling due to the coronavirus, Vos still remains positive, looking through her immediate tasks to her long-term season goals. Following the Olympics, she’s likely to make another gambit for the world road championships, in Flanders, Belgium.

“But first, I’m looking forward to Worlds cyclocross. We have some beautiful spring classics coming up, and what comes then [the Olympics]. That’s of course those big goals,” she said.

2021 Marianne Vos’ provisional racing calendar

UCI world cyclocross championships
Tour of Flanders
Amstel Gold Race
Liège–Bastogne–Liège
Olympic Games
UCI world road cycling championships