SANTA ROSA, California (VN) — Despite spending several years as the dominant rider in women’s cycling, Marianne Vos is still achieving new things on the bike — like winning the first road race of her career in the United States.
After faltering early in Saturday’s third stage of the Women’s Amgen Tour of California, Vos rallied with the help of her Rabobank – Liv teammate Shara Gillow to take the stage win, completing the hilly 111-kilometer (64-mile) route in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 51 seconds.
“It’s incredible; it’s a big race,” said Vos. “It’s a WorldTour race and it’s my first WorldTour win of the season so I will take it here in California. It’s very special.”
The victory continued Vos’ return to top form. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and multiple world champion has endured multiple setbacks that began in September 2014 with a hamstring injury. She retuned to competition three months later, but the injury returned and has lingered with other issues for 18 months.
Vos was also part of small group crash in April in Dwars door Westhoek about 50 yards from the finish. She landed hard and face down, but emerged without serious injury.
Vos won the 2013 cyclocross world title in Kentucky and she won short track title at the Sea Otter Classic in 2013 and cross country and short track title the following year at the cycling festival. But her latest win on American soil, ahead of UnitedHealthcare’s Coryn Rivera in stage 3, was particularly important since it further advanced her hopes a top effort in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
With her lingering injuries and lack of top level results, Vos’ selection was in doubt. But earlier this month, she was chosen with three compatriots and will compete only in the road race.
“I had a hard time and we wanted to make it a hard race today,” said Vos. “I couldn’t keep up with the group at first, but with a teammate we started to chase. The gap was over a minute and it was hard. But I am thankful Shara (Gillow) got me in a position for the sprint.”
The stage win pushed Vos from seventh to fourth overall in the debut WorldTour race in the United States. She trails leader Megan Guarnier (Boels – Dolmans) by 43 seconds with only the 70km circuit race remaining Sunday in Sacramento.
“It was winding roads and attacks through the second climb and from there it was a suffer game,” said Vos. “We came over the second climb with a group, but it wasn’t the lead group. We chased to see how close we could get. It was beautiful on the coast. It was fantastic.”
The 20-lap final stage likely won’t afford chances to alter the top of the general classification, but Vos expects another hard day as riders try to take advantage of one last chance to win in California.
“Tomorrow is going to be fast,” she said. “It’s a short stage. And, of course, all the teams that haven’t won or made their mark in the race … they will want to show themselves. So, it’s going to be really, really hard again.
“We have a good spirit on the team. We are happy to have a win, but of course, the other girls want to go home with something else as well. It’s going to be interesting. Boels is doing a good job defending the jersey of Megan and it’s going to be difficult to get some changes in the general classification, but definitely the stage is going to be interesting.”