Upon being informed she was Velo’s choice as the 2012 International Cyclist of the Year, Vos reflected on the unique experience of being the greatest female cyclist in The Netherlands, one of the most cycling-passionate nations in Europe.
“I like the life as an athlete,” she said, “but it’s more important to be a good person, that people know me as a nice human, not only as a machine on the bike. That’s what I try to think of constantly and to keep myself thinking about and caring for other people. I’m quite boring actually. I like to read books when I’m traveling. I like to listen to music. I don’t like really to go out and party. I like to go out and drink something at a café — but no discos. I’m actually quite boring. I just like to go and ride my bike.”
She doesn’t drink — much. “But every now and then I get a glass of champagne,” she said, adding a slight giggle. Turns out there’s lots of bubbly atop the podium.
On a standard non-race day, Vos gets up (not too early), eats breakfast, and goes for a ride. She makes time for a rest, and for interviews, of which there are many. Her home is in a flat, open section of Holland, “with a lot of wind and rain, so people really don’t understand [why] I like it here. But it’s my home — it feels [like] home,” she said. “It rains a lot. But the wind is no problem. That’s how I simulate my mountains a little.”
Her results make a bit more sense now. She rides by herself in the wind and rain, imagining the headwind as a long climb. But is that enough to make Vos such a dynamo?
“Naturally, I’m not really a climber. I was more of a one-day racer. But I didn’t like it that I didn’t do that well on the climbs. As a cyclist, I wanted to win a stage race. And you have to climb well and work on your time trial.”
In 2011, Vos was able to drop some mass and improve her climbing. This year, she actually lost too much weight. “That’s a balance I’m searching for all the time,” she said. “As a good climber, I want to win the races uphill, but I also want to win sprints. Most of the time I can manage to do it all quite well.”
With athletes like Vos, those with a singular focus and stunning achievements, it’s easy to assume there’s a robotic element to them, a tunnel vision blocking out distractions and the noises that the rest of us hear. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, and does make a point that she doesn’t have enough time for some things, at least right now. “You don’t have as much time to see people, to keep your social life at home. If I meet the right person, of course I will make time for them,” she said.