All of this calls into question what’s left for a rider like Vos, who has won just about everything she can win, short of world mountain bike titles, which may just be a matter of time.
At 25, she has at least 10 more years of dominance left in her long legs — or something like it, if she chooses to continue. There’s been talk of her lining up with the men from time to time, though that was sunk by the UCI’s rulebook. “And I don’t think I really need it. I can train at home, of course, with men,” she said. “I still suffer a lot in the women’s races. So all the women heard me and keep the pressure on.
“I have to search for new goals,” she said. “When I go out on my bike now, it’s without pressure. It’s because I love to ride my bike.”
Vos can keep winning, but like anyone else at any level of sport, she’s only as good, only as big, as the arena in which she plays. The structure of women’s cycling is on the short end of separate-but-equal with the men’s game; interest is a sliver of what it is in the men’s races. But if there is a time to move the women’s side forward, it has to be now. Vos is a genuine star — perhaps the best woman, past, present, or future — and American Evelyn Stevens, who beat Vos on the Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne in April, can make a case for buoying the sport stateside.
For her part, Vos thinks it would be prudent to capitalize on the excitement that engulfs the men’s races. She believes every major classic should have a women’s version, something that exists at select events such as Flanders and Flèche Wallonne.
“The media is there. Spectators are already at the side of the road. Of course we go a little slower, but we still have attractive races,” she said. “It’s the same. We do the same amount of work for it. We work hard. And I think people have seen it this year.”
The 2012 season belonged to Marianne Vos. It’s likely not the last, either. The rest of the women’s field will have to adapt, because she’s not changing.
“I can imagine all the riders are bored of me winning,” Vos said. “But I’m not bored.”
Vos vs. Wiggins
This year’s International Cyclist of the Year award resulted in a lively debate between Marianne Vos and Bradley Wiggins at Velo headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. The merits of the Wiggins case were strong: the Briton decimated the Tour de France and won GC titles at Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné, as well as Olympic time trial gold in London. But it was ultimately Vos’ dominance across the pro cycling spectrum that put her over the top.
We asked Vos her feelings about being chosen in light of Wiggins’ phenomenal season.
“I think what Brad Wiggins did was amazing. And of course men’s cycling is more known,” she said. “But I don’t know — I can’t say I did better than Bradley. Of course it’s subjective — I had an amazing season and he had an amazing season….I’m quite honored. I couldn’t do any better than this year. I’m happy you chose me. If I didn’t win ‘Rider of the Year’ now, I don’t know what more I can do. If I didn’t win now, then I couldn’t win it.”