Ride Like a Girl: Marianne Vos

"V"os plays in the sand. Photo: Danny Zelck

While it took seven Belgians to dominate the Men’s Cyclocross World Championship race on Sunday, it only took a single Dutchwoman to dominate the women’s race. That’s seven times more dominanter, if my math is correct – which it always is.

Cyclocross fascinates me, mostly because it is completely insane. But I admit: I like the idea of combining Cycling and miniature golf. Put some canti’s on your road bike, take to the mud and woods, add some water hazards, sand traps, man-made climbs and jumps, and now you’ve got a sport for people who hate the way their faces look.

Marianne Vos took her fifth World ‘Cross Championship (a record) to further crowd here palmares with rainbow bands. She’s been World Champion in every discipline involving drop bars, many of them multiple times. She’s also won La Fleche Wallone more times than I can count (I can only count to three), National road and time trial championships, and the Giro d’Italia Femminile. She was even World Champion in Mountain Biking as a Junior. One could easily argue that “V”os is the best active cyclist in the world, bar none.

To that point, we don’t pay close enough attention to Women’s cycling. I’m as guilty as anyone; if I was going to pick the winner of a Women’s race, I’d likely pick Vos or Cooke (if she’s not broken, which she often is) or Teutenberg if the race is likely to end in a sprint, which I wouldn’t be able to tell you without first doing some research. And that pretty much exhausts my knowledge in terms of naming riders, which is disgraceful. After all, if one is to understand the great mystery, one should study all its aspects. (Yes, I just quoted Darth Sidious.)

With the ‘Cross season coming to a close, we’re ramping up to start the 2012 Velominati Super Prestige and with it, we are dragging ourselves into paying attention to Women’s Cycling: the 2012 competition will include women’s races with the points amassed counting towards the overall title.

We are also making some coding changes to the backend system in order to fix some problems which means we’re probably only introducing new problems without necessarily fixing the things that needed fixing in the first place.

We’re also adding more races like the Strada Bianca, changing the scoring model, and eliminating certain things such as free DNF swaps. Stand by for further updates and keep a weather eye on the VSP Page for the updated schedule and rules.

Related Posts

144 Replies to “Ride Like a Girl: Marianne Vos”

  1. +1. Excellent acknowldgement of a fine rider. Vos can do it all, and do it well. If she was a male, she’d be a highly paid superstar. But instead, she and he colleagues have to fight for every penny they get.
    International recognition of the quality of women’s racing can start on this website! That should make the dick at the UCI take notice.

  2. I know it’s not a focus of the site but I’ve often felt that cross (CX hereafter) needs more coverage here. It may not be all day kinds of “V”, but good lord it’s hard. 30-60 minutes of just f-ing hard.

    Think about it – a road race (regardless of format) will have sections that will put you on tilt and other sections that don’t. But ultimately, it’s a function of what the road gives you. Even MTB courses (yeah, I just brought it up) have to at least think of sustainability – so while that wicked downhill might look fun, it may not be the best long-term decision.

    But a CX course – well, we’re in a different league here. Courses are designed to be hard. An off-camber turn into a hill, a u-turn, then down into another off-camber? Hmm, doesn’t seem hard enough – is there something else we can do? Sand maybe? And it doesn’t have to be sustainable, it just needs to hold up for the day/weekend. And if it gets really ugly? Even better.

    And that’s without even getting into the atmosphere of a CX race. It’s wildly spectator friendly as the course tends to loop back on itself to take advantage of terrain (which also sucks as a rider b/c even when you’re back and should just try and bring it home, you still feel like you’re in the race. You’re not). Oh, and there’s typically beer. And handups. And heckling.

    After a couple of prior CX races on my MTB I pulled the trigger on a CX bike in 2011 (putting me into n+1). Despite an injury that effectively killed the CX season (missed first 1/2 and thus no form for the second 1/2), it is, w/o a doubt, the most fun and pain I’ve ever had on a bike.

    Do yourself a favor, get a bike and get ready for next Fall. You won’t regret it.

  3. Without a doubt, women racers don’t get the attention and money they deserve. They’re working just as hard as the men and ride really well.

    Without a doubt (Part II), cyclocross does indeed rock. The courses, the scene, the bikes, the conditions, the racing – all of it. At the grassroots level, mega fun. Seattle has two great series, the MFG and Seattle series. I’m the world’s crappiest racer and dabbled with a few ‘cross races, still had a blast. My 12 year old son was big into this Fall and completed about 12 ‘cross races, so I’ve witnessed most of the MFG and Seattle series. Check it out next ‘cross season, great stuff.

    Cyclocross totally fits the Velominati site, should feature more of it. Hell, I think XC mountain bike racing/riding fits as well. It’s all one big two wheel suffer fest…

  4. @brianc
    +1 I raced a bit of the local CX series this past year and it forced me to take a long, hard look at what I thought were pretty decent bike handling skills on my part. It also forced me to take a long, hard break from riding as the result of a bruised sternum. That said, I can’t wait to do it again this season.

  5. living in the heimat of cyclocross: I can’t imagine a winter without! nothing more relaxing than go for a ride in the morning and watch cyclocross on TV in the afternoon. every weekend from October untill Februari, there is live coverage of 1 or 2 races, in Christmas Holidays, almost every day.
    I just wonder why it s not that popular in the rest of the world?

  6. @JC Belgium

    living in the heimat of cyclocross: I can’t imagine a winter without! nothing more relaxing than go for a ride in the morning and watch cyclocross on TV in the afternoon. every weekend from October untill Februari, there is live coverage of 1 or 2 races, in Christmas Holidays, almost every day.
    I just wonder why it s not that popular in the rest of the world?

    CX is definitely picking up steam, but from the looks of it, especially with the 2012 WC being held in Kentucky.

    It’s definitely picking up Stateside, and is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest. I vowed to race this year but didn’t get to the proper n+1 configuration (a situation which has officially changed for 2012). I will race in 2012.

    Also, this crash never stops making me laugh. Its OK to laugh, because Joey’s OK.

  7. @brianc
    Exactly. Just insane. G’rilla had a right mind to race this past season, as did Ron. Like I said:

    I like the idea of combining Cycling and miniature golf. Put some canti’s on your road bike, take to the mud and woods, add some water hazards, sand traps, man-made climbs and jumps, and now you’ve got a sport for people who hate the way their faces look.

  8. @Dan O
    I love that your son is so into. Having watched the process of you getting him into cycling over on your site, it’s insanely cool to see him really get into it. You rule as a dad.

    Cyclocross totally fits the Velominati site, should feature more of it. Hell, I think XC mountain bike racing/riding fits as well. It’s all one big two wheel suffer fest…

    Yup, there’s nothing against any of those things. We just don’t get around to writing about it as much, not sure why. When I’m racing, I guarantee there will be more articles on the subject. And on recovering from injury, I’m guessing.

    @Brett isn’t even a roadie by nature; he’s a MTB guy at heart. As said, to understand the mystery, we must study all its aspects. And riding off-road always gives us better bike-handling skills.

  9. The Women’s 2011 WC race does a great job of showing off why Vos is so amazing. Lap after lap, she struggles with the off-camber first climb off the track, even falling on her face the first time. But she kept studying it and getting better at it, lap after lap, until she mastered it and dropped everyone like a bad habit.

  10. She was pushing 6,63Watts/kg at a test with the Rabobank team. That is more than most men, this is a Gilbert like wattage. Her coach Jeroen Blijlevens asked the cycling union if she can start in men’s racing a few times, to still have something challenging.

  11. As for Ride like a Girl, how’s this for inspiration?

    This is swedish pro and olympic medalist Emma Johansson five days after surgery, back on the rollers!
    She was hit, head on, by a car while training and broke both collarbones, cracked her helmet in half and was generally beat up.
    She’s committed to race the Tour of Flanders april first…

    The girls are tough!

  12. @Paco

    She was pushing 6,63Watts/kg at a test with the Rabobank team. That is more than most men, this is a Gilbert like wattage. Her coach Jeroen Blijlevens asked the cycling union if she can start in men’s racing a few times, to still have something challenging.

    That was for real, though, wasn’t it, her racing with the men? Whatever became of that? It would be cool to see b/c she is a killer and amazing rider. Bet she could hold her own.

  13. I’ve been enjoying the Behind the Barriers series, while “J-Pow” can come off as a douche sometimes in general it’s enjoyable, and I wish more riders allowed a camera to follow them everywhere for a season.

    Around here there are a few cross series, and I’ve been encouraged to participate. I really wanted to try a road race or two first however before I got down and dirty.

  14. @frankThanks for posting that. The VMH and I were at that race and it was incredible to see how she dominated the field. It was a cold, cold day with a frozen hardpack track, except for where they sprayed to introduce some mud.

    Here’s a pic I took on one of the brutal uphills (you can get an idea how steep it is by looking at the racer still riding at the bottom): http://www.flickr.com/photos/billsabub/5402098796/

  15. @brianc
    Agree on the Kona. My Jake is my daily commuter and my bash through the forest steed. And an unpleasant surprise for those in their fully aero tri-bikes when I’m out on the road.

  16. @Buck Rogers

    @Paco

    She was pushing 6,63Watts/kg at a test with the Rabobank team. That is more than most men, this is a Gilbert like wattage. Her coach Jeroen Blijlevens asked the cycling union if she can start in men’s racing a few times, to still have something challenging.

    That was for real, though, wasn’t it, her racing with the men? Whatever became of that? It would be cool to see b/c she is a killer and amazing rider. Bet she could hold her own.

    not allowed by some official UCI rule: she is a woman and has to compete against other women. however, I think she would humiliate a lot of men…

    @frank
    poor Joey… ok, so it s becoming more and more popular in the States.
    but I see only Dutch, Belgians (actually Flemish, in Wallonia not popular at all) and an occasional Czech or Frenchie competing for first place at pro level. I suppose there are enough means to support promising American riders, or do they only focus on road racing? Or is it just the idea of getting dirty in European mud and earning way too little money for your efforts? I would love to see some more foreigners covered in dust and mud…

  17. A cross thread! I have a Carbone!

    I want to add that US Nationals in Madison this year was a blast. And the women were just as intense any guy on that course but more fun to watch! Excited Madtown gets to host again next year. I was in more pictures heckling and doing handups than racing, & that needs to be rectified. Oh and to counter all you Kona boys, I love my Redline so I gotta give the BMX boys some props.

    Finally, since I don’t post much:
    @ Wiscot – any Ochowicz’n happening on that Wisconsin/Chicago Cogal??

  18. @JC Belgium

    The UCI released a staement within hours, saying she can’t ride with men.

    Here it is

    She probably will be allowed to start in some local races not organised by the UCI.
    Of course, watts per kilogram say more about efficiency than reaching the finish line as first. It will still be hard for her to finish in a criterium, because of the lack of brute force to accelerate after the corners, but maybe she can drop a big part of the pro men peloton uphill.

  19. @JC Belgium
    He didn’t expect to win.He doesn’t like cyclocross any more.He’s getting ready for the Giro.
    Thanks for the link,awesome!

  20. @Paco
    that s exactly what I mean with humiliate, it s not about winning. Admit you don t like to be outclassed by a girl/woman (or by anyone at all), even if you know she is better than you and no matter how much ‘you don t care’.
    oh well, we do the talking, they do the riding. guess who s right in the end…

  21. Joey’s OK! That was spectacular.

    Here I go, about to be a jackass again. Women can be great riders. My wife and I just watched “Ride the Divide,” and wow. Talk about hard. I rooted so much for Mary Metcalf-Collier… Just, wow.

    But.

    Where is this money going to come from for women’s cycling? You hear Bronzini spouting off about women’s wages and the president of the UCI like he has control over companies’ sponsorship dollars. I hate the UCI as much as the next guy, maybe more, but there will never be a market for women’s professional cycling. Very few people want to watch it. The fields are small and non competitive. I don’t mean these women aren’t good, just that the gap between the best and the rest is an intraversable distance. Do you see anything like the domination by Bronzini, Vos, Longo, Van Moorsel? I am not a hater by any means. In fact, I spent many teenage nights spankin’ it to Leontien. It’s just never going to happen, though, and it’s not because of sexism. Tennis is an example where there is wage equality, but it’s also an example of a sport where there is a great deal of public interest. That will never be the case with riding.

    I support allowing women to compete with men. I’m sure that Vos could kick most of our asses. However, she’s not fit to be a domestique on any UCI Men’s Pro Tour team. That isn’t being harsh. Could any of you see a forty-nine-year-old Jeannie Longo, good enough to be TWO seconds shy of a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Time Trial, not getting dropped at just about any Pro Tour race? It’s not enough to suffer as much as the men, as Bronzini said. Otherwise, cross country skiers would make as much a pro cyclists.

    So… I just don’t agree. I have nothing but respect for VMHs, but in a climate where Highroad Sports couldn’t even secure enough sponsorship to keep an incredibly successful organization afloat (in terms of results), how can there ever be hope for women’s pro cycling?

  22. Great article, Frank.

    I still think it’s very interesting that most women/mens sporting events are still gender-segregated.

    Is it left-over puritanical prudishness?

    Is it worry that women couldn’t compete with men based on muscle mass or something like that?

    It seems to me with cycling, the bike itself is somewhat of an equalizer, as the “physically strongest” person isn’t necessarily the best cyclist, and being big is somewhat of a disadvantage depending on what type of cyclist you are. It’s not the same as American football for example, where the dudes pump iron (amongst other things) and are HUGE, and women would have a distinct disadvantage. But I’d say cycling seems to be a sport where men and women can intermingle well.

  23. @Calmante
    I think you’re off on two things:

    Where is this money going to come from for women’s cycling? You hear Bronzini spouting off about women’s wages and the president of the UCI like he has control over companies’ sponsorship dollars. I hate the UCI as much as the next guy, maybe more, but there will never be a market for women’s professional cycling. Very few people want to watch it. The fields are small and non competitive. I don’t mean these women aren’t good, just that the gap between the best and the rest is an intraversable distance. Do you see anything like the domination by Bronzini, Vos, Longo, Van Moorsel? I am not a hater by any means. In fact, I spent many teenage nights spankin’ it to Leontien. It’s just never going to happen, though, and it’s not because of sexism. Tennis is an example where there is wage equality, but it’s also an example of a sport where there is a great deal of public interest. That will never be the case with riding.

    What you describe here is pretty close to what Men’s racing was back in the 70’s. By and large, dominated by a few guys who were head and shoulders over the rest. There was less money, less incentive for people to become Pros, and thus bigger gaps. In his best year, Merckx made as much money as his son did riding as a domestique at Domo.

    It has much less to do with how good the women are; it has to do with popularity of the sport not yielding the money to do the big races and attract enough of the best riders to foster the competition. Even a casual glance at the change in the level of competition in the Men’s field since it became a high-paying sport in the 90’s is enough to answer that question. (And drug use further evidence of that.)

    Never say never: if women’s racing gets enough exposure to become profitable, the money will come. Businesses seeking a profit are very good at finding ways to do just that.

    In a climate where Highroad Sports couldn’t even secure enough sponsorship to keep an incredibly successful organization afloat (in terms of results), how can there ever be hope for women’s pro cycling?

    Before starting Highroad Sports, Bob Stapleton ran a major telecom here in Seattle. He was well known in his dealings for being abusive and using complex contracts to exploiting and take advantage of his vendors. Nothing illegal, mind you, but very underhanded shit that made vendors unwilling to do repeat business with him.

    I can’t name sources, but when Columbia stepped in as sponsor, he did the same to them and treated them as trash. They stepped in when no one else would, and then HTC came on board, he fucked Columbia over without hesitation. Columbia grew tired of it and withdrew their sponsorship. I have no doubt he did the same to HTC in the end.

    Again, nothing illegal about what he did, but my guess is that his inability to find a sponsor had much less to do with the state of the sport and more to do with his modus operandi. To fuck vendors over in Telecom is one thing, but screw enough sponsors over in a community as small and tight-knit as Cycling – especially in the state it’s in – and you will soon find yourself holding the bag.

    I firmly believe Bob Stapleton got what was coming to him. I only feel awful for the staff and riders that were left without their means to make a living as a result of it.

  24. This notion of pitting men against women is interesting…I don’t know enough about power, strength, or genetics to have an informed opinion on these things but I know enough to guess that Vos could be a monstrously good climber with her power-to-weight ratio.

    I’d have paid good money to see a head-to-head race between Pantani and Vos up l’Alpe d’Huez.

  25. Check out that bitchin counter-steer.

    And is just some nasty, rooty, slippery, muddy shit right there. Badass.

  26. @frank

    I’d have paid good money to see a head-to-head race between Pantani and Vos up l’Alpe d’Huez.

    Dude. Come on. The owner of the three fastest times up AdH? Someone has to have examples for women’s ascent times. I’m sure they are impressive, but… There. Is. No. Fucking. Way.

  27. I don’t think that head to head male vs female is the way forward, as it has the potential to go horribly wrong. And any sort of equivalency factors (e.g. weight penalties for race winners in touring car racing) just become a joke. It shouldn’t be about be about competition between the sexes. Remember how Michelle Wie competed in men’s PGA tournaments a few years ago and failed miserably, probably ruining it for everyone? I agree this case was more marketing than pure sport, but the fans don’t care about that. They just see a chick losing to dudes.

    But better marketing for women’s racing is the way forward IMHO. The public won’t know about it unless they are told. Let’s hope that the UCI can incorporate this into their globalisation plan (women do race on the same globe as men). However, as it won’t offer immediate financial returns for the UCI, I doubt that they will.

  28. Here’s an interesting thought on the idea of the top females competing against the men…assuming that they then don’t race in the corresponding women’s races.

    What effect would it have on the results of those women’s races, are they suddenly cheapened because of a weakened field? Wouldn’t you be a little pissed having won the Giro Donne for example, and having people question the achievement because the “top” few women were competing elsewhere?

  29. @Dan O
    especially since a lot of CX occurs during the bad ass time of year, frozen turf, horizonatal rain, wind chill, freezing rain, maybe some snow. Folks here had to have 2 bikes last year, 1 to ride and one to drop off in the pits so they could remove the frozen mud fouling the RD between laps. you could either race late in the afternoon when the track thawed into a muck fest, or early in the morning when all the ruts were frozen. for those that raced and endured a good time was had by all. it was brutal standing on the side lines ringing the cow bell and holding the cold beer in my frozen fingers.

  30. @frank

    She’s doing it wrong.

    More awesomeness at this photoset on FB.

    Gotta love the spectators’ faces. Especially the guy in the George Costanza jacket and the old perv from Family Guy next to him. Sweet stuff!

  31. I was halfway through a Sunday ride when I realized, “Oh damnit! The cross World Championships are on! Ah!!!” Sad to see Zdenek couldn’t pull off a win; a bit of a Czech fan after spending some time there last year.

    Way to go, Marianne!

    One season of cross under me belt here. As someone who has spent a lot more time on the road than off it, cross racing is simply crazy. Especially after heaps of rain. Cross riding is insanely fun. And cross racing? Well, it is awful during the race, but five minutes later, the next day, and the next week, it all seems awesome.

    After picking up my cross bike last spring, I can happily say cross riding has opened up a Whole New Cyclo World, with a thousand places to see, for me. The biggest problem now is that when I hit the road again, after months off it, I can’t believe how horrible drivers are & how dangerous they are towards cyclists.

    Nice one, Frank!

  32. @JC Belgium
    My friend Genevieve Whitson just raced for New Zealand at Worlds, doing her best again to reprazent for Aotearoa in finishing 35th. I might be wrong, but I believe she is the first Kiwi to race Elite CX Worlds, either woman or man.

  33. Wanna see some tough chicks? Check this out. Our Aussie ironwomen racing with sharks. And it looked plenty big.

  34. Oli – That is awesome! I’d be super proud and feel super cool to ride with Genevieve! Nothing like the first Kiwi to do something. Very cool.

    In looking at how the U.S. men did yesterday, I realize how big of a deal 7-11, LeMan, and other Americans & North Americans must have been when they hit the Continental road races & started doing well.

    Has to be humbling, & provide some serious perspective, to be the best at something but not be able to come close to the skill of the Belgians & other Euro cross racers.

    Cross racing can be crazy. You think you’ve got it, you think you feel good…and one bad corner or off camber & your race is over. (I guess that happens on the road with certain hills. Cross can be crazier because it might happen at 8km/hr if you are in deep mud!)

  35. CX racing rocks! In fact, it was the first discipline I ever raced with a USA Cycling license ( I finished 7 out of 30 or so in the Cat 4 30-39 race if I remember correctly). I really enjoy watching women’s sports; the competition is fierce, their skills are excellent, and hey, most women athletes are just plain smoking hot. BUT, comparing the vast majority of women athletes to their male counterparts is kind of silly, especially in cycling where performance predominantly depends on power to weight ratio. Women have less muscle mass, and more fat, on average than males. That being the case their performance rarely equals that of men in the same age and cat. Look at the results- the data from almost all events bears this out. I appreciate women athletes , but don’t nderstand why we have to compare their results to men. Why cant they just stand on their own relative merit ( e.g. Among their own gender)?

  36. @Oli
    Along those lines, Cycling Tips posted a pretty cool article on Lewis Rattray from Aus who competed in the mens race. Awesome story about how he got over there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.