She has won two Olympic gold medals, three UCI Road World Championships and many other races. But for Marianne Vos it’s not about winning trophies – it’s about riding a bike.
“For me riding my bike is pure freedom; it’s the thing I love most. Of course there are difficult moments, but in the end I realize how much I love the sport. It’s a sport where fitness, mental strength, technique, tactics and flexibility have to come all together for a result. It’s great when you are with a team and the puzzle works out,” Marianne Vos says to Sport Executive.
“At the age of five I came into contact with the sport of cycling. My dad got into amateur racing in his thirties and my older brother followed him to do the same. I went to their trainings, but watching them made me want to ride as well.”
“I’ve done other sports, such as ice speedskating and inline skating, but when I had to choose, cycling had my preference.”
“As a kid I didn’t start cycling because of the fame or the attention, I just wanted to ride my bike. When people discovered my talents and I achieved my first results, I had to deal with a lot of interest in what I was doing. It was of course in recognisation of my achievements, but as a shy girl it was overwhelming. People start to get certain expectations, but the pressure is only as big I put on my own shoulders. I try to work on all the elements I have an influence on and then let the rest go. If my preparation is good, I need to rely on my intuition and the only thing I have to do is try my best.”
Fame followed automatically, especially when she won the road race at the London Olympics in 2012.
“I wanted that gold so badly, but you know you only have one chance and can’t mess it up. Crossing the line first, it was a combination of happiness, relief and satisfaction that came over me. Everything came together. The team put me in the perfect position; I ‘only’ had to finish it off, but I still got very nervous in the final. This is a feeling that I can’t really describe in words. The only thing is that is that I know it was the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
The beauty on the bike
So the dream of victories came true for Marianne Vos. But the Dutch rider has a lot of other dreams. For example, she dreams about “making cycling more accessible and popular for women”.
“I know I can’t do this on my own, but there is a change going on in cycling. More and more people can see the beauty of going out on a bike. A lot of women hesitate, but I want to take away the barriers that prevent them from giving it a try. This means sharing information, setting up group rides and so on. As a professional rider I want to close the gap to beginners and show that our passion is the same. It’s a privilege to be able to share my experiences.”
“The UCI sees the value of women’s cycling and that there are some more steps to take towards further professionalisation. Therefore you need a push from different parties and the possibility to reach a bigger audience. It is not easy to make this change, because you have to break through traditions, but I’m sure that with the right investments we will go forward.”
“Changing a mindset is one of the most difficult things to do. Women’s cycling has changed a lot in the last decade, but its value needs to be showcased to the world. With some strong combined races and parallel teams, we are taking the best from the men’s world to create a stronger women’s division. A few high profile stand alone races are demonstrating the growing interest in the sport.”
To push for equality
“Should there be a minimum wage for professionals in women’s cycling?”
“In the future I don’t see any reason why it should be different than the men’s. Women’s cycling is starting to close the gap, but as a much younger international category, it’s logical that there are steps to take. The UCI made a plan to build on its WorldTour with a change of structure in the coming five years. All parties need time to match the requirements, but this will help the sport move forward. You can’t rush this process, but it helps when UCI is pushing for equality from above.”
“The media interest is increasing, but the bigger audience should be able to see more racing. If you can identify with riders or teams it will be more interesting. Visibility is everything and this is a chicken and egg story. I’m sure it is going in the right direction, but sometimes it needs a forceful push (for example from the UCI) to take the next step.”
“But women’s sport should not put itself in the ‘Calimero position’. I think it’s better to work together and show our potential, instead of comparing ourselves with the men. There are differences between men and women, so we shouldn’t focus on that. The athletic performances are exactly the same and that’s where the focus should be.”
“For me money has never been the reason to cycle. I’ve been gifted with a certain talent and I’m happy to be pro rider. But I don’t think it’s fair that there is such a big difference between men and women in sports. The amount of effort put in is the same and at the end the same emotion comes out with the sport. On the other hand it’s fantastic to see how passionate the riders are, because they aren’t driven by money,” Marianne Vos says to Sport Executive.
Born 13 May 1987 in s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands.
Started racing at the age of 8.
Has won 2 Olympic titles, 3 UCI Road World Championships, 7 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships and 2 UCI Track World Championships.
Riding for Rabo-Liv.