Absence of Marianne Vos means a very different women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen
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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Absence of Marianne Vos means a very different women’s Ronde van Vlaanderen

by Ben Atkins at 5:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders
World number one sick with flu; more onus on other teams to make the race

annemiek van vleutenOne thing that was universally agreed on the start line of the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouen - the Tour of Flanders for women - in Oudenaarde this morning: the absence of World number one Marianne Vos (Rabobank) will make for a very different race. The Dutch champion has been suffering with flu in the latter half of the week, and the decision was taken yesterday lunchtime to withdraw from the race.

“If it was a small race then maybe she’d be okay,” Vos’ father Henk told VeloNation. “But this is not a small race!”

For one rider in particular, the day will be a very different experience to what she expected, as Vos’ replacement Sarah Düster was flown in at the last minute.

“I was at home in Germany at one o’clock yesterday,” she smiled, “when I got a call to come to the race.”

The ever cheerful German will not mind the unexpected appearance at the race that she loves however; in last year’s edition, she was in the race’s main breakaway, and was within less than two kilometres of a solo victory when she was finally caught by the group of favourites.

While Vos’ absence still leaves a very powerful Rabobank team - that includes last year’s winner Annemiek van Vleuten (pictured) and French prodigy Pauline Ferrand Prevot - the race will very likely play out very differently. Vos has once again been the outstanding rider so far this season, and has won both of the events of the World Cup so far. Much of the peloton would have been waiting for the Dutch champion to make her move, while many teams’ strategies would likely have been built around countering her threat.

“In Cittiglio [for the Trofeo Binda] she was something else,” Italian champion Noemi Cantele (Be Pink) told VeloNation. “It’s a shame of course [that Vos is sick] but it is good for everybody else.”

Without Vos, there will be no one rider in the peloton that everybody fears, meaning that the rest of the teams will be far more free to ride their own races. Swedish champion Emma Johansson (Hitec Products-Mistral Home), who lives in the Oudenaarde area during the season, insists that her team would have been riding to a plan anyway however, in what she regards as her home race.

“We would have ridden our own race anyway,” she told VeloNation at the start.

With the finish switching to Oudenaarde for the women’s race as well as the men’s, the race would likely take on a different complexion anyway. While the men will climb the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg three times however, the women will climb them just once; the two cobbled climbs could take on a similar role as the Muur-Kapelmuur and Bosberg of the previous course, but for one major factor.

“The Kwaremont is much longer than the Muur,” German champion and 2009 race winner Ina Teutenberg (Specialized-lululemon) told VeloNation. “I expect the group at the end to be very small.”

Despite the finishing straight being much more suitable for the fast finishers like Teutenberg, and despite the clear, still conditions, the German does not expect to be a factor in the finish; compatriot Trixi Worrack, and American Evie Stevens are far more likely to figure in the results for the new American team.

Rabobank's Dutch rival AA Drink-Leontien.nl will also be confident in the hot favourite's absence. The team's three-headed team, that includes three-time podium finisher Kirsten Wild, former World time trial champion Emma Pooley, and British champion - and recent Gent-Wevelgem winner - Lizzie Amitstead, was feeling fresh and confident as it took the start.

For Vos, there is at least a little bit of a silver lining:

"At least this way she has a target for next year," Henk Vos smiled.


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