World championships: Can Marianne Vos win at home?
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Friday, September 21, 2012

World championships: Can Marianne Vos win at home?

by Ben Atkins at 2:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
 
World number one seeks to end incredible run of five straight silvers on a course made for her

marianne vosMarianne Vos has never finished worse than second in a World championship road race. The Dutch phenomenon took the junior race as a 17-year-old in Verona, Italy, back in 2004, but then was beaten into silver the next year by Denmark’s Mie Bekker. In 2006 she graduated to the elite race and blasted to a surprise victory, as the Germans were lining up Trixi Worrack for the sprint.

Since then though, it has been silver all the way, as her opponents have successfully managed to foil her every time. In 2007, as defending champion, she was unable to prevent a solo attack from Italy’s Marta Bastianelli; in 2008 she was just beaten to the line by then Olympic champion Nicole Cooke of Great Britain, as five of the World’s best arrived at the Varese, Italy, finish together.

The next year saw Vos part of the winning break again, but the Italians managed to get one over on her again, with Tatiana Guderzo and Noemi Cantele taking turns to attack until Guderzo finally got away. In the two years since it has been Giorgia Bronzini of Italy that has foxed Vos; coming seemingly from nowhere in Geelong, Australia, in 2010 after Vos was forced to go early to catch a two-up attack from Cooke and Germany’s Judith Arndt; last year Vos herself admitted leaving it too late on the uphill finishing straight of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Bronzini managed to hold her off.

Every year it has hurt the undisputed World number one a little bit more, as her collection of silver medals gets bigger and bigger. This time though, the Valkenberg course seems almost made for the 25-year-old, and the home crowd will expect nothing less.

Despite the expectation, of both herself and of the Limburg crowds, Vos actually comes into tomorrow’s race with a little less pressure on her shoulders than most years. The gold accented bike she will ride is testament to the Olympic gold she took in the pouring rain of London at the end of July, and with that title already won, missing out on the World title should be less painful than usual. Should be.

The big difference between this year’s race and those of the last five years though, is that this one was seemingly designed with her in mind. The Cauberg is a climb that Vos knows only too well, having won three editions of the Holland Hills Classic that finishes on its top; as well as the last four editions of the Holland Ladies Toer, whose final stage generally features a circuit very similar to that covered tomorrow.

Vos finished second in Holland Hills this year, behind teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, but was carrying a fractured collarbone that had been sustained after she was knocked off by a race moto. This meant that she climbed the Cauberg three times with the injury!

The one thing that offers Vos’ rivals comfort is that the finish line is not at the top of the climb, but 1.7km afterwards. The Dutchwoman, barring catastrophe, should win any race up the Cauberg but, if she can’t put sufficient distance into the chasers over the top then she might be caught before the finish. As one of the World’s top sprinters, she would still be the big favourite to win, but this would depend on who was in the group with her.

The junior women’s road race has shown that, unless efforts are made to drop them, the sprinters can make it up the Cauberg and, if Bronzini manages to climb it in the front group then the Italian will feel confident about spoiling the party and taking a hat trick of victories herself.

Aside from Bronzini, the only other sprinters to offer a threat to Vos on paper would be the United States’ Shelley Olds - who will be extra motivated after a puncture robbed her of a likely Olympic medal - and Germany’s Ina Teutenberg. Both will be part of powerful and motivated teams, and neither will fear the Cauberg as much as one would think a sprinter should.

Despite her sprint though, Vos is almost sure to attack on the climb to get rid of her rivals and, if possible, win alone. This could see her either take a solo victory, or find herself sprinting against climbers like Great Britain’s Emma Pooley and the United States' Evie Stevens, which should be little more than a formality.

Tomorrow's race therefore, should see then end to Vos’ incredible run of silvers, and see the Dutchwoman emulate Great Britain’s Nicole Cooke as she adds the rainbow jersey to her Olympic gold. This, however, is the prediction every year…

If she does though, the home crowd will go wild.

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