Marianne Vos: “It feels like a privilege”

The female peloton joined the big family of the Tour 40 years ago, in June 1984. Six Dutch riders clad in "Oranje" flexed their muscles and claimed six of the top eight spots in the opening stage, with Mieke Havik leading the charge. The insatiable "Oranje" pioneers would go on to take fifteen stage wins in that historic edition. Several generations have since had their day in the sun, but Dutch talent has always remained a sight to behold. Looking back on this epic saga in the run-up to the Grand Départ of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in Rotterdam, the official website has sat down to talk with some of the stars —past, present and future— of this tale.

For two decades, Marianne Vos has been a unique icon, embodying Oranje excellence and globally shining with all colours. On the road, in velodromes and thanks to her cyclo-cross skills, the Dutch star has claimed 12 Elite rainbow jerseys and countless accolades. Recent weeks have seen her excel in red, white and green in La Vuelta Femenina by and the Volta a Catalunya Femenina, in line with a strong Classics campaign. Vos is a Queen, on and off the bike. So it only felt natural for the world of cycling to celebrate her with the Maillot Jaune in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2022. After illness hindered her ambitions last year, she returns for more conquests with a home start in the Netherlands.

24/07/2023 - Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023 - Etape 2 - Clermont-Ferrand / Mauriac (151,7 km) - VOS Marianne (TEAM JUMBO-VISMA)
24/07/2023 - Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023 - Etape 2 - Clermont-Ferrand / Mauriac (151,7 km) - VOS Marianne (TEAM JUMBO-VISMA) © A.S.O./Thomas Maheux

Youve had a very strong first part of the season. How good do you feel so far in 2024?

The first part of the season, with the Spring classics and the Vuelta, gave me some good sensations, good feelings, and we had some really nice results with the team. Obviously, that makes me very happy and of course that’s something I would like to continue in the second part of the season… And a big part of the second part of the year is the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift!  

How do you approach your goals in this busy Summer?

I’ve just been selected for the Olympics. The combination with the Olympics and the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift one week later makes a block of racing that I target and I will try to be at my very best. I have to say the Tour, wherever and whenever it starts, is always a big goal for any rider at the start. But as a Dutch rider in a Dutch team, we feel some extra motivation to do well with the start in the Netherlands.  

Youve known the Olympics for your whole career and the Tour in recent years. How big an impact did it have since 2022?

Whoa! Since the moment we started with La Course, in 2014, we’ve seen a big rise in women cycling and being part of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift has been very important in this development. Now, the growth of women cycling continues. Two years ago, we saw a worldwide interest for women cycling and the activations from teams and sponsors have been huge. Of course, it’s difficult to say what comes first. Are people interested because of the media coverage and the broadcast? Is it the racing that attracted attention and led to this growth? Anyway, it has been incredible over the last years and it’s obvious the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift has made a big impact there. I’m pretty curious what this year will bring. It’s always difficult to compare races but it’s really interesting to have the Olympics and the Tour in a very short time this year.  

And on a personal level, how do you look back at the first two editions and especially 2022?

Everybody was really looking forward to racing this first Tour, the excitement was high and it made for intense and exciting racing. With the team, we wanted to go for a stage win. We were really happy when we did it and then the satisfaction was even bigger with a second stage win, wearing the yellow jersey and taking home the green jersey. For us, as a team, it was really a fantastic Tour de France. And last year… Of course, in sports, sometimes things work out the way you want it and sometimes it’s not meant to be but it’s still a beautiful race and the Tour will always be a goal to go for.  

Youre a Dutch leader with a Dutch team and weve seen lots of success from your country in the Tour de France Femmes. How advanced are the Netherlands when it comes to womens cycling?

Looking at international races, it’s fantastic to see different Dutch riders and teams do well and perform on the highest level. Of course, it helps grow the sport, because little boys and girls see the riders do really well and the riders stimulate each other to be at their really best. So it’s really cool to see this in different cycling disciplines. But it doesn’t mean that it will always stay like this, you have to keep on pushing and trying to stay at this level.  

Annemiek van Vleuten says she was inspired when she saw you wear the Maillot JauneWhat did it represent for you that she won the 2022 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift?

This edition will forever be something to remember, for me personally, but also as a first in the history books. Annemiek was outstanding for the whole season and I think it’s really cool to have her in this list of winners. She didn’t have the easiest week but she brought it home with panache and with her strength that we all know.  

Are you ready to welcome the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in the Netherlands?

I’m really excited! Of course, it’s gonna be exciting, but also a bit weird, to have the Tour de France at home… So I’m very curious as to what we’re gonna see in August. But I’m hoping to have a lot of Dutch fans along the course and let’s hope it’s gonna be a big festivity and a big celebration of cycling in the Netherlands.  

How well do you know the area of the first few stages?

I have done a recon with friends so we’ve seen the course but it’s not a region that I know very well. It’s not my training area or whatever. The world of cycling is more familiar with Limburg, where we also go with the Valkenburg - Liège stage. These are roads we all know with the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The first three stages will be more a showcase of the Dutch river landscape, with the windmills and all of that. It should also bring action and I hope for good racing.  

Youve attended the Tour de France as a spectator on the Alpe dHuez. What does it mean to go there to race the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift?

Alpe d’Huez is one of the most famous climbs of the Tour de France and we used to go watch the men’s race every year with my family, to cheer on the riders. To race the Tour de France was not a dream at the time, it was not a possibility. It’s really special and it feels like a privilege to race the Tour de France. I don’t know how I’ll feel about riding the Alpe d’Huez on the last stage [she laughs] but it’s definitely a fantastic finale and I also hope to see many spectators riding up the Alpe d’Huez.

A.S.O/ThomasMaheux © A.S.O/ThomasMaheux