The Rabobank 7-Dorpenomloop Aalburg was never a name that tripped lightly from non-Dutch-speaking tongues (although even a smattering of the language makes it easy to understand what it means, and what the race is like: Rabobank’s Circuit of Seven Villages and Aalburg) which may be one of the reasons that organisers decided to rename it the Marianne Vos Classic, after the Netherlands’ (and, many would say, the world’s) greatest professional cyclist who lives in one of the seven villages through which the race passes.
Marianne, unusually for any rider who seems to have won everything and continues to do so, is enormously popular among her fellow riders who respect her for her for the work she does for their sport and her famous niceness, as well because she’s as good at riding her bike as she is. You might think, then, that the peloton would give her an easy time of it and allow her a ceremonial victory in a race held in her honour – but oh no. Women’s cycling doesn’t work like that and if it did Vos, who is well-known for her love of a challenge, probably wouldn’t take part. She had to work for victory, fighting to come out on top as five riders including arch-rival Emma Johansson hammered their machines to the finish line, and another 21 strong competitors were only 3″ further back.
For a short while, it looked as though the race might not end with a bunch sprint when Giant-Shimano’s Claudia Hausler managed to get up the road, and had anyone have joined forces with her the break might have stuck. They did not, however, and once she was back in the pack the teams prepared themselves of what they now knew was inevitable.
“A sprint never makes victory certain, but today we had no alternative – attempts to break the pack up turned out not to be feasible and on the last laps we knew it’d end in a sprint,” Vos explained. “The team had kept me at the front and Anna Knauer got me where I needed to be. During the final corner I went for it, and I won this event for a sixth time.”
Hausler’s British team mate Lucy Garner seemed more surprised than anyone else that she managed to hang on and take second place, a superb performance by the Leicestershire-born 19-year-old. “It’s still my dream to someday beat Marianne in a head-to-head duel, but today there was no question of it,” she said. “After the last turn, she went and was three bike lengths ahead. But then – second behind Vos isn’t too bad!”
1 Marianne VOS (Rabo-Liv) 2h54’45”
2 Lucy GARNER (Giant-Shimano) ST
3 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) ST
4 Sara MUSTONEN (Giant-Shimano) ST
5 Kim DE BAAT (Parkhotel Valkenburg CT) ST
6 Susanna ZORZI (Astana-BePink) ST
7 Nina KESSLER (Boels-Dolmans) +03″
8 Alice Maria ARZUFFI (Astana-BePink) ST
9 Vera KOEDOODER (Bigla) ST
10 Lotte VAN HOEK (Netherlands NT) ST