An emotional Marianne Vos stood atop the Tour de France podium, fighting back tears as she waited to receive her yellow jersey.
She exhaled deeply as the crowd gave her the applause the GOAT, the greatest of all time, deserves. “Merci, merci” she mouthed humbly.
We witnessed an historic moment today, one we’d been wanting for a long, long time: the greatest cyclist of all time in an official Tour de France Yellow Jersey.
Official is the key word here as several attempts at a Tour de France for women have taken place over the years but none managed to survive without the financial support or recognition that comes with being held in conjunction with the men’s Tour de France.
The last time a woman stood where she stood today, on the top step of an official Tour de France podium, wearing an official Maillot Jaune, Vos was just two years old.
“I went to the Tour de France as a kid. At that time there was no Tour de France for women so for me the yellow jersey was never a dream. But since we know it's there, of course, then it becomes something big,” Vos said.
In those 33 years that have since passed, we’ve seen Vos enter the cycling world at the tender age of six and develop into the winningest cyclist the cycling world has ever seen. Dominant in cyclocross, track and road cycling, Vos has amassed a trophy collection unlike any other.
Two Olympic gold medals, three road world championship titles, eight cyclocross world champion titles, four national road race titles and two national time trial titles, Spring Classics and stage races. There are few races Marianne Vos hasn’t won throughout her 16-year professional career. More than 241 professional victories on the road alone. So today was extra special for the 35-year-old Dutchwoman as the yellow Tour de France jersey had eluded her — and women’s cycling as a whole — all this time.
Every pinnacle of the sport, she’s conquered. Just imagine if this women’s Tour de France hadn’t happened when it did. What if it happened just a little late. Imagine the void there would have been in the museum of her career, which her father, Henk, is actively curating.
Henk, who together with his wife Conny, and son Anton have travelled the world over, race after race, year after year, supporting Marianne in her incredible career. Here in Provins, they awaited their superstar at the finish line, and tears ran freely as they embraced.
“It's special to share a moment with people close to you. And I also know that even when my girlfriend is not here, she's also supporting from the side. Even if they're not at the race, they’re with their hearts at the race, but it's of course really cool that they were here at the finish line to enjoy and celebrate with me,” said Vos.
Perhaps an indicator of just how meaningful this event is to the women’s peloton, Vos not only showed a rare display of emotion, she gave an even more rare insight into her private life, by referencing her girlfriend and fellow cyclist Moniek Tenninglo, for a first time.
The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is a big deal, Vos agreed. It’s a progress.
Eight years ago, Vos was one of four women who led a petition calling on the Tour de France organizers, the ASO, to create a women’s event. The petition gathered 97,307 signatures and ASO introduced La Course, a one-day women's race in conjunction with the men's Tour
"When nine years ago we were talking with the ASO about an opportunity to get to race, it went really fast to get La Course going and when we raced then the first time on the Champs-Élysées as a mild milestone. And now to be here back for a stage race, for a real Tour de France, that’s another milestone. It’s incredible to be here.”
She even went so far to say that of her 241 road victories, ‘for now [this win, this jersey]' is definitely the best” and without it, she would never have been able to retire, she half-joked.
Not that she had any plans to stop, mind you.
“They say age is just a number. I think the most important thing is to enjoy and be able to ride your bike every day with pleasure. As long as I'm healthy and enjoying racing as much, with this team we are very motivated to work for each other and to aim for a victory so that motivates me also to keep working and to get the best out of myself."
"At the moment I don’t think age is something that really played a role, except the fact that some experience might help, especially if you're racing a final," she said.
For now, Vos said she's going to enjoy the Yellow Jersey and is prepared to "suffer tomorrow" in order to keep it.
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