Words || Gary J Boulanger Photo || Rob Ijbema/Painting the Tour
Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos looks like someone's 8th grade babysitter, a tomboy uncomfortable wearing a dress and more suited to climbing a tree to jump off the garage. But Vos (Dutch for fox) is no tomboy; on the contrary. The 25-year-old, winner of the recent Tour of Flanders, is a voracious champion: current Olympic road champ, current world cyclocross champion, and a threat in every discipline she enters. Her trophy room is actually a small house, and if her winning ways continue at this pace, she may need to hire an architect to blow out the walls and raise the roof by year's end.
Heaven help her competitors.
1. Vos is a six-time world champion in cyclocross, slaying the field in Louisville this past February with such grace and aplomb one almost felt bad for the rest of the field. She won the first pro mountain bike race she entered in Cyprus last month, as a warm-up for her road season.
2. The former speedskater, who began cycling at six, but wasn't allowed to compete until she was eight, switched to mountain bikes at age 14. In 2002 she became Dutch mountain biking champion and won the national junior road race. Two years later, she was junior world champion on the road.
3. She's won the Giro d'Italia Femminile twice (2011, 2012), taking 10 stages, plus the points and mountain classifications in 2011.
4. Her tough-as-nails demeanor in the saddle has bared much fruit: La Flèche Wallonne Féminine winner in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. She's also an Olympic and world champion on the track, in the points race.
5. Vos was on form in early 2012, ticking off victories in the Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Alfredo Binda, but a collision with a motorcycle during the Valkenburg Hills Classic left her with a fractured collarbone in late May. She still finished 2nd, and declined surgery. Her monstrous appetite for victory was satiated when she won five stages and the overall at the Giro Donne, setting her up for victory three weeks later in London. The final nail in the coffin for the peloton was Vos's world road race victory in Valkenburg, where she piloted her Giant onto the top podium spot for gold, breaking her streak of five consecutive second places.