And though it’s hard to believe that Marianne Vos never saw herself wearing a Tour de France yellow jersey, the 35-year-old rider said that for many years, that was just it: she’d never seen a woman in the yellow jersey, so she didn’t know it was an option.
“It’s true, I went to the Tour de France as a kid to watch, and yeah, of course I saw all the guys riding. But at that time there was no Tour de France for women, so for me that hadn’t been a dream. But now since we know it’s there, it’s something big. It will be very special to wear the jersey. I have it now, and it will be very special to wear it in the race.”
Vos became the second woman to don the yellow jersey in this year’s inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift after winning Monday’s stage 2 of the race. Her commanding sprint into the town of Provins meant that she took control of both green and yellow from Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) who won on Sunday in Paris.
While Vos, one of the most veteran member of the women’s peloton and certainly its winningest, never imagined herself in a yellow jersey, it didn’t stop her from racing all the way to the highest levels of sport that did exist.
The Dutchwoman has multiple world and national championships, stage wins, one-days, and Olympic medals on her palmarès.
And although Vos is not the most overtly outspoken rider in the bunch, in a way she let her racing do the talking, becoming a de facto advocate for equality in the sport.
In 2014, she became also became one in theory.
Then, Vos was one of three cyclists to sign a petition and submit it to Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France, demanding that women be allowed to race. The ASO responded by launching La Course by Le Tour de France.
Vos said she celebrated the arrival of La Course then similarly to how she celebrates the Tour now.
“Nine years ago when we were talking with the ASO about an opportunity to get the race, it went really fast to get La Course going,” she said. “When we raced it the first time on the Champs-Élysées it felt as a milestone, now to be back here, for a stage race, for a real Tour de France, where of course all the emotions of a stage race are here, that’s another milestone.
The arrival of the Tour de France Femmes owes in no doubt to Vos’ tireless work in advocating for the race while competing at the very top of the sport.
Amid her countless other victories in cycling, wearing the yellow jersey at the first Tour de France for women in over three decades could easily usher Vos into a graceful exit from the sport. But, she has no interest in packing all of her victories up and walking away.
“They say age is just a number,” she said. “I feel good and try to be the best I can. I think the most important thing is to enjoy and to be able to ride your bike every day with pleasure. Of course, health is very important but as long as I’m healthy and enjoying racing as much, with this team, we are very very motivated to work for each other and aim for a victory. That motivates me also to keep working and get the best out of myself. At this moment, I don’t think age is something that is really playing a role.
“Except for the fact that of course that some experience might help.”