Marianne Vos must have felt a sense of déjà vu in Leuven as a silver medal was placed around her neck and a rainbow jersey was zipped around its periphery. For a rider virtually synonymous with victory, her number of finalists in the elite World Championship road races now stands at six.
In addition, the rainbow bands to his left again replaced a maglia azzurra. After Marta Bastianelli in 2007, Tatiana Guderzo in 2009 and Giorgia Bronzini in 2010 and 2011, Elisa Balsamo ensured that Vos was refused the gold medal by an Italian on five of these six occasions.
“Italy are always a dedicated and strong team at the World Championships so I knew they were going to be the team to watch,” Vos said.
“Before this world championship, I told a lot of people that Elisa was one of the favorites for the race. I already knew. This spring, I saw her run at the Flèche Brabançonne and she did very well. She is still good in Flanders. She is a sprinter who can survive on the most difficult circuits.
Vos had been touted as a big favorite for what would have been a fourth elite road racing world title, following triumphs in Salzburg 2006, Valkenburg 2012 and Florence 2013, with five of her silver medals coming in the middle. of these. two first gold medals.
She missed the opportunity to equalize Yvonne Reynders on four world titles, one short of Jeannie Longo’s record five, but had to settle for a record ninth medal.
“Of course I have to admit that at first I was really disappointed. If you’re that close to gold, then obviously I would have liked to finish. But now the smile is back, ”Vos said at his press conference.
“But Elisa had a great race. When she opened the sprint I couldn’t seem to accelerate and really felt like it was going to be really hard. Then the money was all I could do. I am also happy with the form I am in and the silver medal I could win in this race.
Vos took a step back for much of the race as her Dutch teammates took turns attacking. Nothing managed to emerge and it became clear that his card would be played well in a collective sprint as a large group neared the end of the last of Leuven’s laps.
“With the team, we all wanted to have a tough race and we wanted to create opportunities for the riders in the early breaks,” explained Vos. “If that didn’t work, then attack in the final to tire everyone out and keep me as fresh as possible until the finish.
” It went well. We have never really been out of action. Elisa was just faster on the line, so you have to settle for the money.
However, there were once again question marks over the Dutch as a collective, as Italy took over in the last mile and ended up splitting the field as Balsamo secured the perfect lead. Vos was aware of the threat and jumped on the Balsamo wheel, but Ellen van Dijk admitted the team made a mistake on the exit and simply didn’t have enough numbers left.
“Yeah, maybe,” Vos said, “but it was also good to have the hard race to tire some of the sprinters – so that was part of the plan as well.
“I did not lose the race in the lead. I lost him when I couldn’t beat Elisa Balsamo on the line. We never know. With all the energy that goes through the race, you never know in the end where you could have saved more. At that point, I could cross and be on the right wheel.
Vos concluded by paying tribute to her teammate Anna van der Breggen, herself a two-time world champion, who was racing for the last time in Flanders. Vos, 34, watched Van der Breggen turn pro and now, after the two have had so many big wins between them, he finds it odd to say goodbye to him.
“She is a great champion but also a great person. It’s weird to speak in retrospect, but she’s always been very dedicated and so relaxed, and that’s a good balance. She had to be who she is and never quite acted like the queen of cycling, even though she was in the last few years.
“Anna has always been Anna and she will remain Anna. We have had a great champion and a great role model for cycling.