Those who think women’s racing isn’t aggressive didn’t see Sharon Laws attacking Marianne Vos up the Cauberg every lap of the Parkhotel Valkenburg Hill Classic. Add to that, Vos crashed, broke her collarbone, got back into the break and finished on the podium. Women’s racing gets a bad reputation for being unaggressive, but there was no passivity in Valkenberg last week and, in fact, for lack of a better term, there was nothing but balls.
Laws attacked early in the race and was maintaing a healthy solo lead until Vos bridged the gap leaving the two riders out front for the majority of the race. Perched on the side of the Cauberg, I could feel the intensity between the two riders as Laws relentlessly attacked Vos each lap as if she was using the the steep climb as a weapon. Vos only lost touch with Laws when she crashed to avoid a motorcycle in a corner but rejoined Laws shortly after only to find out later that she had broken her collarbone.
With only a few laps of the Cauberg to go, Annemiek Van Vleuten, Vos’ teammate, attacked from the main peloton for third place but Emma Pooley, Laws’ teammate, was hot on her wheel. The drama of the race reached a climax when, with one lap to go, it became clear that the race for third was now a chase for the win.
Laws and Vos were still leading on the last lap of the Cauberg but the gap between them and their chasing teammates was dwindling. As I left the Cauberg to move to the finish venue it was anybody’s guess if the leaders had been caught or what was happening on the last few technical corners of the circuit. As the leaders rounded the last corner, it was Van Vleuten out front with Vos behind her, Laws taking third, and Pooley shortly after claiming fourth.
It wasn’t surprising to see an aggressive female race, it was more a sense of satisfaction, reassurance, excitement. Physically, for Vos to ride on to the podium with a broken collarbone is no feat short of amazing. Mentally, for Laws to repeatedly attack such an accomplished rider over and over on a legendary climb like the Cauberg is a testament to the true nature of cycling, male or female.