The thatched house built by Marianne Voss, 35, in the Brabant village of Babyloniënbroek is somewhat hidden at the end of a dead end street. The front door is hard to find, the name and number plate are missing. “We don’t necessarily have to stand out,” says her mother, Connie. “We get enough attention anyway,” Father Henk says. “As long as the delivery man knows where we live,” Brother Anton says.
The Voss family – Connie, Henk, Anton, and Marianne – lived together in a separate house for two years. “Until Marianne moved in with Monique in 2017,” says Brother Anton.
Moniek is Moniek Tenniglo, the 34-year-old road cyclist that Voss fell in love with when they rode together for Team Rabo-Liv. Anton calls her “good lively”. Their relationship has changed his sister. “Having ice cream with Moniek can make her so happy. She goes out regularly to food and clothing stores. Moniek has good taste and this is reflected in Marianne’s clothing style. Her pants and tops are now identical.”
Marianne and Monique had been talking for a little over a year when Henk, Connie, and Anton heard about their relationship. One day at breakfast she asked her father, “What do you think if I moved in with Monique?” Now for the first time in her life she lives far outside of her native region, at Bourne in Twente, about a two-hour drive from Babyloniënbroek. “It took a while to get used to it,” Henk says. “But I was fine with that.”
Last July, years after they moved in together, Voss spoke publicly about their relationship for the first time. After winning the first stage at the Tour Femmes, she thanked her friend as well as her family. Anton says her family – who has been on the finish line across Europe since her childhood – is considered loyal. “But Monique just as much. Marianne thought it was time because she also got the credits. And where better to do that than on the top of a podium: the Tour de France?”
When one of the biggest names in the cycling world talks about her friend, it’s news. A letter appeared in Queer Lifestyle magazine under the headline “Exit” winq. But Voss has no ambitions to be a figurehead for young lesbians. “She wouldn’t let it go,” says Gregory Vandami, who’s been a friend of hers for twenty years. Tenniglo doesn’t seem to feel much for such a role; She did not respond to a request for an interview.
Did Foss wait too long to talk about her relationship because it’s a woman? It may be, says former classmate Roxanne Knitman, because of her faith. Voss was raised in the Dutch Reformed Church. She does not often go to church, but prays before dinner, even in the team. Knetemann: “She probably had a picture in her head of how she ought to be.”
But more important, Knitman believes, is that Marianne and Monique find it difficult to advertise their private lives. “I think she was afraid it was going too far,” Vandami says. “This partner is the one who chooses you, not all the attention. You wouldn’t do it differently with a man.”
The most important thing, according to childhood friend Vandami, is not that Voss “goes out”, but that she dares to have a serious relationship at all. “She let someone in. She used to be a lot more closed off.”
Father Henk says that because of the stable relationship that Voss has always longed for, it radiates. “She has also become more open. She was able to be away from home for two weeks and not say anything. Now she sends an app, photo or gift almost every day.”
Marianne Voss lives, as Vandamy calls her, her “career 2.0”. She looks visibly comfortable on her skin and is having a great year as a cyclist. In July, as the points classification leader, she won the green jersey at her first Tour de France, an event for which she has lobbied for nearly a decade. At the beginning of this year she won the world title of cyclocross for the eighth time.
Voss will be at the start of the World Cup in Australia next week, sixteen years after she won her first world road champion in 2006. At the time, she was still in Athens in Walwick, where her crazy cycling geography teacher organized the tours. That year she also became the world champion in cyclocross.
Since then, Voss has won everything there is to win, with Olympic gold in 2012, on the road in London. But in 2015, such success, even for her, was not self-evident. Voss has overtrained, which is “athlete fatigue.” There has been speculation about her retirement from the sport.
“It was torn down, it was tropical years,” Father Henk says. “And Marianne has a problem that she can’t say ‘no’.”
Mother Connie: „It started with small illnesses. Pain in her lower back and leg.”
Anton: The doctor said she was not allowed to race for six months. Otherwise, it will be done.”
Her father says that Voss spent a lot of time at Marktplaats during that break. They had just moved home in Babyloniënbroek and walked around town and country together to buy new things. She also bought a motorcycle and passed its theory test. I did everything to fill the void.”
It must have been very difficult for her, says Jeroen Blelevins, former athletic director. “She was the Olympic and world champion. Suddenly she was in a deep depression, not knowing if she would come back. I think she succeeded is the greatest achievement of her career.”
Marianne Voss has been cycling since the age of five and will soon be participating in her first competitions. You learn the tricks of the trade from Big Brother Anton. But unlike her brother, she is “a drive in everything she does,” says her mother. She is so bad at losing her that everyone around her has a tale about it.
“I see her kicking another row of trash cans,” says Henry Manders, a family friend, who helped the family with cycling equipment after Father Henk’s construction company went bankrupt in the mid-1980s. This reaction occurred when she drove her first race at the age of 17, coming in second behind Daphne van den Brand. “She was so angry she didn’t win. Then I knew: This is the new French cycling legend Jenny Longo.
Roxanne Knitman met Voss at the Dutch Youth National Championship, when they were both 14 years old. Knetemann, who had just started cycling, was surprisingly fourth. The third fox. “My father did the tribute. But Marianne was nowhere to be seen. She was angry that she came in third. What a strange girl, I thought.” A little later, once it cooled off, Voss reported back. “I spoke very kindly and apologized.” This sets it apart, too, Knitman says. “My dad said you unfortunately lose more than you win in cycling, but that symbolized her that she was very disappointed with this third place.”
“In the early days everything was easy going,” says former athletic director Blijlevens. “We made a plan and I implemented it.”
Because of her physical attributes, Knitman says. But perhaps more so because of its tactical vision. “A real great mathematical intelligence who learns why you lost the last time. Marianne is so good at it.”
absence of security
But winning on the bike wasn’t an antidote to her insecurities. Father Henk tells us there were two Marianne’s. “The quiet, reclusive girl whose classmates didn’t know she was riding a bike. And that fiercely fanatical athlete who wanted to be better than the rest.”
against a daily newspaper the press Voss said in 2011 that she couldn’t see herself on TV. “I don’t consider myself very attractive. And I can’t hear my voice. When my parents watch an interview with me, I walk out of the room. I don’t want to see what the outside world sees. That senseless peasant girl: awful.”
As much as she is on herself, she is kind to others. When her brother fell into psychosis in 2007 – according to himself because he couldn’t handle the massive media interest in his sister – Voss helped him build a career as a cycling photographer in the following years. “If you see where it is now, 90% of it is because of Marianne,” Blijlevens says.
“She really doesn’t feel any better than anyone else,” Knitman says. I think it also has to do with her religion. She respects every rider in the peloton.” But she thinks that humility is also a weakness of the bike.” Because Marianne didn’t really show leadership at the crucial moments. At first she did not dare to put anyone before herself.”
Although Vos doesn’t like the spotlight, she’s been doing whatever they’ve been asked to do for years. It’s not so bad to take a picture with a fan, always promise to give an interview. “Everything was Marian Voss in those days,” Blijlevens says. “We sometimes started saying ‘no’ to her.” Because that’s her biggest problem, he also says: She can’t say “no.”
She is also limitless on the bike. She is hardly resting and wants to excel in everything. To become a better climber, not her strength, she loses her pounds. “She was really on the weight limit,” Vandami says. “I kept going farther, farther, farther. And then I physically shattered.”
From her friend — with whom she trains almost daily near their house — Foss learned better to choose her moments on the bike, Vandami says. “Monique is a very good puzzler.” Voss could learn from that. Marianne now dares to appear on the group on mountain days, instead of completely snatching herself for 10th place. She also “dare” to say “no” a lot, he sees.
Getting more rest is what Voss is also working on with her coach, Louis Delahig, who she’s hiring to emulate anime contestant Van Vleuten. He teaches her to “stop before she hits the wall” to regain confidence in her body after she’s overtrained. “It’s actually very simple.” But that also has something to do with Vos’ traits, he says. “The top is widening, and I think it’s great that it’s still at the top.” Poetry signature dish Crucial: Blast at the end of the game. “No one can do it like them.”
Knitman sees it as “taking the lead and making decisions” more on the bike lately, although she believes there is still room for improvement. “She can do a better job in her team, and then there is a common interest. But last year in the World Cup she could not attract the jockeys to her side. Then she came in second. In fact, she has to hit the table with her fist.”
Voss has come to appreciate her victories, though less so than before, says former sporting director Blijlevens. “Everything worked before, but she couldn’t enjoy it properly.”
Outside Babyloniënbroek, Brother Anton and Father Henk appear in a secret shed. Prizes, numbers, licenses and rainbow jerseys stacked in a row. “Marianne doesn’t want anything of her own on the wall,” says Henk, “but since her relapse, she loves what we’re doing here. She’s more aware of what she’s achieved.”