2min reading time   by Marianne Vos on 25 June 2021
It has to be virgin white, the white of a cyclist's rainbow jersey (sometimes even blessed). When I became a junior world champion in 2004 in Verona and was awarded the rainbow jersey, I first of all took a good look at the colours of the 'rainbow' in the middle. The blue, red, black, yellow and green order has remained with me ever since.

I'M NOT ONE FOR FUSS AND BOTHER AND DON'T CARE MUCH ABOUT COLOUR, BUT THE RAINBOW JERSEY DOES HAVE A CERTAIN MAGIC FOR A CYCLIST. Every time the freshly cleaned jersey is hung out to dry, I recall that moment of pure joy at the finishing line during that certain world championships event. Even if you don't feel like working out in the morning, the jersey will give you the motivation you need to push yourself harder again. When the new world championships are on the horizon, you look at them from a different angle anyway. You then know that another battle for the world title is about to begin and that the jersey may well change hands again. All the more reason to go the extra mile!

As world champion you get to wear the rainbow jersey with pride for a whole year and you want to do it in the right way. It doesn't matter to me if the outfit is already covered in mud a minute after the start of a cyclocross race. Once it's all over, there's not much of the white left to see anyway, nature has left its marks on you, your bike and your clothes. The mechanic hoses down the bike and you wash your body before stepping into the shower. An entire behind-the-scenes process has to get underway to make sure that the clothes are clean again. The really heavy dirt first has to be removed with a high-pressure water spray or using a bucket of water, and then everything has to be soaked in a bath to prevent the mud from drying out. Then the clothes have to be separated (whites with whites, dark separate) and hope that the washing machine does its job and the clothes come out shining again.

The beauty of cyclocross is measured in terms of the suffering under all circumstances. Defying the elements, fighting the competition and yourself. In my opinion, cyclocross offers everything that makes sports so tremendously enjoyable for athletes and supporters alike: it's all about the ideal combination of physicality, technique, tactics and mental strength. Knowing this makes it hard to understand why it's still not the most world's most popular sport. So, it may now only be a matter of time before this undiscovered treasure conquers the world!

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