Demi Vollering on trying to close the gap to Annemiek van Vleuten, targeting the Tour de France Femmes

The Dutch rider admits that she was initially 'disappointed' the 2023 Tour de France Femmes route but now she's looking forward to discovering it.

Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

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Demi Vollering believes that next year may be too early for her to completely close the gap between herself and Annemiek van Vleuten at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, but she’s not writing it off just yet.

Vollering was by far the closest rider to Van Vleuten in the inaugural edition of the race in July this year, though she still couldn’t get anywhere near the flying Movistar rider and had to settle for second place.

The two riders are in very different places in their careers, with Vollering still finding her feet in the early stages of her time as a pro cyclist, while Van Vleuten is set to retire at the end of next season. Vollering believes that she bring herself nearer to Van Vleuten by summer of 2023, but is not sure if she can make the leap completely.

Anything is possible in cycling and Vollering is just focusing on what she can control.

“For next year, maybe still a bit too early? I mean, I know I can still improve a lot, but also I need some years. I think if she would continue one year more then maybe I’ll take a chance but I don’t know,” Vollering told VeloNews. “You also don’t know of course how Annemiek will go next year so the only thing I can do is make sure that I’m in my best shape there and that my training is good. Also, I don’t want to overthink too much and go too crazy, because yeah, that’s also a dangerous part.”

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Vollering finished at 3:48 behind Van Vleuten, having lost most of that time on the penultimate stage after initially being able to go with her when she launched a stinging attack. She only lost 30 seconds on the final day and rode into the polka-dot jersey of the mountains classification.

“I knew I was on my best form there. I was really good mentally in that race, but also I was really the strongest I ever was. So I have nothing to regret,” she said. “I knew that this was my best race I ever rode. I can be really proud of that race, and this was the best result that I could do. There was only one better which is also something cool to realize that I was kind of the best of the rest. And the polka dot jersey was kind of a crown on the Tour de France.”

The return of the Tour de France to the women’s calendar was a momentous occasion for riders and fans alike. As it has been with the men’s race, the event attracted more attention than any other race on the calendar with huge TV audiences, a big media presence, and thousands of spectators lining the road.

Vollering tried to shut as much of it out as she could in the build-up to and during the race by leaving her cell to one side. It was only after the race had happened that she truly realized how big it had been.

“The Tour was a really nice experience. We did not really know what to expect from it and I felt already that it would be big because every interview already from the year before was always about the Tour,” she said. “I knew everybody was really interested in that and yeah, but still, there’s always a bit okay, will it really be like this? The first day that we arrived there and you really felt it is big and a lot of people have attention for that. So that was really cool to get to feel that and to experience that.

“It was really something that we needed. It felt like we deserved this kind of attention. During the Tour, I was not really thinking about all this attention and also not really feeling this. But then after the Tour I opened my phone and saw all the media and all the news. And then you realize that there was a lot of attention. During the tour, I tried to not check my phone so much and do not sit too much on social media so that I was really focused on the race. But yeah, after the Tour, I saw those things.”

Next year’s Tour de France Femmes route is a very different prospect for the riders with a start in Clermont Ferrand instead of Paris, and a finishing weekend that includes a trip up the Tourmalet and a time trial in Pau.

On the face of it, the route looks slightly easier than this year’s inaugural gambit, but there are plenty of places that a GC rider can trip up. Vollering has taken time to warm up to the route, but it is growing on her as time passes.

“In the beginning, when I saw the course, I was a bit kind of bit disappointed, because I thought it was not so hilly. But then in the end, I saw the altitude meters and then think it must be hilly,” she said. “I also would really like to go on a recon there sometime and then then you can really see it and feel it. Last year was the best I could wish for because it was close to my home, and I did ride already a few times in the mountains there so that was almost a dream coming true. And it cannot be better than that, of course.

“I think it was normal that, in the beginning, I was a bit disappointed. [My friend said] ‘I think you will grow into it. If you go there and you start your training for the Tour de France then the butterflies will come back for this race and then you will it’s again a really cool race.’”

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