Demi Vollering aims for yellow at the first Tour de France Femmes, but does not feel pressure of being a leader

SD-Worx's Dutch sensation says she is looking forward to the "brutal" last two stages of the Tour

Demi Vollering
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For another rider, filling the gargantuan gap left by the retirement of Anna van der Breggen at SD Worx would be a big ask. Not so for Demi Vollering.

Filling the shoes of Van der Breggen, twice world champion, four-time Giro d'Italia Donne winner, seems to be natural for the Dutchwoman. This year, she is aiming to be the first winner of the Tour de France Femmes.

Asked how she was dealing with filling the void left by her former teammate, the 25-year old said that she did not feel too much pressure, and saw comparisons between her and the seven-time Flèche Wallonne winner as a "big compliment".

"I don't feel so much pressure," Vollering told the media at SD-Worx's press day on Wednesday. "I see this a big compliment that people see me as the new Anna. But on the other hand, I think I'm a different person and do things differently on my way. 

"I really want to become like her of course, because she's a great person. She always was a great rider. So if I can be a little bit like her then it will be really nice, but I don't feel much pressure."

2022 is a big year for the women's peloton. The inaugural Tour de France Femmes will be the first time the current bunch will be challenging for a yellow jersey, save for veterans such as Marianne Vos who raced the Grande Boucle Féminine Internationale before it ceased to be following the 2009 edition. 

Vollering was clear that she was aiming for the top of the general classification, that it is something she really wants.

It will demand a step up from the Dutch rider, who has only won one stage race before, the 2021's Women's Tour, which featured nothing like the parcours she will face in the east of France in July.

However, Vollering thinks she is ready to tackle it. Having moved to Switzerland in the off-season, she lives close to the mountains which will feature in the final two stages, especially La Planche des Belles Filles.

"I think we are all super excited for the Tour," she explained. "I already really like the last two stages. It's really hard, I think, really brutal, but I'm looking forward to the last two, already a lot... It is only 50km from our home in Switzerland to La Planche des Belles Filles so I know that area a bit.

"I really like hard races and those last two stages are really really hard. And I like climbing a lot. I think I can do great there. I showed it already in Spain and also in the Giro that I can manage pretty good on the longer climbs. 

"So if I train this year a little bit more for that, then I hope that I can be even better also on the longer climbs. It's also still a little bit new for me because we don't have many races with such long uphills, but I always like it."

2021 was Vollering's first year at WorldTour level, and she slotted in comfortably, winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Course; if she has continued to improve, then it is not too much of a stretch to see her pulling on the yellow jersey.

The competition will be fierce at the race, with riders including Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) all having their eyes on their first maillot jaune. Van Vleuten in particular will be the marked woman, with her multiple WorldTour stage race wins and all-round talent.

Asked how she was aiming to tackle her competitiors, Vollering laughed “it is still a secret, of course". She continued: "But we have a really strong team and that is an advantage. In the end, it’s just … we need to ride as fast as we can. I hope that I can be a little bit stronger than Annemiek. I don’t know, we still need to find out how we will do that. I’m looking forward to the battles.”

The first Tour Femmes is more than just an opportunity to win for the Dutchwoman, however. She explained that it is really important for the future of the sport.

"I'm really looking forward to that race because I think it's it's special," Vollering said. "The Tour is important for women's cycling... I think we can inspire a lot of women cyclists by showing us in the Tour and showing really nice races. I think it's really important that there is a Tour again. 

"For the next generation, it's important that we get more riders into the women's peloton. So I think it's really good that we have a Tour, with such media [attention] on it."

Asked what it would mean for her to pull on the famous jersey, she explained: "If I win the yellow jersey, I would really like to inspire young girls to step on a bike and ride or race, go outside, for me, that is important to motivate and inspire people to go outside and enjoy nature, ride their bikes. 

"Eventually, I hope that more young girls step into bike racing. I hope I can do this by winning the yellow jersey, to inspire a lot of people, and that I can show that cycling is a beautiful sport. That, for me, is important."

Vollering is the perfect ambassador for the sport, an excellent cyclist who is at home on all terrain and who is willing to grow. SD Worx seems like a great home for her, and she has just signed a three-year contract extension with the Dutch team, which they hope will cement their position at the top of women's cycling.

Alongside her, the team's roster includes such stars as Lotte Kopecky, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. This is where SD-Worx's strength comes from, Vollering said.

"It's always so cool from our team, that everybody can win," she explained. "It doesn't matter who from the team it is, the only thing that matters is that it is our team that wins. I think you'll see that."

Kopecky joined from Liv Racing for this year, and Vollering thinks that they can find a good balance when racing together, especially in the classics, which will be her first target this year, especially those in the Ardennes.

"I think we will find a natural and a good balance," she said. "I think we are maybe a little bit the same type of rider. So I think we can have a lot of advantages from this. If I'm out in a race and Lotte can say 'no Demi is out, so I do nothing'. And I can say in the front, 'I also do nothing because Lotte is behind me.'"

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1