Demi Vollering outsprints SD Worx teammate to win Strade Bianche

Vollering defeated defending champion Lotte Kopecky in close sprint

Demi Vollering
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Demi Vollering won the 2023 Strade Bianche ahead of her teammate Lotte Kopecky in a sprint finish in the Piazza del Campo, Siena.

Rather than decide upon a winner prior to the finish, the SD Worx riders sprinted against each other having reached the finish ahead of everyone else, with Vollering coming out narrowly on top ahead of the defending champion. 

The SD Worx riders had worked together to bring back lone attacker Kristen Faulkner (Jayco-AlUla) inside the final kilometre, after Faulkner had led the race since 32km from the finish with a long-range attack. The American finished third.

Vollering attacked out of a small group of favourites just inside 20km from the finish, and was joined by Kopecky when she bridged up from the chasing group of favourites on the final gravel sector, 14km from the finish.

It wasn’t clear whether SD Worx had a specific plan for how their riders should ride the finale, or if they were left to duke it out against each other. 

“Lotte is a killer. I was a bit surprised by her reaction, that made it also very exciting I think!” said Vollering at the finish. 

Prior to the finish though, the pair had worked well together to close a gap of over a minute from Faulkner. 

“The last climb is really hard, and Lotte and I were doing very good together, so I knew that we could save a little bit for the last climb. I also knew that Lotte and me are great climbers, so I knew that we could catch her. But it was a bit exciting of course.

“It means a lot [to win Strade Bianche]. I always really, really liked this race, but I always worked for my teammates here. It was also always very early for me when I was not so strong yet, and this [her teammate] Chantal [an den Broek-Blaak] told me that I really needed to believe in this race, so I’m really thankful for her and the team, because they really gave me the confidence that I could do this, and that really helped me go into this race with a good belief.” 


Despite the rainfall earlier in the week, the race took place under blue skies and dry weather, meaning the gravel sectors that define the race were neither muddy nor dusty.

The race got off to a blistering start, with riders travelling at the fastest predicted time, and no breakaway was established.

Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo-Visma) was the first rider to gain a significant lead when she broke clear 46km from the finish, almost 100km into the race.

Swinkels was joined by Kristen Faulkner a few kilometres later, and the pair were allowed a gap of over 1-30 after the peloton settled down following a dangerous split in which Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) had to help reform.

Faulkner then dropped Swinkels 32km from the finish, and committed to try and solo all the way to the finish.

Plenty of action was happening back in the peloton, with a Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) instigating a short-lived move of seven 34km from the finish, and another group of eight forming shortly after, but all came back together while Faulkner grew her lead to almost two minutes. 

A frantic pace on Monteaperti, the sixth of the eight gravel sectors, saw the gap come back down to 1-30, but, despite appearing to be near breaking point, the favourites in the peloton remained together.

Van Vleuten made one of her typical accelerations on the penultimate gravel sector 20km, and succeeded in forming a selection of just seven riders: herself, teammate, Liane Lippert, Vollering, Kopecky, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), and Puck Pieterse Fenix-Deceuninck). 

Vollering attacked from the group at the end of the sector, managing to get a gap and forcing the others to chase. 

Vollering received a shock when a horse appeared galloping in front of her on the road, having apparently escaped from one of the nearby fields, but managed to maintain her composure and keep riding hard. 

Up ahead, Faulkner still had a gap of about 1-30 ahead of Vollering by the time she reached the final gravel sector, 14km from the finish. 

On that sector, Kopecky attacked from the chasing group, and linked up with Vollering. Ludwig came agonisingly close to joining them, but couldn’t quite bridge as the SD Worx pair worked together to set a fierce pace.

Together, Vollering and Kopecky rapidly ate into Faulkner’s lead, and had her in sight on the final climb to Piazza del Campo.

The catch was made on the steepest section of that climb, and Faulkner couldn’t hold the wheel when Vollering and Kopecky passed her.


1. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, in 3-50-35

2. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) SD Work at same time

3. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Team Jayco-AlUla at 18s

4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ-SUEZ at 2-01

5. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) at same time

6. Puck Pieterse (Ned) Fenix-Deceuninck at 2-15

7. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM Racing at 2-16

8. Liane Lippert (Ger) Movistar at 2-27

9. Riejanne Markus (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 2-36

10. Pfeiffer Georgi (GBR) DSM at 2-39

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Stephen Puddicombe is a freelance journalist for Cycling Weekly, who regularly contributes to our World Tour racing coverage with race reports, news stories, interviews and features. Outside of cycling, he also enjoys writing about film and TV - but you won't find much of that content embedded into his CW articles.