Demi Vollering clipped off the front of the lead group with 10km to go to take the win at Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, ensuring SD Worx's continued dominance this year.
The Dutchwoman took advantage of the last proper climb of the day, the Nokere, to fly away from an elite group. Just like four days ago at Gent-Wevelgem, the chasing group failed to organise themselves to drag and SD Worx rider back.
Behind, last year's winner Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) won the reduced bunch sprint, with Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) coming third.
It was a day full of relentless attacks, as the peloton was cut down to just leaders with a couple of domestiques from quite early on, which led to the door being open to Vollering's attack with 9.7km to go.
As always, Dwars proved an explosive race throughout, with attack after attack coming from the likes of Vos and Floortje Mackaij (Movistar) throughout, although they proved fruitless.
Vollering benefited from her teammate and Gent-Wevelgem winner, Marlen Reusser, being up the road for 30km, which meant she could follow wheels without putting in too much effort early on.
"The team did a really good job today," Vollering said. "Because they did so good, we were always in front, and that meant I could save a bit, and control it. Because I did this, I had some energy left over in the final, and took my moment and went all in for it."
The victory sets up this weekend's Tour of Flanders really well for SD Worx, who now have three clear options in Reusser, Vollering and defending champion Lotte Kopecky. Also, it was good to see Vos back and in form as Paris-Roubaix looms closer.
How it happened
With Dwars door Vlaanderen being such a short, hard race, it was always going to be difficult for a proper break to establish itself on the roads around Waregem. Many teams were clearly using it as a final warm up ahead of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
It was not until the first ascent of the Kanarieberg that splits started to occur, with the winner of Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) almost moving off the front with 67km to go.
It was not the decisive move, with the day’s break coming a few kilometres later. With just 60km of the day to go, Victoire Berteau (Cofidis) and Francesca Barale (DSM), punched off the front of the peloton, soon to be joined by Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez) and Eva Van Agt (Jumbo-Visma).
Van Agt did not last long in the leading group, dropping back as Uttrup Ludwig put the pressure on.
The next move came on the Knokteberg, with Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) powering away in just her second race of 2023, before she was joined by Reusser, with 48km to go. The repeated accelerations soon meant Barale was put out the back.
Soon, the front group was an elite selection: Vos, Uttrup Ludwig and Reusser, with Berteau hanging on as the race crossed the top of the Ladeuze.
Behind, a very select peloton was all that was left, made up of Demi Vollering (SD Worx), Évita Muzic (FDJ Suez), Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo), Van Agt, Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij (both Movistar), Juliette Labous, and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step).
However, this was swept up by a group behind, meaning there were more representatives of other teams, including Elisa Longo Borghini and Lucinda Brand (both Trek-Segafredo). Last year’s winner, Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) was also in this reduced peloton of 24. The gap stood at 24 seconds to the leading quartet with 35km to go.
On the cobbled section of Doorn, Reusser and Vos both went clear, with Uttrup Ludwig and Berteau distanced. Behind them, a group of five chased: Lippert, Mackaij, Vollering, Moolman Pasio and Van Anrooij, but they were caught again by the mini peloton behind. The gap grew to 30 seconds with 24km to go.
With 22km to go, Mackaij decided to go alone, attacking off the front, as the time between the leading duo and the chasers was brought down to just 14 seconds. While the peloton could not organise themselves, individual riders took on the challenge of chasing down Vos and Reusser.
The Dutch rider was joined by Lippert and Vollering, another elite group moving clear on the Nokereberg. However, once again, this move was once again shut down, this time by Trek and Van Anrooij. Whether the win would go to the pair up front or to someone from the reduced peloton was very much in the balance, with the gap just down to 10 seconds with 17km to go.
Vos and Reusser, having been away for 30km together, were finally caught by the reduced bunch, with less than 30 riders still standing. Van Anrooij put the power down, but failed to make a split.
The next rider off the front was Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx), but it was not to last, with Karin Soderqvist (Lifeplus-Wahoo) trying something, and then Mackaij following. The Dutchwoman actually created space between her and the chasing group, as they crossed the peloton for the first time, joined by Van Agt. Once again, it came to nothing.
The attacks were relentless, but up to 10km to go, nothing stuck. In the group of 22 riders, moves kept coming off the front. Around this point, Bredewold, Mackaij and Longo Borghini were all trying to make something happen.
Vollering attempted to make the decisive move with 9.7km on the Nokere for the final time. The group were all strung out, but it might have all still been in vain. Three kilometres later, the Dutchwoman had just 10 seconds of an advantage over a slimmed-down chasing group of 10.
Vollering’s advantage was growing, so with 5km to go, first Lippert, then Vos went off the front, but the leading woman had 25 seconds.
It was clear by the dying kilometres that Vollering would win the race, her 14th of her professional career, and the second of this season after Strade Bianche. It means that SD Worx already have eight wins this season.
The small bunch sprint was won by Consonni, last year’s winner, with Vos coming in third.
Results: Dwaars door Vlaanderen 2023 (114.9km)
1. Demi Vollering (Ned) SD Worx, in 2-53-04
2. Chiara Consonni (Ita) UAE Team ADQ, at 38s
3. Marianne Vos (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
4. Vittoria Guazzini (Ita) FDJ-Suez
5. Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Aus) Jayco-AlUla
6. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Movistar
7. Marlen Reusser (Sui) SD Worx
8. Liane Lippert (Movistar)
9. Shirin van Anrooij (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
10. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (RSA) AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step, all at same time
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