‘I don’t know how I do it’ - Demi Vollering stunned after Tourmalet victory at Tour de France Femmes

Dutchwoman lays waste to GC rivals on stage seven and takes the yellow jersey

Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky at the Tour de France Femmes
(Image credit: Getty)

Demi Vollering sits cross-legged on the floor. Cameras flash around her, lighting up her face, obscured by the mist at the summit of the Col du Tourmalet. Her look is one of bewilderment. She breathes deeply, in, out, in, out, and blows a sigh of relief into the clouds. 

“Yes!” she then shouts, and her eyes start to well up. The 2023 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is hers… almost. 

Vollering’s victory on Saturday’s seventh stage was resounding. “I was a bit nervous this morning,” she said afterwards. Going into the day, the Dutchwoman trailed her GC rival Annemiek van Vleuten by 12 seconds, after a 20-second time penalty knocked her down the overall standings. The onus was on her to attack. 

“My team kept on saying to me, ‘It doesn’t matter, you will set it all right on the Tourmalet.’ Sometimes, I said back to them, ‘I also need to do it. It’s nice that you say it, but in the end I need to do it.’ That made me a little bit nervous, but I know they were saying this because they truly believed in me.” 

The belief was not misplaced. Over the Col d’Aspin, Vollering broke away from the peloton with Van Vleuten and Canyon-Sram’s Kasia Niewiadoma. The latter led alone onto the Tourmalet, engulfed by the clouds that lay on the mountain’s slopes, but with five kilometres to go, Vollering took the baton. 

“At one point, Anna [van der Breggen, SD Worx sports director] said, ‘Ok Demi, keep drinking and make yourself ready to go.’ And then I thought, ‘Ok, I go now, because it’s a feed zone and some girls have bidons in their hands.’”

“It was so foggy there that I knew that, if I made it there fast, they could not see me anymore.” 

And off into the mist she went. The SD Worx rider passed her family on her way to the summit, waving her home to victory. "It made me emotional," she said, but it also gave her strength. The seconds she gained soon became minutes. 

Van Vleuten wouldn’t see her compatriot again until after the finish line. Breathless in the Pyrenean air, the reigning champion came in 2-34 behind, beaten by a more dominant force. “It’s obvious that Demi Vollering was on another level today,” she conceded at the summit, gracious in defeat. 

As Vollering sat in her winner’s press conference, dressed in her first yellow jersey, it was clear the same realisation was yet to dawn on her. “I don’t know how I do it,” she told the TV crews. “It’s incredible.” 

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