'She was better' - Annemiek van Vleuten tips hat to Demi Vollering on Tour de France Femmes raid

Reigning champion concedes defeat to compatriot on Col du Tourmalet

Annemiek van Vleuten in the clouds of the col du tourmalet
(Image credit: Getty)

Annemiek van Vleuten, the reigning champion of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, will probably not win the race for a second time. 

After Saturday’s seventh and penultimate stage, the Dutchwoman sits in third on the overall standings, trailing SD Worx’s Demi Vollering by a mighty 2-34. The race blew apart on the mist-coated Col du Tourmalet, and the Movistar rider’s GC hopes began to disappear. 

“I’m here to win the Tour de France, and to come second, third or maybe fourth, to be honest, is super beautiful,” she said. “But after winning last year, you know that you only want to win, and it’s obvious that Demi Vollering was on another level today.”

Her compatriot was indeed a cut above the rest in the Pyrenees. After tagging escapee Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-Sram) with 5km to go, Vollering rose through the clouds and won by almost two minutes. 

“Of course I’m disappointed,” Van Vleuten said, “but I can also accept it, because I didn’t do anything wrong.

“I raced like I always like to race, going hard and focusing on my strengths. I had the confidence today that I could win.” 

The world champion’s first attack came on the Col d’Aspin, some 35km from the line. “For me, the goal with attacking on the Aspin was not to drop everyone there, it was more to do an effort. But maybe in the end, it was not so smart,” she explained. “For my shape today, it was not the best bet. But you never know that, and I always like to race with my heart.”

Van Vleuten then found herself alongside Vollering in the foothills of the Tourmalet, chasing the gap to Niewiadoma. “She didn’t want to ride,” the Movistar rider said. “I was like, ‘If you don’t want to ride, I also don’t ride.’ But yeah, she also had a point, she had two team-mates behind her.”

Vollering recalled a similar account of the exchange: “[Van Vleuten] said, ‘Either we ride together, or we don’t ride together and then we both lose.’ I said, ‘Ok that’s fine, I race for my team’. Luckily, my team-mates came back pretty fast. Marlen [Reusser] did a lead-out and started riding directly in front to close the gap."

While Vollering bridged across, her compatriot stayed put. Van Vleuten couldn't follow, and the steep road between them stretched longer and longer. 

“I could see my numbers went down. I didn’t have a good day,” the world champion said frankly at the summit. “Today was Aspin, Tourmalet, and she was better.”

The Tour de France Femmes will come to a close on Sunday, with a 22.6km individual time trial in Pau. 

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Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.