Demi Vollering was in tears at the end of the Vuelta Femenina after narrowly missing out on the overall title in dramatic circumstances.
Needing to overturn a deficit of 1-12 to overnight race leader Annemiek van Vleuten, the SD Worx rider attacked the world champion with five kilometres left to race on the steep slopes of Lagos de Covadonga.
Vollering, the recent queen of the Ardennes Classics with three consecutive victories, managed to win the stage, with Trek-Segafredo’s Gaia Realini in second, but it wasn’t by enough to dethrone Van Vleuten who crossed the line 56 seconds behind.
It meant that even with time bonuses Van Vleuten had saved the red jersey by just nine seconds, enough to secure her the title for the third successive year, but to become the first winner of the race as a seven-stage event.
Van Vleuten crashed to the floor at the summit of the two lakes in Asturias, while nearby Vollering was caught on camera in floods of tears, aware that the drama of 24 hours before when Van Vleuten and Realini had attacked while SD Worx’s riders were having a nature break, ultimately was enough for Van Vleuten to win the title.
Through gritted teeth and obvious sadness etched on her face, Vollering - who also won stage five - said: “I’m really happy. Today was a hard day, the whole team fought really hard for it as we had something to make up for yesterday.
“Two stage victories with the team is very nice and it was close for the GC. if it was a bit different yesterday I think we would have won the GC also. It’s sad I was not able to battle yesterday with the best. I think today we showed what we are worth.”
Her Dutch compatriot Van Vleuten was exhausted after securing her 99th professional win. “I feel happy and tired,” she said. “I fought all day until the end, knowing that I didn’t have my best legs in the beginning. Maybe I was paying for yesterday’s effort, but I never gave up. I continued pushing, knowing that my rivals would also be tired.”
The thrilling conclusion to the race wraps up the first-ever seven-stage Vuelta. The two superstars of the women’s peloton will once again go head-to-head in just five days time when the three-day Itzulia Basque Country gets underway.
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