The Spanish programme could not have started better. Did you see your victory march coming?
Vollering: “Not in that way. When I looked at the stage profile, I realised it would be three interesting days of racing because they were within my capabilities and those of the team. We only had four riders at the start, but we did a great job together. The four of us were there until very deep into the final.”
Have you had many reactions to your dominant performance?
“Certainly, probably because it is quite exceptional to win three days in a row. Although it hasn’t really sunk in for me yet. This is an achievement I can be proud of for the rest of my life.”
When did you realise you could win the general classification?
“Pretty soon it crossed my mind. In the first stage I was in a nice breakaway together with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, but we got caught again. But I didn’t panic. Niamh Fisher-Black and Anna Shackley gave a shot, and I felt the moment had come to try something. But I immediately thought: it’s a long way down, they’ll be keeping an eye on me. Fortunately, Pauliena Rooijmakers joined in. She always rides well in the attack. Behind me, my teammates did a great job of stopping. That was the basis of my final victory.”
What was your goal in Itzulia?
“I just wanted to learn to ride tactically strong and that worked out well. I tried to ride relaxed and on my gut. That didn’t always work out in the classics. I went for the stage wins, without focusing too much on the general classification. So I attacked every day. You learn little if you just stay in the peloton and the rest follows you. Together with the team I tried to play the game.”
You said explicitly to your teammates afterwards: I can only win because of you….
“That is also true. I often insist on that. I have trouble being picked out as the team leader. It does not fit our team. I don’t always feel comfortable with it and I don’t think it’s fair to the other girls. Our team consists of riders who can all win. This is the first year that I am really in a situation where people are looking at me. I still have to grow as a race captain.”
How do you look back on your victory lap in Itzulia?
“I take a lot of confidence from it for the Tour de France. This is a milestone in my learning process. Even though I won three times, I still made mistakes. In hindsight, my attack downhill was not so smart because all my teammates were still in the same group. Sometimes you are so tired, you don’t look back enough or you miss things. I still learn every day.”
What does this victory mean for your career?
“I have already made some important steps in my development. I have only been a professional for four years, which is pretty crazy. It all goes very fast. In terms of training, you can make faster steps, but you can’t force this evolution mentally, and also not in terms of race insight. I still have to grow in that, and then it’s a good thing that you can lean on experienced professionals like Anna van der Breggen, Danny Stam and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak.”
You can’t enjoy it for long, because the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria is already approaching.
“Another beautiful race, where we as a team can do well. We are eager to defend the victory of Anna van der Breggen from last year. Then it was freezing cold and rainy, now it is hot in Spain. Last year I fell at the moment Anna made the decisive move. I hope the team can go for four in a row. With Niamh, Ashleigh and Anna Shackley, we have several contenders. Another win would be the icing on the cake.”