In Sierra Nevada at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters, Demi Vollering (24 years old) is starting yet another chapter in her early cycling life. It is the first time that the 24-year-old rider is on a high altitude training camp. Together with her teammate Anna van der Breggen from Team SD Worx, she travelled to the Spanish mountains immediately after Strade Bianche and will stay here for three weeks until a few days before the Tour of Flanders.
“So far it has been going well,” says Vollering. “Sometimes you hear stories about riders that are bothered by the height, but for the time being, I have no complaints. I am not bored for a moment either. I love the mountains way too much to get bored.”
Last winter, Vollering switched from Parkhotel Valkenburg to Team SD Worx. “I already feel at home with this team,” she concludes. “I am so happy that I ended up here. I really made the right choice. It is such a great team and everyone gets along well. The atmosphere was good right from the first training camp.”
Vollering notices the openness between the riders. “Everyone is working to improve themselves, but everyone is also willing to share their knowledge with others. The balance between experienced and young riders in the team is good. I have never been in such a strong team before and it is nice to see that all those champions genuinely want the best for you. Everyone pushes each other to a higher level. ”
At the first training camp in early January, Vollering had some troubles with the training level. “I hadn’t done that many endurance training sessions at home. As a result, the first days were quite tough. This was a different level from what I was used to.”
While exploring the course of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Christine Majerus came riding next to her on a cobbled zone that was slightly downhill. She warned Vollering to change the position of her hands. “With my hands on top of the bars, I can anticipate more quickly if something happens in front of me. Christine was right about that. And Jolien gave me a tip about a place that was suitable to attack. We both sprinted there during the recon. A few days later that was also exactly the place where I placed my attack in the Omloop.”
Was Vollering thinking about winning during her long solo in the Omloop? “No, I felt on the Muur van Geraardsbergen that the others were close behind me. I was mainly enjoying it. I thought this was another great step in my learning process. After all, I had never been in this position in the final of a classic with such a strong team behind me. I knew that they could play the game well behind me. That became clear when Anna van der Breggen attacked and rode to the victory. ”
Vollering enjoyed the final of the Strade Bianche even more, where Chantal Blaak won and herself ended up in a sixth place. “That place of honour doesn’t mean that much to me. It was especially nice to see how the team functioned. It was a bit more exciting than in the Omloop when we really felt that we had the race in our hands. When we turned up the cobblestone sections after sixty kilometres there was a feeling that this was our race. We didn’t even think about losing. We did not know that feeling in the Strade. When Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos drove away, we were just not in control of the race. And in the final, Anna indicated to me that she was not feeling very well. That made me very nervous, so I made a few tactical mistakes. However, the win of Chantal made the day super nice. Nobody, including Chantal, had thought upfront that she would win. That made the day even more beautiful.”
In the meantime, the team has already won five races with five different riders. Anna van der Breggen won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Chantal Blaak Strade Bianche, Jolien D’Hoore the first stage of the Healthy Aging Tour, Lonneke Uneken the third stage of this stage race and Amy Pieters in Nokere Koerse.
“I think that very few teams manage to book the first five victories with five different riders. Our plan is regularly to control the race before the final, so that other teams need to react. Then we can enter the final richly represented. Our secret is that everyone in the team can win. With such a strong block we can play several pawns. Everyone can and should win, that’s the great thing about the atmosphere in the team.”
Did Vollering already feel hat she has become stronger? “Certainly,” she says confidently. “My values also show that. But I am also getting a lot better tactically in this team. It is great how all experienced riders give advice and discuss with us how we should or should have tackled certain situations. In that way, I learn to read the competitions better. The fact that we already have so many podium places now only increases my self-confidence. ”
Photo credits: Getty Sport