Demi Vollering of Team SD Worx struck an immediate blow to her rivals in the first mountain stage at La Vuelta La Femenina. The World Tour leader dictated the speed on the final climb, before answering an acceleration by Annemiek van Vleuten with an ultimate attack. Vollering triumphed on top of Mirador de Peñas Llanas to take the red leader’s jersey from Marianna Vos as the final weekend of the Spanish Tour begins. “I was keen on this stage win,” she said.
“With Niamh Fisher-Black, Marlen Reusser and Demi Vollering, we had almost no problem having all the spearheads in the final breakaway,” said team leader Anna van der Breggen. “Behind them, our riders were able to recover with a view to the final weekend. The goal was then to start the final climb with the three of us at the front and set the pace there.”
But 35 kilometres from the end, Niamh Fisher-Black unfortunately crashed when she reached to take a water bottle from Demi Vollering and Mavi Garcia hit her front wheel. Van der Breggen concluded, “The whole situation changed because of this. The jury wanted to make barrage because the second group was getting closer, but that bunch was still more than a minute behind. They had time enough for Niamh to still connect before the cars had to be put aside. Especially since we were still riding with the cars behind Niamh for some time. Unfortunately, in a very unfortunate way, our New Zealander sees a good classification go through the nose.”
On the final climb, Demi Vollering then dictated the pace. “I tackled it like I did in the Ardennes classics,” Vollering explained. “Just riding my own pace and trying to thin out the group that way. When Van Vleuten then attacked, I still felt strong. So I decided to accelerate again myself. For a moment, I feared it was too early, but fortunately I was able to hold on until the end. This was a tough stage. I was keen on the win. Then it’s nice that I can also finish it. I am looking forward to starting in the iconic red leader’s jersey. There are still two tough stages to come, but I draw a lot of confidence from this.”
The focus of La Vuelta Femenina now turns to the final weekend. “Thanks to her strong spring, Demi has a lot of confidence. She has taken a step,” Van der Breggen continued. “Everyone is watching her and then she finishes it herself on the climbs. That’s definitely very nice. With the leader’s jersey comes extra responsibility for the team. The final weekend will be all-important. We need to come through tomorrow well and there might be a great opportunity for Elena Cecchini and Blanka Vas. The final climb of the Vuelta will be decisive. There you can take or lose a lot of time, because it is a really tough climb with steep gradients.”
“The overall win is the goal,” adds Vollering. “I still feel good. The last stage will be decisive. It is the first time this season that we will have such a tough climb in front of our wheels. That always gives a certain tension. I hope I can defend the red leader’s jersey over the next two days.”