Demi Vollering celebrates victory too soon at Brabantse Pijl Dames

Brabantse Pijl Dames 2021
Early celebration at Brabantse Pijl Dames 2021 for Demi Vollering of SD Worx (far right) (Image credit: Getty Images)

Demi Vollering (SD Worx) prematurely celebrated victory after a bike throw to the line against Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) at Brabantse Pijl Dames, only to find out moments later that the race jury had awarded the victory to the American champion.

"I'm very disappointed. I had the feeling that I won this sprint. Apparently not. I don't know if it was the jump, but it is almost impossible to see at the pictures," Vollering said.

A six-rider breakaway succeeded to the base of the finale 1.3km S-Bocht Overijse climb preparing to sprint against one another for the mid-week Classic win. Elisa Balsamo (Valcar Travel & Service) launched her sprint over the top with 200 metres to go, but Winder came around her on the left and Vollering on the right in a head-to-head battle for the victory.

They both threw their bikes as they approached the line. Vollering began to raise one arm in celebration, while Winder pushed through with her bike throw well passed the line.

Vollering continued with a raised arm in celebration and let her teammates know on their radios that she had won the race. SD Worx announced it to the world on Twitter. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who crossed the line in seventh, was the first to give a congratulatory hug to Vollering, followed by Niamh Fisher-Black and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, and her other teammates.

Winder kept her hands on the drops feeling happy, enough, with what she assumed was second place.

The bike throw was so close, from one angle it looked like Vollering had won and from another it could have been Winder. Race officials reviewed the photo-finish, and several minutes later they announced Winder as the winner of Brabantse Pijl Dames. Celebrations quickly arose from the Trek-Segafredo camp. Vollering's sudden switch to disappointment was palpable.

"The difference was the size of a megapixel," Vollering said.

The last time we remember a victory that was celebrated too soon at the top level of women’s racing was at the Giro Rosa in 2019 that saw Lucy Kennedy (then Mitchelton-Scott) raise her arms in triumph only to be caught and passed by Marianne Vos (then CCC-Liv). It was almost heartbreaking to watch Kennedy’s reaction as she realised the gravity of her error - it would have been her first victory on the Women’s WorldTour.

"I thought I had it, my first WorldTour win," Kennedy said at that time. "But as I raised my fist in the air, Vos came past me. Right on the line. I was absolutely spent." 

At Brabantse Pijl Dames the margins were much closer, almost indistinguishable in a bike throw to the line, but just as disappointing for Vollering, who would have secured her first win while racing for her new team SD Worx this year.

Vollering had mutually ended her contract with Parkhotel-Valkenburg last year and signed a two-year contract to race with SD Worx through 2022. 

She is a rising talent and surprised everyone two years ago with her top-10 finishes in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where she was third. She also won the Giro dell 'Emilia.

Last year, she was part of the winning breakaway at La Course where she finished in third place behind winner Lizzie Deignan and runner-up Vos, and she went on to finish third at Flèche Wallonne and top 10s at Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders last October.

Now with SD Worx, she has goals of being winning Spring Classics and races like the Giro Rosa, in the future. She is often tipped as the next Anna van der Breggen … big shoes to fill after the double World Champion retires at the end of this season.

Vollering has shown her strengths once again this spring with sixth place at Strade Bianche, fifth at Tour of Flanders and now second at Brabantse Pijl, all ahead of her targeted Ardennes Classics. Victory under her new SD Worx colours is just a step away.

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