With 2017 winner Anna van der Breggen and 2018 winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak in its line-up, SD Worx were among the strongest teams at the Amstel Gold Race Ladies Edition. The team did put a rider on the podium alongside winner Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma), but it was 24-year-old Demi Vollering who continued her excellent spring season, supported by 19-year-old Anna Shackley, 20-year-old Niamh Fisher-Black, and experienced Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.
Racing on her 31st birthday, Van der Breggen had not yet fully recovered from an illness the week before the race. She and Van den Broek-Blaak missed the move when Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) pushed the pace on the Cauberg on the antepenultimate of seven laps, 36 kilometres from the finish. However, four teammates made the selection and all played a role in the final.
First, it fell largely to SD Worx to bring back the lone attacker Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange). After a period without much cooperation in the group, Shackley, Fisher-Black, along with Trek-Segafredo’s Ruth Winder and Lucinda Brand went to the front of the peloton, gradually reducing Brown’s advantage until she was caught at the foot of the Cauberg.
On the final ascent of the Cauberg, Vollering and Moolman-Pasio tried to follow the other favourites’ moves. Neither could stay with Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) or Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), but as the two frontrunners did not work together, Moolman-Pasio took a big turn to bring back their group.
In the sprint, Vos quickly took the lead. Vollering came up strong on the final metres when Vos had already sat up to celebrate. Just four days earlier, Vollering missed out on victory in the Brabantse Pijl by millimetres as she raised her arm too early – but Vos had enough speed to carry her across the line in first place.
“It was really tense,” Vollering described the aftermath of the sprint. “I saw Marianne being startled after the finish and thought, could it be – but it was a nice win for her. It is no shame to lose to Marianne.
“It was a very tough race, and I am happy to be on the podium. In the sprint, I was a bit boxed in at first, and Marianne is more of a pure sprinter, she has more speed. At the end I still came very close. My team was so strong today, I am very thankful.”
Vollering admitted that she had a low during the race but recovered from it in time.
“I felt really good at the beginning, but halfway through the race and after a lot of work I felt the fatigue setting in. Fortunately, I got through it and was able to ride a good final.”
Asked if this early work made the difference between first and second place, Vollering was noncommittal.
“Maybe, maybe not. In the end, we get stronger from this and take it with us to the following races. Some of it was necessary as we were not in the moves, and you never know. Things can always happen earlier, so I prefer not to wait too long in a race.”
With a sixth place in the Strade Bianche, fifth place in the Tour of Flanders and now two consecutive second places in the Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold Race, Vollering has been knocking on the door to a big victory the whole spring – but missed out so far. However, she is optimistic that she will be on the top step of the podium soon.
“I am not disappointed; my first place will come eventually. I hope it can be on Wednesday [in the Flèche Wallonne], or maybe next Sunday [in Liège-Bastogne-Liège], that would be nice.”
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