'We need to use our numbers' – SD Worx's plan for Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Vollering and Moolman Pasio lead the way for Dutch squad on Sunday
After winning three of the first five editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes, SD Worx will return to the race on Sunday seeking to extend their dominance with the strongest squad on the start line in Bastogne.
Two-time winner Anna van der Breggen will be in the team car, while reigning champion Demi Vollering leads the squad along with Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Marlen Reusser are further strong options for the team along with young talents Blanka Vas and Niamh Fisher-Black.
Of the 129 women taking the start of the 142km race through the Ardennes hills, though, it's Vollering who is likely to be the most watched, the woman wearing number one having already won Brabantse Pijl – solo, no less – this spring, as well as stepping on the podium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Amstel Gold Race, and La Flèche Wallonne.
Vollering will be hoping for an upgrade on her third place at the latter last Wednesday, where she admitted to not feeling great after the very early start to the race. Speaking at the team presentation on Saturday, she said that she hopes the racing style at Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be more to her liking.
"I feel like my legs are good today in the recovery ride. I'm always really looking forward to this race. At Flèche I didn't feel so good because the race was a bit sleepy in the beginning and I don't like it so much because then I fall asleep," Vollering joked.
"Then you need to switch on at one point and then it's also already the final, so that's always something that I find a bit hard. But Liège is always full gas already from the beginning and that's what I like so I hope it can be better tomorrow here."
She'll share leadership duties with Moolman Pasio, who rides her last Liège on Sunday before retirement. The South African finished fourth at Flèche but admitted she could've done better but for being worn down by a mechanical and subsequent chase with just 20km to go.
"I'm disappointed to miss the podium there," she said. "I'm happy that Demi made the podium but now we're really hungry to win. We have good memories from last year here with Demi winning.
"We're very motivated, we have strong form, I'm very motivated, I know I have good form and we're going for the win."
Moolman Pasio called Liège a "race of attrition", adding that it will be important to save energy during the hill-packed race. SD Worx's strength in depth will help, though, she added.
"We have numbers. We could win with any one of the riders tomorrow. I think that's our big advantage and we need to use our numbers. I think we can race in different scenarios and see which one works.
"I know I have very good legs and I'm feeling very motivated with the disappointment from La Flèche Wallonne. So, I would really like to finish the spring Classics with a victory, for sure. It's my last season and that would be really special."
Vollering said that her win last year doesn't add pressure to perform this time around. Last year, the 25-year-old triumphed from a group including Annemiek van Vleuten, Elisa Longo Borghini, and Kasia Niewiadoma following a lead-out from Van der Breggen.
She said that it's not worth worrying about what will happen the day before when tomorrow will bring the outcome.
"It doesn't give me any extra pressure or something," said Vollering. "I really like this race. It's also race that doesn't lie. It's a really hard one, so if you don't have the legs that day then you cannot do it. It's just, you need to survive climb after climb and then feel how it goes and what happens. You can worry now already but you just need to see tomorrow.
"Whatever happens tomorrow I think we can do everything because we have all kinds of talents in this group," she concluded.
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Daniel Ostanek is production editor at Cyclingnews, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later being hired as staff writer. Prior to joining the team, he had written for most major publications in the cycling world, including CyclingWeekly, Rouleur, and CyclingTips.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France and the spring Classics, and has interviewed many of the sport's biggest stars, including Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Demi Vollering, and Anna van der Breggen.
As well as original reporting, news and feature writing, and production work, Daniel also runs The Leadout newsletter and oversees How to Watch guides throughout the season. His favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Volta a Portugal, and he rides a Colnago C40.