Demi Vollering ready for Flanders ‘fire’ to help drop Elisa Balsamo

The Dutchwoman talks tactics ahead of De Ronde

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“That was a mechanical caused by another rider who rode into my back wheel,” Demi Vollering said of the above picture, holding her hand in the air for assistance during the World Championships in Flanders. “I don’t think so much about these problems in the race anymore. It wasn’t something that happened before the race or that the material wasn’t good enough.”

Adding to the list of things that can be classed as “good enough” is Vollering herself, to put it mildly.

The 25-year-old’s first season with SD Worx saw her win her first WorldTour event, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She then followed it up with three more WorldTour victories which included the final instalment of La Course by the Tour de France and the stage three time trial at the Women’s Tour, a victory that sealed her first stage race overall title.

This season has seen an identical build-up to De Ronde in terms of racing. Gent-Wevelgem and Strade Bianche, an agonising second behind Annemiek van Vleuten at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad before 12th at Strade. Now, she’ll be hoping a three-week altitude camp provides the springboard for a Classics campaign containing Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and a return to Liège as defending champion.

One of the big differences from last year, as she all but replicates her race programme, will be the absence of the all-conquering Anna van der Breggen. But Vollering doesn’t think it will make that much difference with the strength in depth that SD Worx possesses, especially with the signing of Lotte Kopecky. That strength in depth is the big difference for the Dutchwoman in these big one-day races, she says, not having to do everything herself as she used to when racing for Parkhotel Valkenburg.

“Before I was in a smaller team so I did everything on my own,” Vollering explained. “I reacted to everything on my own, and now I have a really big team around me who also can react. Then you can just sit in the peloton and relax a bit because the whole team can do something for everybody. You’re not riding alone anymore but you have a whole team maybe going deep into the final, that’s really cool.”

Two of the main riders to watch for SD Worx will be world champion Elisa Balsamo and defending Flanders champion Annemiek van Vleuten. Having Van Vleuten present should likely help thwart Balsamo, who’s on a three-win streak, most recently at Gent-Wevelgem. And then all you’ve got to worry about is the very big problem of Van Vleuten.

“I think she can really do a great job here,” Vollering said of Balsamo. “She’s proved already that she can survive a few climbs and that she’s just really strong, but I think Sunday will be a really hard race so maybe she won’t be there anymore. I think that’s something we need to find out for sure.”

“Yeah, of course, we’ll make a hard race,” she continued on the plan to drop the Italian. “That’s the goal of course, and we are not the only team who wants a really hard race, also Movistar with Annemiek. They also will show some fire.”

Regardless of the eventual winner, fire is the one guarantee at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

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