Demi Vollering (SD Worx) wins stage 2 of Itzulia Women.

How SD Worx dominated Itzulia with just four riders

The team went into the race with fewer riders than any other, but came away with all three stages and almost every classification.

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Nobody could have described SD Worx’s classics season as a flop, but by the longstanding team’s usual standards, it could have been a lot better. 

Of course, with new signing Lotte Kopecky, they took the win at two of the biggest races of the spring in Strade Bianche and Tour of Flanders, but the rest of the team’s wealth of talented individuals had yet to stand on the top step of a WorldTour podium at the beginning of this month. 

That was, until Demi Vollering took a clean sweep of all three stages and the general classification at Itzulia women (plus the points jersey for good measure) and Niamh Fisher-Black came away with the young rider’s classification. Stage race season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for SD Worx.  

With the Tour de France Femmes rapidly approaching and rosters stretched thin there was something of a skeleton crew heading to the first Women’s WorldTour race of the season. Only twelve of the fourteen WorldTeams were present – and not all of them with full squads. 

SD Worx sent just four riders to the three-day stage race: two of the team’s leaders, Demi Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, and the pair of young talents affectionately known within the team as ‘puppies’, Niamh Fisher-Black, and Anna Shackley. 

In theory, the Dutch team should have been at a disadvantage despite the absence of some of their closest rivals from the race. Lacking two teammates would ordinarily put a leader on the back foot but Vollering had the support of some talented climbers in the form of Moolman Pasio and Fisher-Black. The latter played a particularly invaluable role in setting up Vollering for the attacks that would eventually become winning moves. With nowhere to hide on the relentlessly undulating terrain, the cream rose to the top and Vollering proved to be the rider on form. 

Marta Cavalli, who got the better of Vollering on a few occasions during the Classics, could not stop the Dutch rider. Although Canyon-SRAM was without Kasia Niewiadoma, they had an on-form Pauleina Rooijakkers, who gave everything on the climbs to challenge her compatriot – but it wasn’t enough.

To describe Vollering’s takeover as ‘dominant’ would also be inaccurate given that she still had to fight for every stage and GC second she gained. Far from settling for the GC lead and conserving it, the 25-year-old used aggressive tactics and her superior technical skills on descents to better her rivals. She got into breakaways, covered moves and launched attacks to wear down the other riders. The results belie how exciting and aggressive the race action really was. 

Whatever role the absence of some of Vollering’s closest rivals played in her dominating the results is still in question, and is something we can only know the answer to once they are back in action. However, Vollering’s renewed form cannot be underestimated. It remains to be seen whether she can continue her GC raid at Burgos this week with some of the bigger names back in the bunch but with her sweep of Itzulia she has truly stamped her mark on stage race season.