UCI Women’s WorldTour: after yellow comes red for Vollering

A stoic warrior

Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx – Protime) took the second Grand Tour win of her career by dominating the general classification of La Vuelta España Femenina by Carrefour.es. The Dutch star, who won the 2023 Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, had a score to settle after being denied the overall win by Annemiek van Vleuten (Team Movistar) in the 2023 edition of the Spanish stage race.

Demi Vollering has restored some balance, at least when it comes to her position at the highest level of cycling. Having achieved epic conquests in 2023, she was yet to win this season when she lined up at the start of stage 5 of La Vuelta España Femenina by Carrefour.es. Then the tide turned - she won stages 5 and 8, the overall race winner’s red jersey, and also the polka dot jersey as queen of the mountains.

“I felt strong this season, but it was not yet there,” said Vollering in Jaca, straight after conquering the Alto del Fuerte Rapitán and thus taking her first victory of 2024. “I had some podiums, but the win took long for me this year. I’m really happy that I could do it here.”

Backed by a strong collective – SD Worx - Protime won the team classification and shone in every stage, with several options – Vollering stood on the final podium ahead of her Dutch compatriot Riejanne Markus (Team Visma | Lease a Bike) and Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl -Trek).

A stoic warrior

It was two impressive demonstrations of power that secured Vollering the overall win. After a diverse start to the race, stage 5 (Huesca to Jaca) brought the mountains to La Vuelta Femenina. Most of the GC favourites went into the final climb together, but the Dutchwoman set a relentless tempo at the front with 2km to go. Longo Borghini and Yara Kastelijn (Fenix – Deceuninck) were able to hold her wheel the longest, but had to let her go with 750m left. Vollering won the stage on the steep ramps of the Alto del Fuerte Rapitán, taking over the race lead.

She repeated her feat on stage 8 (Distrito Telefónica in Madrid to Valdesquí), the queen stage. In the final climb, with 6.5km remaining, Vollering briefly got out of the saddle – to position herself at the front of the group. From then on, she rode tenaciously and patiently, at her own pace. She reached the summit alone, lifting her bike over her head to celebrate the achievement.

A diverse race with no stage like the other

Although Vollering reigned at the summit(s), the race had six different stage winners. Lidl -Trek won the opening team time trial (Valencia) despite a crash in the final corner, and sent their General Classification (GC) prospect Gaia Realini, last year’s podium finisher, over the line first.

The second stage (Buñol/Bunyol to Moncofa) was relatively flat, with just one third category climb. Dutch rider Karlijn Swinkels (UAE Team ADQ) charged over the mountain first, taking over the QOM jersey. As expected, the stage ended in a bunch sprint, where the Canadian Champion Alison Jackson (EF Education-Cannondale) snatched the win.

Stage 3 (Lucena/Llucena to Teruel) saw an impressive solo ride by Mireia Benito Pellicer (AG Insurance – Soudal Team), who spent the entire day out on her own. This show of courage would earn her the most combative rider jersey at the end of the race. Benito Pellicer rode in front of the peloton for over 110km, and was only caught with less than 8km to go when the peloton started chasing in earnest to prepare for the expected bunch sprint finish. Marianne Vos ended up taking the stage win.

The fourth stage (Molina de Aragón to Zaragoza) brought crosswinds, ripping the peloton into smaller groups. Realini missed the split and lost minutes on the GC. From a strong group, American Kristen Faulkner (EF Education - Cannondale) went for a last-minute attack, and held on to earn her team a second stage win.

The day after Vollering’s first win of the season, in Jaca, stage 6 saw the peloton tackle a hilly stage from Tarazona to La Laguna Negra, Vinuesa, ending in one full-blown first category climb. Vollering went to the front on the climb, setting her own tempo. The only one able to match her with 600m to go was Évita Muzic (FDJ - SUEZ), who ended up sprinting ahead of the Dutchwoman, taking the stage win on the summit finish.

The seventh stage (San Esteban de Gormaz to Sigüenza) brought back the crosswinds, and featured a slight uphill finish. Vos powered to the stage win, gaining enough points to mathematically secure her the sprinter’s green jersey one day before officially winning it.

But when it came to the iconic red jersey distinguishing the overall winner, there was no containing Vollering, who moves up into the top 5 of the UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings, now led by Elisa Longo Borghini after her third place in La Vuelta Femenina España Femenina by Carrefour.es.