18 Oct 2023 at 05:13
Demi Vollering was the most successful rider in the peloton in the season that ended on Tuesday with seventeen victories. The Tour de France Femmes winner is thus following a trend: the victorious queen comes from the Netherlands for the sixth year in a row.
Vollering has always been a dreamy person. This was already the case at school, where she preferred to muse about cycling or skating outside rather than focusing on what she had to learn inside. “Everything starts with dreams,” the South Holland native said in an interview with NU.nl last June. “It has become my motto in life.”
Her main dream, she said at the time, was to be a successful cyclist. The truth has now caught up with her, because in 2023 no rider was better than Vollering. The 26-year-old leader of SD Worx won in the spring (the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège trilogy), she won in the summer (Tour de France Femmes) and she won in the autumn (Tour de Romandie ).
Vollering was also one of the strongest women in the peloton last year, especially when it went uphill. But she was not yet good enough – physically, mentally and tactically – to systematically finish in the final of a race. Compared to six victories in 2022, there were no fewer than seventeen second or third places.
Things had to be different, Vollering realized. Last winter she therefore trained vigorously for the first time in her career, while previously she barely rode her bike or only whistled in November and December. She also enlisted the help of a mental coach. He had to help her deal better with the pressure – pressure that she mainly placed on herself.
“Casting is also a mental sport,” Vollering said in April after her victory in the Flèche Wallonne. “I was afraid of losing. You have to dare to lose to win. And I didn’t dare.”
Van Vleuten passes the baton to Vollering
This year everything was different for Vollering. Nowhere was that transformation more clearly visible than on July 29 in the Pyrenees. A year earlier, the Pijnacker had to give in no less than 3.26 minutes to Annemiek van Vleuten in the penultimate stage of the Tour de France. Now Vollering rode more than 2.5 minutes away from the title defender, who had long been considered untouchable, on the misty Col du Tourmalet.
It was the day on which Van Vleuten, who for many years was considered the best rider in the world and who will experience her last year as a professional in 2023, passed the baton to her natural successor Vollering.
The numbers speak for themselves: Vollering is clearly number one on the victory list in 2023 with seventeen victories. Her Belgian teammate Lotte Kopecky is in second place with fourteen victories.
Vollering equals Vos, Van Vleuten and Van der Breggen
Vollering continues a tradition in this way. Since 2007, the queen of cycling has almost always come from the Netherlands. Belgian sprinter Jolien d’Hoore (2015 and 2017) is the only rider who has managed to break this orange dominance in the past seventeen seasons.
Marianne Vos (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019), Van Vleuten (2018), Anna van der Breggen (2020) and Lorena Wiebes (2021 and 2022) preceded Vollering as the most successful rider in a year.
It is therefore no surprise that the Netherlands is number one in the victory rankings per country in women’s cycling for the fifteenth season in a row. In 2023, the Dutch riders achieved twice as many victories as number two Italy (70 to 35).
In the world rankings of the international association UCI, the Dutch women also have a huge lead over first pursuer Italy: 14,402 points compared to 7,848 points.
Vollering and the Netherlands also dominate in the WorldTour
The Netherlands was, if possible, even more dominant in the most important matches. There were 27 WorldTour races this season – the highest level in cycling – and 15 times the (final) victory went to a Dutch woman.
Vollering also had the largest share in this. The World Cup silver medalist ends 2023 with seven World Tour (final) victories. “Demi has put the puzzle together to the world top,” Danny Stam, sporting manager at SD Worx, said last summer. “And we think there’s more to it.”