Demi Vollering: No race I’ve done on the road was as hard as Gravel Worlds

Tour de France Femmes winner comes away with bronze medal in Veneto

Clock08:24, Sunday 8th October 2023
Demi Vollering finished third at the end of the 140km race in Italy

© Sprint Cycling Agency

Demi Vollering finished third at the end of the 140km race in Italy

Demi Vollering (Netherlands) missed out on the rainbow jersey in the elite women’s race at the UCI Gravel Worlds with the WorldTour pro acknowledging just how tough the race had been for her and her competitors.

Vollering finished third behind winner Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) and Silvia Persico (Italy) in a hard-fought race that saw Niewiadoma skip clear with 25km to go before the remaining spots on the podium were settled by a two-rider sprint.

Read more: UCI Gravel World Championships: Kasia Niewiadoma wins elite women's title with solo attack

The Dutch team certainly dominated the race in terms of numbers with three riders finishing inside the top five but under relentless pressure from a highly motivated Italy, and then Niewiadoma’s class, Vollering was forced to settle for the bronze medal.

“It was hard. It was really hard. I enjoyed the landscape in the recon but today I didn't see so much. At one point I was really sleeping on the bike because I was really done,” Vollering said in the post-race press conference in Veneto, Italy.

“Then I looked at how many kilometres were still remaining and saw that we’d only gone 100 kilometres and I was like ‘oh my gosh we still have 40 to go and I’m already sleeping'.”

Vollering has dominated the road racing scene this season, winning the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, all three Ardennes races and other stage race success. However, she was put through her paces on the gravel roads of Italy. Always present in the front group, she lacked the bite that normally sets her apart from her WorldTour competitors.

“On the gravel you really need to pay attention,” she said.

“At one point I thought if I crash here I'll just stay on the ground because I was completely done. I had trouble eating so that made it also really hard and a big sufferfest for me. But I think it was a really nice race. It was really hard. The Italians went from the beginning full gas which made it really hard in the final. You could see that everyone was done. On the last lap, the first climb, Kasia went, and I couldn’t follow.”

Read more: 'I kept getting yelled at by the Italians' - Gravel World Championships through the riders' eyes

With the rest of the leading group either out of contention due to mechanicals, crashes or fatigue Vollering and Persico linked up and worked together until the finish.

“I think it’s really hard to compare with any race. I thought about it today on the bike, we had a lot of time to think about it. But I realised I think no race that I’ve done on the road is as hard as today. I think it’s also because of the gravel. It’s actually much longer because you need to go slow in the corners and you need to keep focused all day.

"In a road race, you also need to stay focused during the whole race but it’s different but you can sit in the bunch and save a bit more where gravel is really fair and you can't stay in the bunch and it’s just always really hard.”

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