Vuelta a Burgos Féminas: Demi Vollering and SD Worx cap off Spanish campaign with dominant wins

Dutch team win all four stages and overall with confident Vollering and unbeatable Wiebes

Clock08:00, Monday 22nd May 2023
Demi Vollering and Marlen Reusser celebrate victory at the 2023 Vuelta a Burgos

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Demi Vollering and Marlen Reusser celebrate victory at the 2023 Vuelta a Burgos

This time last year, Demi Vollering and Lorena Wiebes both pulled off two impressive clean sweeps: Vollering won all three stages of the inaugural Itzulia Women, and two weeks later, Wiebes did that same thing at RideLondon Classique. This season, the pair are teammates, and combined forces to complete the second SD Worx whitewash in two weeks. After Marlen Reusser and Vollering shared the spoils at Itzulia, at the sprint-friendly Vuelta a Burgos, it was Lorena Wiebes’ turn to notch up the stage wins as Vollering went for the overall.

It would have been Wiebes three, Vollering one, but a disqualification for Wiebes on stage 2 denied her the triple crown. Fortunately for SD Worx, though, it was Vollering who came second behind her teammate, so the team’s winning streak was not interrupted (it would be up to 9 victories on the bounce by the time the race was over). With two stages left, SD Worx went into the weekend with the leader’s jersey in hand, two more opportunities to win coming, and a chance for Demi Vollering to secure an overall victory after missing out at the Vuelta Femenina and Itzulia.

Stage 3: Wiebes takes one back

Compared to the first two stages, stage 3 was a very straightforward affair: no classified climbs, and much less winds than the gusts that had blown the race apart the day before. The first two-thirds of the stage seemed to reflect that, with no early breakaway going, but heading into the last 40km, the action ramped up.

It was Morgane Coston (Cofidis) who initiated the attacks, going away solo and building a lead. For 10km, it looked like Coston would be on her own, but with 26km to go seven more riders from the peloton bridged across to the French rider - four Continental team riders joined by Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar), Karoline Kumiega (UAE Team ADQ) and Kathrin Hammes (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) from the WorldTour.

With 10km to go, the leaders had an advantage of over a minute, and finally, the peloton was sparked into chasing. As expected, it was race leaders and stage favourites SD Worx who put the most horsepower into the chase, with all their riders except Wiebes taking turns on the front.

Their efforts brought the gap down considerably, but it was still touch-and-go into the finale with the break still 15 seconds ahead with 1km to go. Kumiega opened up the sprint from the break first, but the peloton were coming up fast and when Wiebes and Balsamo launched with 250m to go, the chances of a win coming from the breakaway were over. The pair flew past the sprinting breakaway, with Wiebes showing off her unmatchable speed once again to win by a bike length. Gutiérrez held on for third, the best result from the breakaway.

Of course, Wiebes’ closest competitor this season, Charlotte Kool (Team DSM), was missing in Spain, but it was a real display of dominance from the Dutch rider. Balsamo could barely come close to Wiebes’ front wheel, and even on the steep cobbled finish on stage 2, Wiebes was exceedingly powerful on a stage more for the puncheurs than sprinters. Had she not been relegated - for an action that seemed to have little impact on the outcome of the stage - that may have been her most impressive win yet.

Stage 4: Vollering leaves no room for doubt

After three broadly flat stages, it all changed on stage 4. The Lagunas de Neila loomed, a 12km, 8% gradient climb that would define and decide the overall race. The whole stage led to the daunting ascent, the road very slowly rising for 100km before the real mountain even began.

A large, 14-rider group went away early in the stage, but with some riders who were less than a minute down on GC in its midst, this break was never allowed much freedom and SD Worx reeled them back in quickly. A few other riders tried to get away, but it wasn’t until the last 60km that something stuck, when Elisa Balsamo, Alex Manly (Jayco-AlUla) and Sara Martín (Movistar) broke off the front of the peloton. The trio were given around a minute’s advantage, but going into the last 25km, with the climb approaching, the gap began to tumble as SD Worx wound things up in the peloton.

The chase was timed perfectly, and the leaders were caught right at the base of the climb with 12km to go. SD Worx continued to set the pace, and as soon as the road went up, the group began to split with riders struggling to hold on to the speed set. With 9km to go, Vollering had already hit the front, riding at her own tempo with only Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) able to hold on to her wheel. That didn’t last long, and with 8km to go Van Anrooij was dropped too, and Vollering was all alone already.

It made a stark difference from this stage in 2022, when a relatively big group drag raced to the top of the climb, with Vollering only attacking in the last few kilometres, and not able to take enough time to grab the overall lead from Juliette Labous (Team DSM). This year, it was a much more Annemiek van Vleuten-style move from Vollering: set the pace into the climb, attack a long way out, and win by a huge advantage. As soon as Vollering attacked so far from the top, it wasn’t a question of if she was going to win, but rather how much by.

In the end, the answer was a minute and 35 seconds. The group behind her stayed together for most of the climb, with UAE Team ADQ completing the podium with Erica Magnaldi and Silvia Persico in second and third, just ahead of Van Anrooij and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep), who finished second and third on GC. At the finish, Vollering explained how her efforts were not just to win, but to see how far her abilities go - perhaps an important test before she faces Annemiek van Vleuten in bigger races this summer.

“I challenged myself a little bit on this climb to see how far I could come and what I’m capable of doing,” she said. “It’s nice to have some confidence for the Tour de France and other races coming up. It’s nice to challenge yourself.”

Somewhat surprisingly, this Vuelta a Burgos title is only the third GC win of Demi Vollering’s career, after Itzulia 2022 and the Women’s Tour 2021. The numbers may not reflect it, but the 26-year-old has become one of the very best climbers and stage racers in the peloton. She may have finished second to Van Vleuten more times than she’d care to count, but this month in Spain has proved that Vollering is not just the ‘best of the rest’ behind the world champion, but a powerful, domineering rider in her own right, also capable of pulling off long-range, competition-neutralising attacks. That’s 12 wins already this season for the Dutchwoman - almost double that of prolific winner Lorena Wiebes, to put it into perspective - and her biggest goals are still to come.

Vuelta a Burgos Féminas 2023 GC results:

  1. Demi Vollering (SD Worx) 11:46:12
  2. Shirin van Anrooij (Trek-Segafredo) +2:07
  3. Ashleigh Moolman Paiso (AG Insurance-Soudal QuickStep) +2:11
  4. Chloé Dygert (Canyon-SRAM) +2:43
  5. Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) +3:09
  6. Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka (Canyon-SRAM) +3:21
  7. Tamara Dronova (Israel Premier Tech Roland) +3:48
  8. Soraya Paladin (Canyon-SRAM) +3:59
  9. Silvia Persico (UAE Team ADQ) +4:05
  10. Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ) +4:07

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