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Demi Vollering wants to do more gravel racing

The Dutch rider also has her sights set on the Tour de France Femmes, which she hopes will inspire the next generation of female riders.

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Demi Vollering wants to do more gravel.

The 25-year-old superstar won the first-ever Dutch national gravel title at the end of last year, beating fellow roadies Floortje Mackaij and Lorena Wiebes [both Team DSM], and she is keen to try some more.

Vollering, who extended her contract with SD Worx until 2024, would also like to hit the crits again after racing at Into the Lion’s Den in October 2021. However, with a busy schedule planned for 2022, she will probably have to wait until next winter to have a go.

“I really enjoyed doing the crit in America at the end of the year so I would like to do more of them,” Vollering said in a video call with the media. “We already need to skip a few races with the team because we’re there so many, so I think is not possible in the season. For example gravel events, I really would like to do that also in America, maybe at the end of the season or in the off-season.

“I still need to figure it out and also need to see how I am after the season because the season is so busy.”

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Vollering earns her crust on the road and enjoys her job, but she also loves the freedom that comes with a gravel race and being able to ride with racers of all sorts of abilities — from the elite to the weekend warriors.

“I think it’s the adventure and also the people, the environment you’re in. It’s always so easy and always so relaxed,” Vollering said. “Everybody’s always so nice. I don’t know it’s in also gravel is for everyone. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a pro cyclist or just a beginner or yeah, whatever.

“It doesn’t matter and that’s something I really like for great gravel events that you’re yet that doesn’t matter who you are, or what kind of level you are. So that’s something I really liked from the gravel riding. Just go outside, enjoy, and go on an adventure.”

Inspiring with the Tour de France

Before considering any off-road or crit racing, Vollering has some big ambitions in her regular racing career. Looming large over the season is the Tour de France Femmes, which returns to the calendar following a long hiatus.

The race will conclude in the Vosges, with a summit finish on the Planche des Belles Filles set to decide the overall classification. It’s an area that Vollering knows, and likes, well.

“For the tour, we are all super excited. I really like the last two stages. They’re really hard and really brutal but I’m looking forward to the last two, a lot,” she said. “It’s also close to my home in Switzerland. I moved to Switzerland in the new year. It’s only 70km from our home in Switzerland to Planche des Belles Filles so I know that area bit from training.”

For Vollering, the Tour de France is more than just about the prestige of winning one of the biggest bike races on the calendar. She hopes that the media attention on the event, and the additional fans it should pull in, will help to inspire more women to ride bikes, whether it is just for fun or for competition.

“The Tour is important for women’s cycling because we can inspire a lot of women cyclists by showing us in the Tour and showing real races,” said Vollering. “Also, for the next generation it’s important that we get more riders into the peloton, so I think it’s really good that we have a Tour, with such media attention on it.

“I really like to inspire young girls to step on a bike and to just ride or do races go outside. For me, it’s really important that I can motivate or inspire people to go outside, enjoy nature, ride bikes, and eventually, of course, I hope that more young girls step into bike racing. I hope I can do that. Winning the yellow jersey does inspire a lot of people and it can show that cycling is a beautiful sport.”

Outside of her big summer plans, Vollering is targeting the Ardennes classics where she has enjoyed so much success in the past. She took her first monument at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last season, having finished third two years previously, and took second at the Amstel Gold Race a week earlier.

She’s also finished on the podium at Flèche Wallonne but sacrificed her chances in 2021 to set-up Anna van der Breggen for a seventh and final win on the Mur de Huy. There will be plenty of riders within SD Worx looking to take a chance at the hilly spring races and a good plan will need to be made to avoid the team getting in its own way.

“I really like all the three Ardennes. Ashleigh [Moolman-Pasio] is also really eager to win Flèche, but of course, I also really liked this race,” she said. “There are more riders in our team who really like to race. So, we really need to see first how we can manage that.

“It’s always so cool for our team that everybody can win. It doesn’t matter who from the team it is, the only thing that matters is that that is our team that wins. Of course, I really want to be at my best in those three races.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.