Demi Vollering and her new SD Worx teammates have had fun getting to know each other ahead of the new season as the squad went bikepacking in California.
Team bonding camps are an important part of the off-season as new riders begin integrating with their new teammates before racing gets underway in the new year.
Often, riders don’t touch their bikes during these short camps, but SD Worx decided to bond the way it knew best, on the bike. Visits to some of the squad’s key technical partners were also on the cards for the riders.
“We started at Morgan Hill at the Specialized office and then we went to the coast to Sunset Beach it was I think, and then all the way along the coast to a Nature Park, and then the last camping was pretty close to the SRAM office,” Vollering told VeloNews.
“On the last day, SRAM picked us up, and then we did a tour at the SRAM office. And then we went all the way back by car. It was a really nice adventure, but we also saw a lot and it’s also really nice to meet all the people from your sponsors.”
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For some of her teammates, the trip was the first time they’d gone bikepacking or camping. For Vollering, she had done it before but the rigors of the life of a professional cyclist mean that it’s not easy to make the time to do it.
She spent 10 days riding around Switzerland with her teammate Marit Raaijmakers. Despite being sponsored by a major hotel brand, they decided to pack their tents and sleep outside for the whole journey.
“I did bikepacking in Switzerland in the first year of COVID with a teammate from Parkhotel. We had 10 days around Switzerland from Lucerne to going down to the Furka pass and then over to Basel, so it was a really big ride. We had our own tent and all of the stuff with us. Every night we camped, and we cooked ourselves on a little fire. It was a really nice adventure,” Vollering said.
“I really like to be outdoors, and I really like camping also. It’s more of an adventure, and you’re completely by yourself. It’s also super easy. You can go easily camping in Switzerland if you go high enough. It’s a really cool place to do this kind of adventure.”
Everybody got stuck into the riding and cooking for each other, though some were happier than others about the camping facilities they had one offer. Vollering, with her experience, tried her best to help them ease into it.
“For cooking, we made some groups, and every day it was up to another group. For some girls, it was the first time camping and they were not looking so much forward to it because they knew it’s not so glamorous,” she explained.
“I tried to make them a bit more comfortable to say I think we have really nice campsites with nice toilet buildings and that kind of things. In America, the campsites look a bit different, and the toilet buildings were not that good. The first time we came to the toilet building they were a bit angry.”
Toilet buildings weren’t the only mishap, but thankfully, the only victims were a few melted shoes and the bonding element of the camp was well and truly achieved.
“It cost a lot of girls their shoes because by the campfire in the evening it was really cold,” Vollering said. “When the sun was down, we were all sitting around the campfire and that was really nice, and everybody really loved that.
“The girls who didn’t like camping said the campfire was a really nice part of this. I really like it and that was really fun, but most of the girls were sitting with their shoes against the campfire because it was in this iron ring. I said that already to them I think it’s not a good idea, but then there were lots of melted shoes afterward.”
Getting the outdoor fix
Even when she’s not on her bike, Vollering likes to get outside and experience nature. A quick look at her Instagram page shows her hiking in the Swiss mountains, where she is based, doing yoga on a beach, or walking her dog — who was roaming around in the background of our call.
Vollering has always been an athletic person, something that helped her when she decided to take up bike racing, but she’s long had an affinity with the outdoors.
“I really like to do a lot of different things, so I picked up running again and hiking. I really like to be in the mountains. I always really like to go as high as possible so soon when there’s snow again I also really looking forward to go skiing and make some nice adventures in the mountains,” Vollering said.
“I like the feeling of freedom. I always feel really free when I’m outside. Your thoughts are always easier or coming to a rest when you’re in the mountains. You almost stop thinking, you’re just enjoying so much. I think that’s something that I really liked from it. I just really like to be in nature.
“I heard that already as a kid I was always really a lot outside almost the whole time, even when it was raining or when it was bad weather. I always wanted to be outside, and I was with another kid always building a tent in the back garden. I was asking my mom to sleep outside in the tent even if the weather forecast said that it was going to rain. My mom said, ‘I think I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ But in the end, we still went sleeping outside. In the middle of the night, I was knocking on the door because we were so wet from the rain.”