Demi Vollering is ticking off her cycling wishlist at lighting speed.
Before Vollering turned professional just over two years ago, she set herself a list of goals she hoped to achieve in her first four years.
With her first monument victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège during this spring, a string of podium finishes at the classics and a win at the Giro dell’Emilia in 2019, the SD Worx rider is finding it difficult to keep up with her own success.
“When I started training with my trainer, I made a goal list for every year. In the beginning, the goals were not so high, but then I saw in the first year with team Parkhotel I achieved my goals really fast. So, then every year I needed to make my goals higher and higher,” Vollering told VeloNews.
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“I think I have finished almost all of my goals, so that’s really cool. It also went really fast, because some of the goals that I had for four years are goals that I have already achieved now.”
Vollering began her professional career with the Continental Parkhotel Valkenburg squad, and her early performances were such that she was soon snapped up by the prolific SD Worx team as a potential successor to Anna van der Breggen when the world champion retires at the end of the season.
As Vollering’s star rises, she continues to set her targets even higher. Even with everything that she has achieved in her opening two and a half seasons as a professional, she still has some pretty big goals on her four-year plan.
“In my four-year goal list was also to be a champion, so a Dutch champion, a European champion or a world champion. It’s not that I want it in the four years, but it’s something that you think of in training. It’s a dream that every rider has,” she said.
“Also, the Giro is on my goal list and working on my time trials. There is still a lot to work on and that keeps you fresh in your mind and keeps you really motivated.”
Throwing it all in for cycling
Vollering’s all-in approach for cycling is a recent change for the Dutchwoman, but her love of the sport has been a long affair. As with many from the Netherlands, the ubiquitous nature of the sport meant she caught the bug young.
The cost of racing and oftentimes difficult logistics meant she had to shelve her desire to race for several years.
“When I was a little kid I always liked to ride my bike. I rode my bike in the streets and I did some races through the streets with some friends. I did some Dutch race for school kids. I think I won that race, and I thought it was so cool,” Vollering said.
“I have two sisters and one brother, so it was hard for my mum to go through all of Holland for bicycle races, so it was only when I turned 16 that I started to ride real cycling races. I really enjoyed it, but I was not super good or really bad. I was somewhere in between.”
Away from racing, Vollering threw herself into her studies and cycling took something of a backseat for her. She was racing a little, but she didn’t have the time to put in the training required of an aspiring athlete.
The enthusiasm for racing could not be put aside forever, and her dream of riding professionally would return with fervor.
“I always had the dream, but during the school time it went away a bit because you’re busy with other things. Then, I started working and I think I worked for two years in different flower shops and I was so busy, but I knew when I was working there that it was not for me, not my future,” Vollering told VeloNews.
“I always really loved being outside and doing sports. Then when I met my boyfriend the dream to become a professional cyclist came back. By then, my studies had finished and also I was working for almost two years. I realized what a normal life looked like and that’s maybe why I enjoy it more.”
Eager to compete in sport, Vollering was still splitting her time between racing and ice skating early in her career. After a nudge from her boyfriend to throw her full effort behind cycling, things really took off for Vollering.
“I met my boyfriend and he told me to quit ice skating and really go for cycling,” she said. “He saw talent in me that I didn’t really believe in. I was more angry with him that he said I should quit ice skating, but one year later I did and I started to train with the trainer and then it all went really fast.”
Return to stage racing
After a strong spring classics campaign and a podium finish at the recent Emakumeen Nafarroako, Vollering took on her first stage race of the year at the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas – where she finished third overall behind her teammate Anna van der Breggen.
The Vuelta a Burgos was not only her first stage race effort during 2021, but it was the first time she had done consecutive days of racing since the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in February 2020 – where she finished third.
Burgos was a key testing ground for Vollering ahead of a return to the recently renamed Giro d’Italia Donne. Vollering showed herself as a promising stage racer with 13th overall at the 2019 Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, and it is something she would like to build on.
“I think I’m a bit of an all-rounder. I really like hard races because in the end I can still have a good sprint, but I also really like stage races. I also look forward to the Giro for this year,” she said.
“Last year, I only did one stage race so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m a little sad that I didn’t do the Giro because you really feel that every time you do a stage race that you become stronger, and you recover faster.”