Fortunately, there is not only road male cycling. We love all the various aspects of cycling and women are an important one. As for males, every season has its confirmations, delusions and revelations, so we thought it would have been nice to ask something at one of the best surprises of 2019: the young Dutch Demi Vollering!
Demi Vollering was born in November 15, 1996 in Pijnacker, a town in the Dutch province of South Holland, and still lives nearby in Berkel en Rodenrijs. It’s time to know more over this rising star of the women’s peloton!
Lasterketa Burua: First of all, how do you describe yourself as rider?
Demi Vollering: I would describe myself as a allround rider. I think that my qualities are more than only climbing or only sprinting. For example: I can’t climb like Annemiek van Vleuten yet, but I think I can beat her in a sprint. Or, I can’t sprint like Marianne Vos yet, but I think I can beat her on a longer climb. So I think I have a bit of everything and I want to improve all those things, in particular my time trial. On the whole, the harder the race gets, the better it fits me.
LB: How old were you when you started cycling and how did you came to it?
DV: I’d always liked cycling very much from the beginning of my first ride with side wheels as a 1,5 year old. I was too small for a normal 12 inch bike but my grandmother found a really small bike. I was a very stubborn child when I was young and I really wanted to go on my bike and ride with other older girls in the streets where I lived.
It was my family who inspired me to begin with races. My niece and nephew were already bike racing and I wanted to race too. So I started with some small races organized in Holland called dikke bandenrace [literally fat tires racing, ed]. Essentially it’s a little race for children on normal bikes. After that I started when I was 11 by a tourclub, and after a few years I was finally allowed by my parents to do real races. I was 16 years old and I liked it really really much!
Despite the passion for cycling, a professional career on the bike was not really on sight for the young Vollering. Eventually it all changed in a pair of years…
LB: What did you persuade to focus totally on cycling in the last couple of years?
DV: I always loved doing sports, especially cycling which was among other things part of my summer training for ice skating. After I started working with my trainer, my level in cycling was getting higher and I enjoyed it more and more. Moreover my boyfriend always said to me that I could be a good pro cyclist. He even went so far in stimulating me for cycling, that he adviced me to quit ice skating. I was not growing much more in the ice skating, which was also why I was training too much on the bike. The idea of quitting ice skating actually scared me a bit. At the time I started with the cycling team Swaboladies, my trainer also pushed me in the training schedules, resulting in some good results. Then I made the decision to quit ice skating and going 100% for cycling to become a pro. In that time my boyfriend moved to Switzerland, so I also started training there in the mountains, which was a big game changer in my training. I liked it very much and I could add much more quality to my trainings than before. That also definitely helped.
LB: Do you still pratice speed skating? Do you think a pro cyclist could benefit from it?
DV: No, last season I did only 3 matches and that was more for fun. This off-season I go on the ice 2 times but again only for fun. I do not so much training anymore on the ice and that’s something you need for your technic, which is very important in ice-skating. I think I benefit from it because when you do ice skating you learn to give everything and to train really hard. Don’t forget about the core stability you get from ice skating, furthermore you will get a good balance from it what you can use when you are almost going to crash or something like that. You also learn a lot to deal with disappointment, so in general it is a really good sport and lesson to start with!
LB: What did you change in your life and training style that made you so stronger over the last two years?
DV: When I finished my study in flower design, I worked a lot in a few shops, on evenements and also in my father’s business. During that time I also cycled some races, but I was not training so much. I was also ice skating and training for that like 3-4 times per week. Then I met my boyfriend. He was also involved in cycling at the highest amateur level. He trained a lot more then me and I started training with him. We also went for long weekends in the Ardennes. That was the point where I started to train. I also realized I needed more rest after those trainings and my boyfriend motivated me all the time to quit – at least – one of my jobs. So I could train more, but more important: I could rest more. I think quitting more and more my working life was one of the hardest decisions, but one of the most important. It was a life style changer. The other important change was that I started working with a trainer. He showed me with maximum efforts test that I was capable of much more than I thought until that moment. He wrote me trainings schedules and it payed off immediately. That’s where I was getting the feeling that I became much stronger.
Demi had the first real opportunity to face professional racing in 2018 with Swaboladies team, reaching her first interesting results in some stage-races such as Tour of Uppsala, Thüringen Tour and Tour de l’Ardèche. Her results attracted the attention of some teams, in particular from Parkhotel Valkenburg, which eventually offered her an opportunity for 2019 (recently she prolonged her contract with the team until 2021). Vollering’s talent came out already during the last spring classics: she reached three top-10s in all the Ardennes (with the podium in Liége as highest point). She confirmed later her quality with really solid performances in Festival Elsy Jacobs, OVO Women’s Tour, Giro Rosa, La Course, GP Plouay and the closing win in Giro dell’Emilia. She represented also the Dutch national team at the European and World Championships, revealing herself as an important helper for the success of het mates.
LB: What do you think is the key of success for the Dutch women? There’s such a remarkable difference between the Netherlands and other traditional countries such as Belgium or France. Even with younger riders as you and your teammate Lorena Wiebes, Dutch dominance seems without a near end…
DV: I think it is in the Netherlands very easy to step up on a bike. In the Netherlands we almost all go as a child on the bike to school, but we also have a lot of cycling clubs where you can start. You can rent a little racing bike so parents don’t need to buy directly one. These cycling clubs stand for fun and with fun you learn techniques etc. A sport is about fun especially when you are a child, having fun is the most important thing!
LB: About Dutch dominance, a rider we must name is surely Marianne Vos, who is probably the best female cyclist ever. What impact she had and still have on cycling and in general the sport environment in the Netherlands? You raced with her at the last Worlds, hou is to race with Marianne?
DV: Marianne is a inspiration for every cyclist. If she wins she always wins with Force majeure and a lot of believe. And that is how you need to take a win, you need to believe in it! In the Netherlands everybody knows Vos. When you tell you’re a pro cyclist, sometimes people don’t really know what it means,but when you say that you’re riding in the peleton with Vos, people react like: “wow really?“. So that shows how powerful and well-known she is in the Netherlands. What I admire on Marianne is that she act so normal. She is one of the greatest cyclists ever, but she is not arrogant or she doesn’t think she is better than others. She always has time for a picture with a fan or a little chat with everyone, but she also dares to say what she wants to say!
LB: How do you see the position of women’s pro cycling compared with men? Do you think you still miss something your male colleagues have and you deserve too (about rights, earnings etc.)?
I think it is going really well in women’s cycling, everything is becoming better and better. There are already some teams with big buses, but there are still also a lot of teams who don’t have a lot of money or sponsors. There are still many riders who almost don’t get paid. That is not good and instead of screaming that the price money needs to be higher, I think we need to make sure everyone is getting paid. We also need to make sure that race organizers have enough money so they can provide a TV broadcast. Because that’s how you make the races more seen and make it more popular and attractive. I know a lot of people who really want to see women’s races, but they have no idea where they can see it, or a lot of times there isn’t even a live stream! We can ask teams to pay riders a real salary, but we also need to make it more seen and popular, so money and sponsors will come…
LB: What do you consider the best and worst things about being a pro cyclist?
DV: Traveling is at the same time one of the best parts but even one of the worst because you are very often away from home, family, love and friends. My family lives in Holland and my boyfriend lives in Switzerland. So I always try to fit quality time in my schedule with both my family and my love. But the best part is cycling itself, I really like to ride my bike, especially in new places! Training in the mountains of Switzerland is definitely one of my favourite things!
LB: As rider you surely had many good and bad days, can you say which are the best and worst days you’ve ever had on the bike in your career?
DV: Liège-Bastogne-Liège was a bad but also one of my best days! It was so cold and wet that day, I almost froze. But I had a goal for that race: I wanted to stand on the podium for the first time in the WWT, so I kept going and when Annemiek [Van Vleuten, ed.] en Floortje [Mackaij, ed.] where gone I always believed I could win the sprint. When I won the sprint from a little peloton, I couldn’t believe it. It was a very special moment because everyone had so much believe in me. My whole team, my boyfriend, family and my trainer, I think they believed it a little bit more than I did myself. Another of that bad/good days was the Dutch Championship. My legs were sooo bad that day, but we rode as team our asses off! I was so empty, but we really needed to close the gap for our sprinter Lorena [Wiebes, ed.]. We made it and Lorena won the sprint becoming Dutch Champion [here‘s the video of the race, ed.]. That was a very awesome moment, everyone there was supporting the team because we are a Dutch team and the race was in Holland. Also my family was there and the ambiance was sooo good! I think one of the really best days in a race was in Trofeo Binda, which was my first WWT race. I enjoyed everything so much, I had very good legs and such a good feeling on the bike! I think maybe also because I had no expectations. I escaped in the final and rode to win it and I really enjoyed every moment of that. That was the best feeling!
And of course the last race of the season, Giro dell’Emilia Donne, I had a really good feeling the whole day, and I was really convinced that I could win that day [here‘s a video of her win, ed.].
LB: Do you have a cyclist or people from other sports you really look or looked up to?
DV: Two years ago I would have said no, but now I think Mathieu van der Poel is a very special and inspiring athlete. He does everything with so much passion, he really loves cycling on every discipline and he always wants to win. He rides with his heart and that is something I always want to do too.
LB: For a climbing lover like you, the Netherlands seems not to be the ideal location to train. How much of your training time do you spend away from home? Where do you like to go training?
DV: I think I train 60% abroad, especially in Switzerland because my boyfriend lives there. I can do there a lot more training than when I am home, because I stay home in the Netherlands between short periods without racing. If I have longer than a week no race, I go to Switzerland. I train longer and harder there because of the mountains and beautiful nature, but I can also rest more: I don’t have much distractions there.
LB: Do you usually train alone or you have a usual training group?
DV: Most of the time I train alone, or I train with my boyfriend. I also did last year some trainings with the Zug Zürich Peloton in Switzerland, that is a really nice training group who rides on Saturday. The people in this group are from everywhere: America, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Denmark, England and a lot more countries. Of course before races or on training camps I train with my teammates. But now in the off-season I train a lot with friends in Holland, off-season is a good period for coffee rides or some MTB with friends.
LB: What do you like to do when you are not riding your bike?
DV: I love the winters in Switzerland, when everything is covered with ice and snow. Last year I started with tour skiing and that was really awesome! But also in summer or other periods pf the year I do like to go to the mountains, especially with my boyfriend and my dog. I enjoy the little things, the views and the silence of nature. I really can enjoy all of those things!
LB: Is there a race you would really want to win more than any other ?
DV: Oh, there are a lot of races I would like to win! I think the Amstel Gold Race is a very special one for me as a Dutchie. I also want to win a stage in the Giro, La Course and like any other cyclist I dream of becoming World Champion. I am still young so I hope I have still a lot of years to go!
LB: How do you judge your last season and what are your goals and expectations for 2020?
DV: The first part of my season went really really well. It was my first year as a pro cyclist and all the races were new for me. I had a lot of good results, and I was living constantly on a “pink cloud”. The second part was also very special. There I was very focused on the Giro Rosa which was so beautiful and special. I really wanted to have a podium spot but all of the riders were in amazing good shape! That made it really difficult, but I came several times really close to podium, and the days that I could made it I made little mistakes, but that is cycling… You will lose a lot more than you will win.
My place in the Dutch team was also a goal but that I could go this year already to the European Championships and the Worlds was something I didn’t espect so soon!
My goals for next season are riding with my heart and to win races. The Ardennes classics are again a big goal for me. Afterwards I hope to be on the ticket again for the World Championship and the European Championship. I especially look forward to the Worlds, because they are held in Switzerland next year. Since my partner lives there, I’ve been training a lot in this beautiful country, which makes it very special for me.
We really want to thank Demi for her time spent for our blog, wishing her and her team Parkhotel Valkenburg the best for the upcoming season!