Trouble at Team SD Worx – A dramatic day for the Dutch team at Dwars door Vlaanderen

As Marianne Vos took an impressive sprint win while Team SD Worx failed to make the podium

It’s a rarity that the jersey of Team SD Worx-Protime isn’t visible on the podium of Women’s WorldTour races – the expectations of the Dutch squad are so high that the bigger story is often when they don’t win, rather than when they do. It’s been this way for the last few seasons in the peloton as the number one-ranked women’s WorldTour team have consistently dominated races, their rule over the results sheets becoming such a common occurrence it regularly led to eye-rolling from fans. There has been a steady shift building throughout the 2024 season, however, as other teams have been steadily clawing their way back to the level of SD Worx, putting them under pressure in some of the biggest races of the season. Finally, this year’s edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen was the sure, concrete sign that the days of SD Worx’s dominance have come to an end.

Perhaps we should have already read the signs of disarray within the team earlier today, when a report by GCN surfaced that Demi Vollering – last year’s Tour de France Femmes winner – would leave the team at the end of 2024 (according to SD Worx’s team boss, Danny Stam.) The news story was quickly followed by a Tweet from the team’s own account which stated: "We made Demi Vollering a generous offer and indicated that this should be responded to before a certain date. Vollering's management did not respond to this. Therefore, we assume that Vollering will leave the team at the end of the year. The report in the media that we recently sat down with Demi or her management is not true."

The conflicting accounts from within the team regarding Vollering’s contract point to conflict within the Dutch squad, especially considering that SD Worx has offered world champion Lotte Kopecky a contract until 2028. It was undoubtedly an unsettling way for Vollering to begin the first race in her current Belgian Classics campaign and, from the way they were racing, it looked as if the rider's feathers could have been ruffled by the discourse too.

A crucial moment came with just under 30 kilometres of the race remaining, when the team of Lidl-Trek decided to put pressure on SD Worx by forcing a move over the cobblestones. Shirin van Anrooij, Lucinda Brand and Elisa Longo Borghini were the riders from the American squad who were ripping things up at the front of the race, and the jerseys of Team SD Worx-Protime were nowhere to be seen. It’s been years since the Dutch team have found themselves on the back foot like this in one of the biggest races of the season, and the likes of Kopecky and Vollering were forced to panic as they scrambled to regain ground on their rivals.

An untimely puncture for Vollering put her out of contention, though Kopecky did manage to bridge across to the front group, her world champion stripes steadily coming into view behind the breakaway group. When the Belgian rider eventually made the catch, though, the work was far from done. With the duo of Van Anrooij and Longo-Borghini in the group for Lidl-Trek, as well as fast finishers Marianne Vos (Visma-Lease a Bike) and Letizia Paternoster (Liv-Alula-Jayco) also present, Kopecky once again found herself outnumbered. She might be the world champion, but even Kopecky can’t mark every move when she’s alone in a group of six, and when Van Anrooij attacked and Vos went with her, the world champion had little response.

It’s not a situation that Kopecky is especially used to and it was clear that she missed the company of riders like Marlen Reusser or Vollering in the front selection today. With the Tour of Flanders fast approaching on Sunday, SD Worx will need to go back to the drawing board in order to figure out how to get the better of a flying Marianne Vos and a Lidl-Trek team with supreme collective strength. Trying to boost morale in the Dutch team will surely be made harder, though, with the extremely public controversy surrounding Vollering’s contract that comes with added stress and tension for all involved.

While Dwars door Vlaanderen isn’t a race which holds the same prestige as the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, it should be bookmarked as the event that signified a big change in the dynamic of the women’s peloton. Lidl-Trek now appear to be, by far, the dominant team ahead of the Tour of Flanders, and SD Worx are no longer the unflappable superpower we once thought of them as. The likes of Vos and Van Anrooij will take extreme confidence from their results at Dwars door Vlaanderen, while Kopecky will undoubtedly be more motivated than ever to prove that she’s still the best Classics rider in the peloton.

It’s shaping up to be a big showdown in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday – is this the end of SD Worx’s dominance, or just a bump in the road?

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