Vos and Vollering are back - How could this change the race at Dwars door Vlaanderen?

Two of the biggest names in the women’s peloton haven’t raced since Strade Bianche, but they are back in action as the Tour of Flanders approaches

Both Demi Vollering and Marianne Vos have a certain presence about them when they stand on the start line. Their past results mean that they are the sorts of riders who demand respect in the peloton – they could never sneak away with a subtle attack, instead they are both feared and revered by rivals who anticipate their every move. With this in mind, when Vollering takes to the start line for Team SD Worx, and Vos for Visma-Lease a Bike at Dwars door Vlaanderen tomorrow, they have the potential to change the dynamic of the race entirely.

Neither rider has raced since Strade Bianche at the start of March, both skipping Women's WorldTour events such as Trofeo Binda and Gent-Wevelgem over the past couple of weeks. How this will have impacted each rider’s form remains to be seen – it could be that those such as Lidl-Trek’s Elisa Balsamo will benefit from the additional race kilometres they have in their legs, or perhaps the freshness of Vollering and Vos will elevate their form above that of their rivals. Vollering’s third place at Strade Bianche and Vos’s win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad already this season have shown that both riders have had a solid winter and are certainly not lacking in the physical condition to challenge for victories in the biggest races – so how could their return to the women’s peloton impact the racing dynamic?

Kopecky and Vollering of SD Worx after finishing in first and third place at Strade Bianche Donne (Image: Getty)

Perhaps the most obvious result of Vollering coming back to racing will be an even stronger SD Worx squad. While the gap between the number one-ranked women’s team and the rest of the peloton seems to have somewhat lessened this season, SD Worx have still proven themselves to be extremely hard to beat. Teams such as Lidl-Trek came close to putting pressure on Lotte Kopecky in both Strade Bianche and Gent-Wevelgem by outnumbering the world champion, but this is going to prove harder to do when Vollering is also in the mix for SD Worx.

However, an additional leader in the Dutch team has shown to be a double-edged sword in the past. In the 2023 edition of Strade Bianche, Kopecky and Vollering sprinted against each other for victory – a relatively unprecedented move when two teammates come together to the finish line. That wasn’t the only occasion last season where there appeared to be confusion between the two talented SD Worx riders regarding which of them had leadership in the team, either.

Last year, Vollering took victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen with a solo move on the cobbled ascents that come late on in the race, and she’ll be keen to defend her title in 2024. Equally, the improvement that Kopecky has made in her climbing abilities this season has been well-documented, and it seems unlikely that she will struggle on short climbs like the Nokereberg this season. It’s likely that, eventually, either Vollering or Kopecky will need to sacrifice their chances for the other to go for victory and if they lack cohesion when making this decision, this could provide a perfect opportunity on which their rivals should capitalise.

Marianne Vos wins the 2024 edition of Omloop het Nieuwsblad (Image: Getty)

One of those key rivals will, of course, be three-time former world champion Vos of Visma-Lease a Bike. Vos outsprinted Kopecky at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad a few weeks ago – a race in which SD Worx’s sprinter, Lorena Wiebes, was unable to follow attacks on the steep climbs. This means that should Dwars door Vlaanderen be raced in a similarly aggressive fashion as Omloop, fast finishers like Wiebes and Balsamo could be put under pressure, while Vos has proven she is able to keep up on short climbs and still pack a punch at the line. The 36-year-old’s experience in the peloton also gives her the upper hand – her tactics are exemplary and if there is one rider who knows how to cope under the pressure of SD Worx, it’s Vos. Fem van Empel, also of Visma-Lease a Bike, is due to make her season debut at Dwars door Vlaanderen too and if she’s in good form, Vos will also be able to rely on Van Empel to help her put up a challenge to SD Worx.

While Lidl-Trek have been doing a formidable job in putting up a strong fight against the dominance of SD Worx which has plagued the women’s WorldTour in recent years, Vos coming back to the peloton will add another dynamic into the mix and is another rider for Kopecky’s team to look out for. The more riders who are able to challenge Vollering and Kopecky, the better the racing is going to be and we can expect fireworks at Dwars door Vlaanderen – especially if SD Worx struggle to manage the egos of superstars in their ranks.

This might only be the warm-up race before the Tour of Flanders, but the return of riders like Vos and Vollering to the peloton make Dwars door Vlaanderen incredibly crucial to understanding who will be in the mix at the De Ronde a few days later.

Cover image: Getty/Alex Broadway

Shop now