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A shocking sprint, one wild horse and trouble at Team SD Worx

A shocking sprint, one wild horse and trouble at Team SD Worx

Maybe it was the blazing Tuscan sun, or the nerves and chaos that the white dust roads throw up, or perhaps it was the wild sight of a stray horse among the race convoy, but the 2023 women’s edition of Strade Bianche was one of the strangest in memory.

One of the most confusing things about the sport of cycling is that there can only be one winner of a bike race, yet everybody races in a team. In theory, every rider contributes to the victory, yet only one stands on the podium and gets the accolades at the end of the day. For sponsors and stakeholders, it doesn’t really matter which rider that is, as long as they have the right logos on their jersey. It’s for this reason that when two or three riders of the same team come to the finish line together, they normally share the victory. We’ve seen it numerous times in cycling history, think back to just a few weeks ago at the women’s UAE Tour when Elisa Longo-Borghini and Gaia Realini crossed the line hand-in-hand, or last season when the men’s Jumbo Visma team scored a 1-2-3 in the first stage of Paris-Nice. They crossed the finish line arm in arm, united as teammates.

As Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky of Team SD Worx stormed towards the finish line in the final kilometre of this year’s Strade Bianche Donne, this was the approach we expected them to take. Maybe Kopecky would give the win to Vollering, respecting that the younger rider had been out in the breakaway for longer and that she’d never won the race before, while Kopecky took victory in Strade Bianche last year. Or maybe it would be decided by the sports directors in the team car behind. Either way, few expected it to turn out how it did.

As the finish line in Piazza del Campo approached, Vollering and Kopecky opened up a storming, aggressive sprint against each other. In that moment, the fact they wore the same jersey meant nothing. This was about victory and pride, and certainly no hand holding.

“I think my emotions were a bit confused at first because in the moment that I looked around to celebrate with her, she overtook me,” Vollering explained after the race. “Then I was like, is she just doing a lead out for me? But then I felt like she was really going for it and I was like, okay, we’re not teammates anymore.”

Anyone watching the immediate reaction of the Dutch rider after she crossed the finish line would have seen the pure, bitter and unfiltered disappointment of Vollering. She had, in fact, won the…

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