Demi Vollering docked 20 seconds after drafting team car

"Danny Stam to the principal's office. Danny Stam to the principal's office."

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 27.07.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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UPDATE: This piece has been updated to reflect the decision of Tour de France Femmes commissaires after stage 5.

SD Worx invoked the ire of commissaires at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift thanks to its clumsy handling of a puncture for GC leader Demi Vollering, ultimately leading to a 20-second time penalty for the Dutchwoman, a favorite to win the overall title at the race.

The penalty sees Vollering fall down the GC standings from second overall behind her teammate Lotte Kopecky to seventh. Starting the stage with a 12-second advantage over her main rival Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Vollering is now eight seconds behind her Dutch compatriot.

Vollering had a rear wheel puncture with around 65 km to go in Thursday’s stage 5 which her team mechanic quickly changed. But on Vollering’s chase back to the bunch, the team repeatedly stretched the rules, much to the chagrin of a nearby commissaire.

After remounting with a new wheel installed, Vollering quickly jumped into the slipstream of her team car, driven by sports director Danny Stam. None of Vollering’s teammates had slowed to help their leader chase back on.

Vollering stayed in the car’s slipstream for a full minute, including as her team car veered onto roadside grass to avoid another car that had slowed to try to rejoin the convoy.

With a commissaire gesticulating behind, Vollering finally pulled out of the team car’s draft, and set off alone.

The commissaire then pulled alongside the team car and indicated his frustration, seemingly suggesting that the team would receive a fine at minimum.

Vollering jumped back into the convoy, drafting off the FDJ-Suez car briefly. Moments later, Vollering was beside her team car, receiving a ‘sticky bidon’ from Stam.

And then she was back behind the team car for another 10 seconds before bridging across to the wheel of Christine Majerus who had finally sat up and come back to help out.

When all was said and done at the end of the stage, officials decided to penalise Vollering and her team for “sheltering behind a vehicle”. The yellow jersey hopeful was docked 20 seconds on GC, 10 points in the points classification, two points in the QOM classification, and fined 100 Swiss francs. Stam was also fined 200 Swiss francs.

The official ruling on Vollering’s penalty.

In her post-stage press conference as overall leader, Vollering’s teammate Lotte Kopecky was forthright in her opinion of the penalty.

“Demi getting 20 seconds for this reason is a bit bullshit, I think,” the Belgian said. “I mean, if you get dropped then I think it’s normal that no one should bring you back. But if you have a mechanical then … I mean, this happens all the time. And then it’s stupid that now she gets 20 seconds while it happens all the time.”

Vollering’s penalty not the first time the Dutch team has caught the eye of officials this week.

On stage 2, Vollering was fined 250 Swiss francs and docked 15 UCI points for “carelessly getting rid of a bouncing bottle and remaining on the road.”

On stage 4, rider Mischa Bredewold and sports director Anna van der Breggen were fined 200 Swiss francs for a pair of sticky bidons.

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