A woman in cycling clothing and with a dirty face gives the camera a huge smile.

Wheel Talk Newsletter: AJ!

Demi's rumored move to FDJ-Suez (and Specialized's involvement) continues to be the hottest topic at coffeeshop meetups.

Abby Mickey
by Abby Mickey 30.04.2024 Photography by
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Hello, and a big thank you for opening this edition of the Wheel Talk Newsletter. We are three stages into La Vuelta España Femenina with a lot of action to come later in the week, so much so that we will release a few bonus podcasts with audio diaries from Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale), Alessia Vigilia (FDJ-Suez), Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco) and more! But for now, before we dive in …

It’s looking more and more likely that Demi Vollering will join FDJ-Suez.

Speculation around which kit Vollering will ride in next year has been one of the hottest topics of gossip all spring, but the options have slowly narrowed down after Lidl-Trek and UAE Team ADQ both all but confirmed the Tour de France champion would not join them next season. Now, FDJ-Suez has emerged as the most likely option for the Dutch national champion, with rumours of a long-term deal in place and the French team switching bike sponsors to Specialized as well.

Demi Vollering raises her arm in greating on a stage flanked by two little girls.

The talk became more than just rumours when the general manager of Vollering’s current SD Worx-Protime team commented on the move, stating that FDJ-Suez had connected with the major bike brand as well as their star rider.

“I think she goes to FDJ, I think yes but I’m not sure,” Erwin Janssen told GCN last week. “We read about Lidl-Trek and I knew that they talked for a long time with them, and then UAE but I read that it stopped. I think FDJ is the possibility and I think they have the connection with Specialized and we heard that Specialized might be the team’s sponsor for next year. One and one together equals two.”

If the deal between Specialized and the French team is true, it would make Vollering’s move to FDJ-Suez a heck of a lot more likely. It would also be massive for the team that started as a French devo team. And imagine a French (kind of) Tour win?! It would also not impact SD Worx-Protime’s longstanding deal with the brand, as they recently announced a contract extension with Specialized through 2028.

Demi Vollering, dressed in the yellow leaders jersey of the Tour de France, holds a lion and flowers and smiles at someone off picture to her right.

When asked about the Tour winner joining his team, FDJ-Suez’s GM Stephen Delcourt played cool, made jokes and displayed his professionalism by throwing in some sponsor plugs.

“How could that be? We’re not Dutch and with Lapierre as our bike sponsor … Do you think that’s possible? Maybe we could start negotiations tomorrow.”

“The market is really crazy, but our priority is to continue as we are with our team, and if I feel that Cecile (Uttrup Ludwig) or Marta (Cavalli) is leaving, I am not foolish, but right now we are all laying our cards on the table. Every team is talking to Demi but I think it takes time. The rumour is UAE, right? I think she has the opportunity to sign wherever she wants,” Delcourt said.

Wherever Vollering goes the team dynamic will shift, there is no doubt about that. With her Tour win, and any other general classification win that might come this year, not to mention her strength in the hilly one-days, most riders will be relegated to co-leader at best. So while team managers are chomping at the bit to sign Vollering, the GC and one-day specialists on their teams might not feel the same. Especially if they themselves are winners.

Demi Vollering holds her face in her hands while she cries, she is in front of a handful of press branded microphones.

One thing Delcourt said is definitely true: the market this year is crazy and we are likely going to see more than one high-profile shift. Marlen Reusser is also rumoured to be leaving SD Worx-Protime, for example. A ton of riders are out of contract including Elisa Longo Borghini, Niamh Fisher-Black, Mischa Bredewold, Ellen van Dijk, Lizzie Deignan, Amanda Spratt, Grace Brown, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Marta Cavalli, Juliette Labous, Kasia Niewiadoma, Elise Chabbey, Chloe Dygert. The list is long and some big shifts are almost certain.

Racing continues…

At La Vuelta España Femenina!

That’s right, we still have five stages to go in Spain. In case you missed it, I have been writing daily stage previews for each individual stage, as well as daily race reports and more deep dives when necessary. For extensive information before the stages start, check them out! For example, for stage 4 on Wednesday I can tell you where the wind will be coming from and how it might impact the peloton. Plus, I make daily (so far all wrong) picks! Fun!

Wheel Talk Podcast

This week is a special one! We recorded our usual weekly episode with Gracie, Loren, and I but we also included a second part from after the second stage of La Vuelta on Monday. We are also planning a few special episodes after stages 6 and 8 of La Vuelta. Stage 6’s episode will be with Matt de Neef, and any additional coverage will be with Loren and possibly another familiar voice.

Plus, we have a bunch of riders on the ground sending in audio diaries from a couple of the stages, so we can get some real in-the-peloton vibes: Maike van der Duin (Canyon-SRAM), Alessia Vigilia (FDJ-Suez), Kim Cadzow (EF Edcuation-Cannondale), Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco), and Brodie Chapman (Lidl-Trek).

Let’s Discuss

How could you not love an Alison Jackson victory?

On Monday Alison Jackson won the second stage of La Vuelta España Femenina from a semi-reduced sprint. The final 3 km of the race was hectic, with crashes and splits in the peloton, basically, the perfect situation to cultivate a Jackson victory. The Canadian national champion thrives on chaos, as we saw last year at Paris-Roubaix Femmes, and Monday went from exactly what you’d expect of the stage to full-blown w.t.h.

In the end, it was Jackson who outsprinted SD Worx’s Blanka Vas to the line, and the ensuing celebrations did not disappoint.

Alison Jackson hugs an EF teammate after her Vuelta stage win. Both are smiling and laughing.
Alison Jackson and an EF teammate let out excited yells as they celebrate Jackson's stage win. Both riders have fierce expressions.
Alison Jackson hugs teammate Kim Cadzow. She has a wide open-mouth smile, while Cadzow's back is to the camera in the close-framed shot of Jackson's face.

There were the inevitable AJ dance moves and very endearing jump onto the podium, and in general, a lot of joy was shared among EF Education-Cannondale and other teams as well.

Alison Jackson wears her Canadian flag jersey as she stands on a podium to collect her stage-win prize.
Alison Jackson holds a trophy out for someone off-camera to see or photograph. She has a wide smile and her head is cocked sideways.

Every time the camera panned to EF Education-Cannondale the smiles were infectious, the dancing was wild, and it was clear that this victory really meant something to the “new” team.

Once the riders had cleared out of the finish town and headed to the hotels Jackson jumped on social media to personally thank every one of her teammates. “My biggest difference maker today,” Jackson wrote about Magdeleine Vallieres. “All the right decisions at all the right times. All in for the win.”

“It’s real life and you help make it happen, boss,” she wrote to Kim Cadzow’s IG post about the win.

Jackson’s thank yous to her teammates highlight the importance of this victory for EF Education-Cannondale, but also for Jackson herself. For any team in its first “Grand Tour,” a stage win is massive. It’s easy to forget they aren’t a WorldTour outfit, but they treat their riders and staff as if they were. They are WorldTour in all but license, and their inclusion in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift will only further their future goals. For Jackson, it was her first European win since Paris-Roubaix last season.

“I came in with a real fire to win this. My teammates took care of me right from the beginning to the finish,” said Jackson after the stage. “I had a bit of a disappointing spring, but you can only control what you can control. The team believed in me, from staff to riders, and I totally took that to heart. To have a win in the Vuelta is just another great thing to put on the resume.”

The confidence this win adds to her future racing only means more dancing for us in the coming months.

The joys of social media

When the stage race starts with a TTT so almost the whole winning team gets to pull on a special shirt (some even got matching helmets and glasses!)…

A picture worth a couple of words

There are some pretty great photos that came out of EF Education-Cannondale’s team camp, thanks to the Grubers who have been the go-to photographers for the men’s team for years. I have no idea what is happening here, but I’m sure everyone behind the camera is laughing uncontrollably.

What do you think is happening in this photo of Alison Jackson at team camp? Drop only your hottest takes in the comments.

Inevitable Taylor Swift segment

It has been just over a week since the world was made better by the release of The Tortured Poets Department. It’s a miracle anything has gotten done at all at my house. The album is definitely one that grows on you; like I told Gracie on the podcast this week, there are no radio hits here. You have to really listen, and give it time to soak into your bones. Or don’t! That’s completely up to you!

It’s not every day someone admits they were wrong about something, but a week after its release Oliver Darcy wrote for CNN that he had prematurely judged the album but after more extensive listening had done a complete 180.

“One week later, my view of the album has entirely reversed. After spending more time with the two-hour sonic feast, more methodically touring through its subtleties and nuances, I am ready to declare that it is one of Swift’s best works yet,” Darcy wrote.

As is usually the case with Swift everyone and their mom has been quick to pick apart literally everything to try to find fault in the hit record. And I’m not saying Swift and the album are without fault; of course, they are. Swift is only human, after all, albeit with more time in the day than anyone else.

The biggest criticism I have had a problem with is that Swift’s partnership with Jack Antonoff has gone stale.

“The new songs suggest that, after a decade, her partnership with Antonoff has perhaps run its course. The tracks written with (Aaron) Dessner are gentler, more tender, and more surprising,” Amanda Petrusich wrote for The New Yorker.

Antonoff is the producer of three out of four of Swift’s Album of the Year wins at the Grammy’s (1989, folklore, and Midnights), and also the producer of “Dress,” “Getaway Car,” “Cruel Summer,” “Cornelia Street,” “False God,” and the list goes on!

I saw one tweet that hilariously stated that the first half of the 31-track album was good but it sounded like Antonoff was just bored at a certain point and a lot of the songs on the Anthology sounded tired (most of the backside were produced by Dessner, not Antonoff).

This week Swift claimed the top 14 spots on the Billboard 200 charts, the first artist in history to do so. Of the 14 songs, only three were produced by Dessner; the rest were the magic of the Swift + Antonoff friendship. Part of that is because the second half of the album wasn’t part of the initial sales push, but there are some real bangers there. “Down Bad” and “Guilty as Sin?” “The Tortured Poets Department?” All good.

So, if you haven’t yet, perhaps give this album a bit of your time, I hope you can enjoy it (but not as much as I do because it’s ruining my life).

Until next time!

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Wheel Talk Newsletter! I will be back next week for more, and if you have any questions or topics you want me to cover let me know on Discord or on social media @abimickey. And come back to Escape Collective all week for more coverage of La Vuelta!

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