Marlen Reusser focuses on the road ahead of her while riding solo ahead of the peloton during Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Wheel Talk Newsletter: Another SD Worx-Protime transfer?!

With Vuelta a Burgos this weekend we are nearing the end of the Spanish racing block.

Hello, and thank you for opening this week’s Wheel Talk Newsletter. Itzulia saw the return of SD Worx-Protime dominance, and as the peloton turns their focus to Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, the question of how to defeat Demi Vollering is once again a hot topic. Marlen Reusser is the next rider from the Dutch team to be leaving (apparently) and we (the Wheel Talk Podcast team) are loving the Spanish block of races!

Hot take: the Spanish block of racing is 🔥

It all started with La Vuelta España Femenina, eight days of fantastic racing with some surprise results and a heck of a lot to talk about, followed by the 1.Pro Navarra Classic. The one-day race in between the Vuelta and the following WWT stage race, Itzulia Women, played host to a number of top teams, but they couldn’t quite sway the day their way and Hannah Ludwig took a stunning solo victory.

Ludwig, only 24 years old, signed her first professional contract in 2019 with Canyon-SRAM. She would ride for the German team for three seasons before joining Uno-X for two years. This year, she’s taken a step down to ride for Continental-level Cofidis, but after walking into the pro ranks so young, being on the French team has been a good move for the German rider.

Hannah Ludwig looks up as she finishes a time trial
Ludwig during the 2018 Junior World Championship ITT

With 23 km to go Ludwig took advantage of the race-day rivalry between Movistar and Lidl-Trek to break away alone. She wouldn’t see another rider until after she’d crossed the line, arms raised. Movistar was especially eager to win the race, as it was a “home” event for the team, but neither WorldTour team could organize themselves to chase down Ludwig.

Two days later the women started Itzulia Women, and it would be a return to the SD Worx-Protime show we saw in 2023. The Dutch team swept all three stages with Mischa Bredewold winning stages 1 and 2 and Demi Vollering taking the final stage and with it the General Classification.

Despite one team winning … everything … the race was fascinating, especially the second stage when Vollering tried to break away solo mid-stage, and was then joined by Canyon-SRAM’s Elise Chabbey, then her SD Worx teammate Marlen Reusser. Reusser told her countrywoman Chabbey that if she didn’t work the move the two SD Worx-Protime riders would attack her (newsflash: she absolutely did not need to work) but it all came back together anyway and a three-rider move went late to win the stage.

Bredewold, in the leader’s jersey, made it into that three-rider move alongside Mavi García and Juliette Labous and was able to beat the two climbers 24 hours after winning a bunch sprint.

Mischa Bredewold holds her head in her hands in shock as she crosses the finish line of a bike race
Bredewold’s second stage victory was amazing.

Vollering’s solo victory on the final stage was something, but Bredewold was the talk of the race. The European Champion won two stages in two completely different styles and then was able to regain contact with the peloton after getting distanced on stage 3 to finish third on the stage (second in the bunch) and hold onto second overall. It was a breakthrough three days for the young Dutchwoman.

On Tuesday we were treated to another mid-week one day – Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria – and another solo victory, this time from 2023 Tour de France Femmes Youth Classification winner Cédrine Kerbaol. The Frenchwoman was part of a three-rider break on the rain-soaked roads but left Évita Muzic (FDJ-Suez) and Thalita de Jong (Lotto Dstny) behind to win alone by four seconds. Muzic took second and De Jong third.

The race was impacted by challenging weather conditions, and it wasn’t until the final 20 km that things really started to go off. FDJ-Suez were the instigators, with Muzic at their head, and pushed the peloton’s pace on the final ascent of the Alto de Goiuria. After the climb and with 7 km remaining Muzic and De Jong took off, but Kerbaol was able to catch the two on the descent.

Ceratizit-WNT celebrates Kerbaol’s Tour de France jersey

She attacked in the final kilometres, catching Muzic and De Jong off-guard to win the stage, narrowly.

Muzic’s teammate Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig returned to racing at Durango-Durango after breaking her sacrum earlier in the season. The Dane finished an impressive 1:23 down in 19th place.

Racing continues…

At Vuelta a Burgos Feminas!

We are quickly approaching the final Spanish stage race of the year, with a similar vibe to Itzulia Women; last year SD Worx-Protime swept all four stages of Vuelta a Burgos with Lorena Wiebes and Demi Vollering and (obviously) the overall. This year Vollering looks strong enough to again claim the race, but there are some teams that will try to challenge the Dutch champion, not to mention riders within Vollering’s team who will want a piece of the pie.

The Basics

When: May 16 – 19

Stages: Four stages, all hilly but not mountainous

Live: 🇬🇧🇪🇺 Discovery +/Eurosport, 🇺🇸 Peacock, 🇨🇦 FloBikes, 🇦🇺 As of writing the race is not on the SBS

The Courses

Stage 1: Thursday, May 16 – Villagonzalo Pedernales to Burgos (123 km)

There are three Category 3 climbs on the first stage, but a few noncategorized climbs that are only a step below. The first uncategorized ascent is early in the stage, only 8.5 km into the 123 km stage. It’s 3.4 km long and averages 2.6%; nothing major, but a good enough challenge early on to open up the race to attacks.

Only 20 km later the race crosses another uncategorized ascent, this time a 4th Category (according to VeloViewer) 1.4 km long climb of 6%, with maximum slopes of 8.3%. This would also not be a major obstacle to the race except that after the peloton descends from the peak, they will go straight into the first categorized climb of the day.

In theory, the first Cat 3 ascent – Alto de Coculina – is only 4 km long, but it starts to climb long before the official ascent starts. In total this first ascent is more like 14.6 km long, with an average gradient of 1.5 and a max of 8%. The final 4 km is the hardest bit, but the 10 km before it is a slow drag that will wear on the riders.

From the top of Alto de Coculina, there is still half a race to complete, with two more Cat 3 ascents. The next climb, Alto de la Nuez, starts to rise with 41 km still to go and lasts only 2 km. It only averages 5% and maxes out at 9.6% but is followed by an uncategorized 2 km long climb that averages 2.6%. Again, it’s nothing crazy, but it’s not flat.

The final categorized climb of the day, Alto del Aguillón, starts with 20 km to go, is 2.4 km long with max grades of 6%, but includes another tiny kicker of 7% right at the top, after the categorized section. Into the final 10 km, two more uncategorized climbs will shake up the finish, and impact any sprinters who remain in the bunch.

Stage 2: Friday, May 17 – Briviesca to Alto de Rosales (123 km)

Stage 2 has less elevation gain than the first stage, but does end with a Category 2 ascent. A Cat 3 earlier in the stage might offer an opportunity for some early breakaways, but once the race reaches the top of the 7 km climb they have another 91 km to race.

The finale is the really interesting bit of the second stage, with a few minor uncategorized climbs in the final 20 km that will test the legs before the race gets to the 3.8 km Cat 2 summit finish.

Alto de Rosales may average 5.2% but has slopes of 10%, with the most challenging sections near the top. It will be a stage that sets the scene for the general classification.

Stage 3: Saturday, May 18 – Roa de Duero to Melgar de Fernamental (122 km)

The third stage is the only “flat” day of the race; with no categorized climbs and only a few small uncategorized pops, there is very little for the general classification riders on Saturday. Instead, it will be a day for the sprinters, or perhaps a breakaway.

Unlike at La Vuelta, there is very little chance of crosswinds impacting the “flat” stage. I say “flat” because there are still some small uncategorized climbs in the second half of the race, the longest one is still only 2 km long, 2% average with a max of 7%.

Stage 4: Sunday, May 19 – Peñaranda de Duero to Canicosa de la Sierra (122 km)

The final stage includes a Category 1 and Category 3 ascent, and with 1,834 meters of elevation gain over 122 km, it is a great Vollering stage.

The Category 1 climb is not the finish, but instead starts with 35 km remaining in the stage. The road climbs for 13 km, with a tiny descent before the official start of Alto de Rozavientos, which is technically only 3.5 km. With a 9.3% average, it’s a good one. But it’s the closeness of the 3.2 km Cat 3 that precedes it and the unrelenting drag between the two that will make this stage a hard one to win.

After the peloton/small group/solo rider crests the climb they will descend for roughly 10 km before they ride to the finish 5 km later. The finish is also not flat, but a slow drag to the line in Canicosa de la Sierra.

Riders to watch

The startlist for Burgos is similar to Itzulia, with a few minor changes. SD Worx-Protime have Demi Vollering as their premier rider, but will also start with Lorena Wiebes, who won both sprint-friendly stages in last year’s edition.

FDJ-Suez’s Evita Muzic will continue to capitalise on her run of good form and is joined by a small but mighty team that includes Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.

Grace Brown and Muzic embrace after Muzic's stage win in La Vuelta
Grace Brown and Muzic embrace after Muzic’s stage win in La Vuelta.

Elise Chabbey will lead Canyon-SRAM alongside Neve Bradbury, according to the provisional startlist. Bradbury was fantastic in the early season, highlighted by her performance at the UAE Tour, but was forced to drop out of the Vuelta before it began due to illness. The Australian will be keen to prove herself on European soil.

For Lidl-Trek, Elisa Balsamo will challenge Wiebes if any stages come down to a sprint, and Shirin van Anrooij will continue to build upon her breakthrough spring campaign.

Ella Wyllie racing in the New Zealand national champion kit this Spring
Ella Wyllie during the Amstel Gold Race

After winning the Youth Classification at the Vuelta, Ella Wyllie is one to watch for Liv AlUla Jayco, especially if the climbing stages fracture the peloton, but Alexandra Manly is a wildcard on the first and third stages.

For Movistar, Liane Lippert will use Burgos to continue to build her form and test herself, alongside Emma Norsgaard who returns after crashing out of the Vuelta.

And speaking of comebacks, Megan Jastrab returns to the peloton for DSM-Firmenich PostNL after a lengthy time away. The American crashed in December avoiding a car during a training ride and fractured her pelvis. It will be great to see her back in the peloton, regardless of her results.

At the time of writing, the start list was still incomplete and subject to change.

Wheel Talk Podcast

Matt de Neef joined Abby and Loren this week to talk about Itzulia Women, SD Worx-Protimes’s insane stats at the Spanish race, the Demi Vollering of it all, and more!

Let’s Discuss

The SD Worx-Protime transfer chaos continues, but now it’s Marlen Reusser who is said to be leaving the team.

First it was Lotte Kopecky, then it was Demi Vollering and now with both riders seemingly set for the 2025 season attention has turned to another SD Worx-Protime rider who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Marlen Reusser joined SD Worx-Protime in 2022 after three years in the peloton – one with the WCC team, one with Bigla (Équipe Paule Ka when the team folded) and one with Alé BTC Ljubljana. She quickly became a staple on the Dutch team, with her pure strength making massive differences in the races for Vollering.

The Dutch team had lost Anna van der Breggen to retirement and was in an adjustment period, with Vollering stepping into Van der Breggen’s massive boots, and Reusser was pivotal from her first race with the team.

Reusser laughs with a teammate before a stage of the Tour

In her three years with the team, she transformed from a time trialist to an all-rounder, winning a stage of the Tour de France Femmes in its inaugural edition and another last year, plus Gent-Wevelgem, and the overall at Itzulia Women and the Tour de Suisse. This year she opened her season with a stage and the overall at Setmana Valenciana. Since the early season 2.Pro she’s struggled with illness and then a crash at Tour of Flanders that sidelined her until La Vuelta.

During her return to racing last week, rumours started to rumble that Reusser would be seeking a new home in 2025. Movistar was quick to raise their hand and claim that they wanted the multi-time European ITT champion.

“Who doesn’t want her? Is there any team that doesn’t want her in the peloton? She’s obviously a top-level rider and any manager that you ask about her would be interested in her on the team,” Movistar team manager Sebastián Unzué told GCN last week. “I won’t be different in that aspect.”

Reusser guides Demi Vollering through the peloton during a stage of the 2023 Tour de France
Reusser wins a lot but is also a key domestique for Vollering throughout the year.

According to Unzué the Swiss champion and the Spanish team hadn’t come to a formal agreement yet, and even if they had Unzué wouldn’t be able to announce the signing until August 1, but he has been interested in adding her to the team for some time.

“I can’t confirm anything because there’s nothing done but the interest from my side is there. She’s one of the best riders in the peloton. We’re interested if that’s your question,” Unzué said.

The move makes a lot of sense with Canyon as the team’s bike supplier. The bike brand has a keen interest in time trial specialists and was instrumental in Chloe Dygert joining Canyon-SRAM and Annemiek van Vleuten’s move to Movistar.

Reusser is interviewed after winning the final stage of the Tour in 2024
Reusser after winning the final stage of the Tour de France Femmes in 2024.

If Reusser is to sign for another team, any other team, it will be another massive shift in the peloton for 2025. SD Worx-Protime will keep two of their best riders in Wiebes and Kopecky but lose two of their other best in Vollering and Reusser.

This begs the question: who is the next SD Worx-Protime rider to send the transfer talk into a tailspin? Niamh Fisher-Black is unsigned, as are Mischa Bredewold and Blanka Vas. And that’s not to mention the rest of the riders around the peloton who are on the hunt for contracts! Tune into the Placeholder’s podcast this week for more on that.

A photo worth a couple of words

Sport is cruel. The highs are high, and the lows low, and sometimes they are separated by hours, sometimes months. Bredewold’s win at the European Championships last season was a high for the young rider, but the start of the 2024 season wasn’t what she pictured while training in her fancy new jersey.

Mischa Bredewold cries into her fathers sholder at the end of a bike race.
Bredewold gets a hug from her father (I think) at the finish of Strade Bianche this spring.

I hesitated adding this photo, out of respect for Bredewold, but it is a perfect representation of how much can change in a season. We often see riders come back from injury or illness and struggle, sometimes we see them thrive (just look at Vos!). If only Mischa knew on this day that in a matter of months, everything would turn around.

Things change so quickly in life, all we can do is enjoy the highs as they come. Bredewold is only starting her career, she’s got a lot of rollercoasters left, but for now, I hope she feels she’s on top of the world.

And finally … Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift returned to the Eras Tour last Thursday after a few months off, in which time she dropped a 2 hour-long, 31-track album that broke almost all sales records. Before the four-show weekend in Paris fans wondered if Swift would add any songs from the Tortured Poets Department to the 3.5-hour setlist, and lo and behind, she added an entire seven-song set with new set designs, new costumes and new choreography.

The whole thing is stunning, wild, moving and a bit insane. She had dubbed it Feminine Rage: The Musical, and I have loved every grainy video (45 days until I see it live).

People from all over the world flocked to Paris for the four days Swift was in residence. Her shows at La Défense Aréna generated almost €600M and brought more Americans to Paris than will come for the Olympic Games this summer.

Speaking of the Olympic games … Swift hosted the US Women’s Water Polo team, in the VIP tent, for one of the nights. The Water Polo team watched Swift perform in the same arena they hope to compete in two months from now. We love women supporting women, and we love people supporting women’s sports. I dare you not to smile watching the videos of the team being told they were going to see Taylor perform.

Until next time!

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Wheel Talk Newsletter. I’ll be back next week with more, and in the meantime feel free to reach out on Discord with any questions or topics you’d like me to cover. Also, if you’re not a member of Escape Collective, consider signing up. It’s the support of our members that makes all of this possible.

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