The sprint finish for the 2021 women’s Brabantse Pijl title may have left Demi Vollering with a bitter taste, after she missed out on the closest of photo finishes by millimetres.
SD Worx rider Vollering initially looked to have taken victory after a hard-fought 127km of racing in Belgium, as the result came down to a six-rider breakaway sprint.
There was confusion at the finish line as Vollering and Trek-Segafredo’s Ruth Winder went wheel-to-wheel at the line, as it appeared the former had just crossed the line first, with Vollering taking her hand off the bars to celebrate.
But on closer inspection of the finish line photograph, US national champion Winder was awarded the win by a margin of millimetres.
Speaking after the stage, Dutch rider Vollering said: “I am very disappointed. I had the feeling that I won this sprint…apparently not. I don’t know if it was the jump, but it is almost impossible to see in the pictures.”
She added: “During the race I thought something is going to happen so I have to stay ahead. Glad we could stay away. Every climb I set the pace high with the group, and tried to set up a good cooperation with the other girls. I am glad it worked out.”
The result sparked plenty of debate on social media, as fans pointed out Vollering may have taken the victory if she had thrown her bike rather than raising her hand in celebration.
Broadcaster and journalist Orla Chennaoui said: “This angle shows the win more clearly for Winder, the ones on the broadcast looked more definitely in favour of Vollering.
“I think this is what we technically call in the industry bloody close.”
Journalist Neal Rogers said “Really doesn’t get much closer than that,” while Mikkel Conde said: “I’m trying to wrap my head around how it’s possible to be ahead right before the line, lose _on_ the line and then immediately be ahead again right after the line.”
The finish echoes the sprint for the line in the 2020 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, as Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) raised both hands in celebration at the line, only to be beaten by Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma).
Alaphilippe was eventually relegated to last place in the breakaway group for dangerous sprinting, and later said it’s better to be relegated from second place than first.