Lisa Brennauer and her balancing act between road and track cycling

Published on 25 July 2022

By Thomas Juschus 

What a magnificent past year it’s been for Lisa Brennauer! In 2021, the 34-year-old soldier raced from one success to the next representing Germany. At the World Road Championships, she won gold with the mixed relay team. Above all, Brennauer excelled on the track. With the German quad, she became Olympic champion in world record time, world and European champion and team of the year. She also claimed world and European championship gold in the pursuit.

This year, European Championships Munich 2022 are one of the highlights for her who is so accustomed to success - and as an athlete from Allgäu in Bavaria, the action will take place right on her doorstep. In the interview, Brennauer discusses the upswing in women's cycling, the Tour de France, her successful balancing act between track and road cycling and her track knowledge.

Lisa Brennauer, you fell ill with COVID-19 in the spring. How is your health now? In the meantime, have you managed to make up those lost race kilometres?

I feel incredibly good at the moment. The feeling on my bike is also back. My victory at the German Time Trial Championships at the end of June gave me a real boost in motivation and confirmed this feeling. That, combined with the sense of achievement, was again especially important for me.

You even won the time trial on foot because you fell in the last bend and ran to the finish ...

(laughs) Yes, that's true, such a kind of achievement doesn't happen every day... Apart from that, I have already clocked up a lot of racing kilometres. I rode the Thüringen-Rundfahrt (Tour of Thuringia) in May. At the Tour de Suisse in June, we unfortunately had to leave after three days due to a positive COVID test in the team. But I think I've done a lot right in the last few weeks and I'm in exceptionally decent shape for the upcoming season highlights. Other athletes have also managed to do this - I can do it too and I'm happy to be able to deliver my best performance again.

The first highlight is the women's Tour de France, which starts on 24 July. On that day, the men's Tour ends at the Champs-Élysées, before that, the women will compete over eight stages until 31 July - for the first time since 2009. What does the return of the women's Tour de France mean?

The women's Tour de France is a huge step forward for us. Everyone is buzzing, riders and teams. The Tour tops our calendar. For example, my team Ceratizit WNT Pro Cycling uses the Tour for a big staff event in Paris. The whole company will come to the Seine, everyone cycles for a bit, watches our and the men's race. That's when a big connection will happen. I've been following the race for decades, sat in front of the TV as a teenager so to be part of the Tour now feels really good.

For the first time, women's road cycling will also enjoy a big media platform on television. Eurosport will broadcast all the stages, like it does for the men. TV presence is important for an up-and-coming sport, isn't it?

Visibility is the be-all and end-all. The women's Tour de France simply offers us a massive platform. If people have the opportunity to watch our Tour live on free TV, of course, that helps a great deal. I have often heard spectators are very enthusiastic about our races. For eight successive days, we can show how exciting our races are and that we are in no way inferior to the men. And the spectators have the opportunity to watch it at home from their living rooms.

Is the women's Tour de France also a sporting challenge for you?

I have already ridden several long tours. The women's Giro d'Italia is even 10 days long. When I consider the route, especially the last days with the Planche des Belles Filles, which the men also rode this year, then the Tour is a special challenge. I have to be realistic; my terrain is covered over the first few days. As soon as it heads into the real mountains, it will get really tough for me.

Where do you see further potential for women's cycling?

We are now in an intermediate phase in which women's cycling is sorting itself out and then has to take the next steps. Of course, the economic development is not yet at an end, but the media presence will play a noticeably crucial role. Teams now have 12-16 female riders, and with this squad in place it is becoming increasingly difficult to compete in every race. Due to the new World Tour, the calendar in women's cycling has become fuller very quickly, which means demands on teams are getting bigger and bigger. The infrastructure has to continue to grow. It would also be good for us in Germany if there were several bigger races in addition to the Tour of Thuringia, to offer young female riders in particular opportunities for development.

On 11 August, European Championships Munich 2022 begin with the medal events in track cycling when you switch back from road to track. How do you manage this balancing act?

It's been working out for me really well for years. After focusing on road racing for a few years, I returned to track in 2017 for the home European Championships in Berlin. Then at the inaugural 2018 European Championships in Glasgow, in one week, I won gold and bronze on the track and bronze in the road race. For me, one conditions the other. Strengths that I have developed on the road I can also use very well on the track. And vice versa. But above all, I still really enjoy track cycling - I simply adore doing these disciplines, especially the time trial. I just love it so much. I enjoy the pressure of getting everything out of myself at 3000 metres or with the team over 4000 metres. All the detailed work excites me. Then at some point the successes came along, so the question of road or track was no longer an issue. And especially my successes in 2021 have shown that it is very possible to combine both.

How does the transition from road to track work exactly after the Tour?

After the Tour de France, I enjoy a few days break before we start preparing for the track. It's all about getting a higher cadence on the bike and regaining speed. I have to accelerate from a standstill with the fixed gear from zero to our race speed. These are short, physically high-intensity races, which are quite different from long mountain stages in the Tour. You need a few days to adjust. Technique also plays a role on the track, and of course we also practice the changes with the team.

What role does it play that the European Championships in Munich are on a 200-metre track? UCI standard is actually 250 metres.

That definitely makes a difference. I have not yet competed on a 200-metre track. We’ll have to rethink things a bit if there’s suddenly 50 metres lacking.

2021 was an extraordinarily successful year for you. Besides the gold medal at the Olympic Games, you won three World Championships. At the European Championships you are the defending champion in the single and team pursuit. You are now the one who is being chased - does that put pressure on you?

I don't feel any pressure and will definitely go into the competitions in Munich with a smile on my face. Of course, the goal and the determination are there to stand at the top of the podium again in Munich. At the same time, I am realistic enough to see all we have achieved over the past year and to know that it cannot always continue like this. As a team and personally, I want to put in a top performance again. We should especially enjoy the fact that we have such a platform in Germany. As a Bavarian, the European Championships are even a special home game for me.

The individual time trial follows directly after the track events. On the final Sunday there is the women's road race. Have you already looked at the course profiles?

After studying the maps, I think that the courses might suit me and the team. I will soon drive the short hour from Durach to have a closer look at the courses.

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Munich 2022European ChampionshipsCycling