Lea Lin Teutenberg: Carrying on an iconic family name in pro cycling

Neo-pro determined to make her own way in the sport

To anyone who followed cycling in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Teutenberg name will be a familiar one. Over more than two decades, the Teutenberg siblings were part of both the men's and women's pelotons.

The youngest member of the clan, Ina-Yoko dominated the sprinting scene on the women's side of the sport, taking more than 100 victories on the road before her retirement in 2013. Her older brothers Lars and Sven also both enjoyed successful careers throughout the 90s, although perhaps not quite as glittering as their sister's.

Five years on since Ina-Yoko hung up her racing wheels, there is a new Teutenberg in town, Lea Lin. Lin, as she is known, is the daughter of the eldest of the Teutenberg siblings, Lars. She comes with plenty of promise, not just because of her last name, and she's determined to make her own way in cycling after signing her first professional contract with WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling for the 2018 season.

"I'm just excited. I think that I'm well prepared with winter training now and I'm really looking forward. I'm a little bit nervous but it's really exciting," she tells Cyclingnews. "It's a lot of pressure because everyone is expecting us to be good, because my younger brother also rides."

Still just 18, Lin's rise through the ranks has been pretty swift after only taking up riding competitively at the age of 15. Despite being part of a family whose roots are deeply embedded into cycling, her path to cycling has been quite organic. As a child, she was involved in almost any sport or activity that it was possible to do, horse riding, cheer leading, football, athletics and tennis. You name it, she's probably done it. As she grew older, it was hard to avoid the lure of cycling, though.

"It was a bit surprising because she's always ridden but she never took it that seriously. It will be really interesting to see how far she can make it," Ina-Yoko tells Cyclingnews, adding that the move to professional racing is a bigger challenge than it was when she first started out.

"I think she's still lacking some of that base and it's a bigger step going up to the senior levels. Back when I was a junior we rode so many stage races already with the elite women, I think that the step wasn't as big as it is nowadays. I think, now, it can take a year or maybe more to really get used to the distances."

 Lea Lin Teutenberg (WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling)

It's in the genes

In the few years since she started riding competitively, Lin showed the cycling talent in her genes. She competed at the World Championships twice, finishing 13th in the junior time trial in Bergen last year. She also claimed the German junior time trial title last season.

Genes aside, she has the benefit of experience having travelled the world attending races with her father and watching her aunt race. Ina-Yoko has been able to give her the low-down on being a professional in the women's peloton and her dad, who is now the Head of Performance at Bora-Hansgrohe, is also her coach.

"Maybe sometimes it's a bit difficult, but he knows so much about cycling so why not use that for me," Lin says when Cyclingnews asks what it's like having her dad as her coach. "We train a lot together and when we do we might change something if I'm not having a good day. He knows me a lot better than a different person."

While having a WorldTour coach behind you and a world-class sprinter for an aunt is something most neo-pros would give their favourite bike for, it also comes with plenty of pressure attached to it too. Like anyone following a relative into a field that they were hugely successful in, comparisons are rife. It is hard not to look at one without thinking how they will match up to their predecessors. Fortunately for Lin, those comparisons can only go so far with the 18-year-old more in the mould of her father than her aunt when it comes to racing styles.

"I have great opportunities because of it but almost everyone in cycling knows our family," says Lin. "People think that the whole family is good at cycling so they should be too.

"Nearly everyone I know also knows my aunt, so it's quite nice to be different because then they can't really compare us. I'm just a different type of rider to her, which means that there isn't so much pressure for me. There would be so much pressure for me in a sprint because she was such a good sprinter. I am a much better climber and she wasn't really a climber."

"I can make my own way," she adds.

Her aunt is confident that she can shake off the shadow that she has created: "Probably, the less we get compared the better," says Ina-Yoko. "I'm sure they will mention me often when she's racing. She's a totally different rider than me so it will probably fade sooner or later."

Taking it steady

Lin will make her professional debut next month with the Drentse Acht van Westerveld on March 9 and Ronde van Drenthe two days later. She has been busy over the winter with track programme that has included the Bremen Six Day. Like many of her contemporaries, she is hoping to mix a career on the boards with one on the asphalt. She also has her eyes on a berth at the Tokyo Olympics in two years' time, but at still just 18 she knows that there will be plenty more opportunities.

"I think track is really good to combine with the road. I want to combine it. Road is the main thing but if it suits then I would like to do track," she says. "I think that the Olympics is where everyone would like to go. I'm training a lot for it but it is going to be really hard. I will try though.

"I have time to work for the Olympics and maybe I will get there. At the moment I am not good enough but I have some years to improve and let's see what's happening. I've got a lot of time. I'm so young. The Olympic Games after Tokyo are also a goal for me."

Lin's Olympic goal is a big one but, in the grand scheme of things, she prefers to set herself much shorter term targets. When asked by Cyclingnews what dreams she had for her career, she remained coy, saying that the step by step process was more important for her. With more than enough external pressure, there is little sense in adding to it herself.

"She is a really strong character so I'm not really that worried about her," says Ina-Yoko. "She shouldn't lose her big character because there are not that many people who speak up and she does, and that's a good thing."

While her niece is making her first tentative steps into professional racing, Ina-Yoko is enjoying a career outside of cycling. She has interest in returning as a directeur sportif, but only if it is a full-time gig. Meanwhile, she has set herself up in the United States, completed a massage course and enjoying something of a 'normal' life. For now, it is Lea Lin keeping the Teutenberg name in the women's peloton. 

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