The season is nearing an end with a milestone moment in women's cycling at the first-ever edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes. This event signifies the start of a new chapter in cycling's history books—a new beginning for some and a fond farewell for others.
The inaugural women's Paris-Roubaix will be Trixi Worrack's final race with Trek-Segafredo before she retires from a successful 21-year career in professional cycling. It's an extra special opportunity for her to wave goodbye to a sport that has given her nearly two decades of camaraderie, friendships and achievements, as she steps into retirement.
"I would have stopped soon because I am 39. It's time to stop," Worrack told Cyclingnews.
Several high-profile women are retiring from professional cycling this season, including Anna van der Breggen, who will be at Paris-Roubaix, gaining experience in her new role as a director for SD Worx. Like Worrack, Jolien D'hoore will also be racing her final race before retirement. Others who have announced the end of their cycling careers are Kirsten Wild and Karol-Ann Canuel, and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will retire next spring.
Worrack said that she had extended her cycling career by one additional season this year but that she has now accepted a new job as a trainer for women and junior-level cyclists in her cycling-popular region of Thüringen.
"I wanted to retire last year. I had a job, and it was postponed until next year. Trek-Segafredo gave me another contract, so I said that I would ride for another year," she said. "Training juniors and women cyclists in my region of Thüringen, it's an exciting opportunity because I'd like to see their development in cycling, and I would like to stay in the sport."
It's been a special year for Worrack, who, along with her wife Scarlett, welcomed their first child, daughter Fidi, into the world just five months ago. Worrack said that motherhood has changed her life most positively and that she is looking forward to travelling less and spending more time with her family.
"I was thinking about being a sports director, but my wife and I had a baby this year, and I've been travelling for 20 years, and so I was happy that I don't have to travel so much anymore," Worrack said.
"It was a good year to stop because I want to be home. My daughter is five months old now. It's hard to leave home. Every day is so nice with her. Waking up every morning with her smiling up at me, I can't describe it.
"I committed a lot to cycling, and I still enjoy it, but there are only two months left, and I am looking forward to retirement."
German cycling and Equipe Nürnberger
Worrack is the last of an exceptional generation of German cyclists who have retired from professional cycling. When she entered the sport, it was under the tutelage of Ina Yoko-Teutenberg, Judith Arndt, Petra Rossner, and Regina Schleicher.
"For me, it was really good. When I came to Nürenberger, riders like Petra Rossner and Judith Arndt were already on the team. I learned a lot from them," Worrack said.
"I hope we have a generation like that again. When I look back now, we had a lot of big victories. This generation was very strong for five or six years."
When she was 17, Worrack secured the world title in the junior women’s time trial in the 1998 World Championships and the silver medal in the junior women's road race at the 1999 World Championships. She signed her first big contract with Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung, a team that dominated women's stage races and World-Cups for nearly a decade.
Worrack is one of the few female cyclists from her generation who earned a liveable wage during most of her career. During her earlier years, she attributed the income to being part of Nürnberger, which was initially managed alongside a men's programme that had eventually closed down as the women’s team grew.
"When I started pro racing, and now, my salary has been the same. When I started cycling, I was on one of the biggest teams, Nürnberger, which also had the men's team, and so that made the women's team bigger," Worrack said
"I would say that half that team had a good salary, a liveable salary. On the other hand, the other half had it hard because there was no minimum salary. Now, there is a minimum salary, and everyone [Women's WorldTeam] gets paid."
The UCI has implemented a minimum salary across all top-tier Women's WorldTeams. The Women's WorldTour salary schedule is set to jump up to €27,000 (employed) or €45,100 (self-employed) in 2022, and then equal that of the men's ProTeam by 2023, which is currently €32,102 (employed) or €52,647 (self-employed). Worrack's team Trek-Segafredo has opted to pay its female riders a minimum salary (or above) that is equal to the men's WorldTour riders, €40,045 (employed) or €65,673 (self-employed).
"I see many more professional teams now than there were when I started racing. A lot of men's teams now have women's teams, and the women's (standalone) teams are also very professional, so the range of riders who can win is much bigger now, and that has a lot to do with the fact that they get paid," Worrack said.
"I see the biggest change happening over the last eight years. The most significant change is that currently, more women can live off of their jobs in cycling. Fifteen years ago, this was not the case. Not every team offers salary now, but for sure the WorldTeams offer a salary, now, and that has been the biggest change."
"If you don't have to work and train, and you can just train, then you can develop much better as a rider; it's not possible to work and train and travels to the races."
When Equipe Nürnberger lost its title sponsor at the end of 2009, Worrack raced with Team Cycling Norris where she said it was the only season that she didn't earn an income.
"There was one year that I didn't earn a salary, 2010, the year that Nürnberger closed down and we had no title sponsor. I was earning nothing. It was pretty difficult and a learning process," Worrack said. "Now, when I look back, yes, it was hard not to have a salary, but you also had to work hard. Every year, if you did not have a contract, there was no salary anymore, so this was also difficult. Nothing was [stable].
Worrack has won overall titles at the Tour of Qatar, Tour de l'Aude, Tour of California, and five stage wins at the Tour de l'Aude and Thüringen Ladies Tour. She also secured the silver medal in the elite women's road race at the 2006 World Championships. She said five moments during her career stand out among the rest.
The first and most important was her comeback from injury in 2016. She crashed on a descent at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda WorldTour. After a CT scan at a nearby hospital in Cittiglio, she was moved to a hospital in Varese to undergo emergency surgery on her left kidney. Later that year, she went on to win the individual time trial at the German National Championships and compete at the Olympic Games.
"Earlier in my career, I won a lot of racing, so it's hard to choose a favourite accomplishment. Over 20 years, there were a lot of ups and downs, but the biggest victory for me was coming back from my accident in 2016," Worrack said.
She is also the last winner of the women's version of Milan-San Remo, formerly called Primavera Rosa, cancelled after the 2005 edition. Worrack won the race ahead of Nicole Cooke (Safi-Pasta Zara-Manhattan) and her teammate Oenone Wood.
"In 2005, I won the women's version of Milan-San Remo, and it was a kind of an accident that I won. I was a lead-out for our sprinter, and I went through the last corner, and then had a gap, and it was 200 metres to the finish line, and I won," Worrack laughed at the memory.
"It changed my career because it was such a big race for us, and it is still such a big race for the men. At that time, we didn't have as many big races as the men had, so it was pretty cool to win Milan-San Remo.
"It's sad that they don't put that race on anymore because it was a cool race. Now, we have races like Tour of Flanders, and we know that it is possible to do the men's and women's races on the same day, so why not Milan-San Remo?"
Worrack said that her second place behind Zulfiya Zabirova at the inaugural women's Tour of Flanders in 2004 was also a special moment in her career.
"I was second in the first women's Tour of Flanders, which was cool, and that was in 2004. It was the first edition, and no one knew what to expect. We watch the men's race, but the women never did that race. It was totally unknown," she said.
She represented Germany in five Olympic Games: 2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, 2016 Rio de Janeiro and 2021 Tokyo.
"This year, making it to the Olympics was a victory. It was my fifth Olympics. It was nice to have that many, but I wasn't targeting to go to the Olympics five times. It just came. I would have been happier to have done it fewer times but have a medal," she said.
Worrack is also known as one of the 'forever world champions' of the trade team time trial, having won the last edition as part of Canyon-SRAM at the UCI Road World Championships in 2018. She also won the trade team time trial five times from 2012-2015 and 2018.
"I loved the team time trial at the World Championships. I won it five times with the team. I like it because it's won as a team and because the team comes together, and if you win, you stand together on the podium, not just one person. I will remember the last won in 2018. It was cool because we didn't have a good year in the team time trial, and we were not one of the favourites, but we won it, so that was cool," Worrack said.
What you give, you get back
Worrack said that she wants to be remembered for being a good teammate above any achievements or medals. She said that her view of being a good teammate means giving your team 100 per cent of yourself when you are racing.
"It's teamwork that matters. What you give, you get back. If you don't give 100 per cent, you won't get 100 per cent back," Worrack said. "I hope people remember that I was a good team player. I always work 100 per cent for the team."
Asked the secret to achieve a career with as much success and longevity as her own, Worrack said, "balance".
"I had a good balance in my life. I like cycling, but it's also a job, and I try to balance, so when I am at home, I don't talk about cycling. I do my training, and then I have a normal life."
She said that she's looking forward to starting her new job next year. She isn't nervous about retiring from pro cycling because she has a strong support network at home that includes Scarlett and Fidi, along with her extended family and friends.
"I've been doing this for so long. Retiring is a big step, but I have also had a long time to prepare for it. It's not a sudden stop. I have support from my family, and starting a new job will be a new challenge, but I have a lot of support."
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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