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Kamna back to his best after time out from pressures of pro cycling in 2021

Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Cian Uijtdebroeks stopped alongside Lennard Kämna beyond the finish of stage 3 of the Tour of the Alps and hugged him with affection after realising his teammate had won the stage from the breakaway.

“Grande!” Uijtdebroeks said joyfully in Italian, the two young Bora-Hansgrohe riders sharing a moment of success together.   

For the 18-year-old Belgian neo-pro, it was the first time a professional teammate had won a race. It was Kämna’s fifth career win but perhaps even more special than his others and he pointed to his head as he celebrated victory, indicating his newfound mental strength. 

Kämna took time out from WorldTour racing for the second half of the 2021, opting to miss the Tour de France despite having won a stage the year before. This second victory of the season and the way he outfoxed rivals like Andrey Amador, suggests his career and his life are back on track.

Like Tom Dumoulin, other riders before him and a growing number of athletes from other sports, Kämna needed time out to recover mentally and physically from the constant demands and expectations of the sport that he had faced since the junior ranks.

Fortunately, Bora-Hansgrohe showed their support for the 25-year-old from Wedel in northern Germany and he returned to racing in 2022, ready to chase success.   

“Last year was a great opportunity to get back to the rhythm of life and enjoy riding the bike again. I enjoyed it and I’m super happy I did it,” Kämna, slightly emotional after the stage.

“Time away has helped me to be more stable. You need to have passion for cycling and have fun, otherwise it’s just pain.”

Kämna had some simple advice for anyone who may feel in a similar position: “Everyone who ever goes near the edge should take a break,” he said.

Kämna came back from the edge and helped to rekindle his love for cycling by riding the 2021 Cape Epic Mountain bike stage race in October in South Africa with Bora-Hansgrohe teammate and former mountain bike racer Ben Zwiehoff. They finished 21st but having fun while cycling was more important than any result.

“Having time away opened up some opportunities to train earlier and rethink what exactly I want to be as a rider,” he explained. “I’m glad I did it. I had a good winter and now I’m happy to pin on a number and race.”

Kämna was a junior world time trial champion and in 2017 and was second in the under-23 road race world championships in Bergen after riding part of the Vuelta a España with Team Sunweb at just 21. He showed potential as a stage race and Grand Tour rider and was even touted as the next German Tour de France winner.

He faced health problems and stepped back from cycling for a first time in 2018 and did the same in 2021.

Like Dumoulin, Kämna used his time away to reflect on his career, realising that he still loves bike racing and is ready for the sacrifice and suffering needed to be successful.

He is set to be part of Bora-Hansgrohe’s strong Giro d’Italia squad alongside Wilco Kelderman, Emanuel Buchmann and Jai Hindley.

Winning a stage at the Tour of the Alps was a morale-boosting stepping stone to more racing in Italy in May.

“Today I wasn’t sure if I’d win but I knew I had a chance,” he said. “I knew there would be a day for the break at the Tour of the Alps but knew it would be super hard to win.

“At the moment I’m not in top form, I don’t have the power to stay with the best climbers, I’m still missing a bit but I have a good eye to see the right moment in races. Most of all, I’m enjoying it all again, especially winning.”

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Stephen Farrand

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.