Olympic champions do not usually launch appeals for spare parts on social media, but Anna Kiesenhofer was left scrambling just to put together a bike to ride safely in Monday's UCI Road World Championships elite women's time trial.
"Help!" the Austrian wrote on Instagram on Sunday, the evening before the big day. "Expander came loose on the cobbles today. Fork doesn't look too good, perhaps could survive, perhaps not?? Anybody near Knokke got a fork for my Cervelo P5 to lend?? (Racing ITT World Championships tomorrow)."
It was a remarkable turn of events for someone of such gilded status, but then again, it was already well established in Tokyo that Kiesenhofer is no ordinary Olympic Champion. Self-managed, self-coached, and largely self-funded, she has mostly made do without leaning on professional teams or her Austrian national federation.
Kiesenhofer did eventually find a new expander and completed the 30.3km time trial from Knokke-Heist to Bruges, but the whole episode took its toll and she finished disappointed in 17th place, 2:56 down on the winning time of Ellen van Dijk.
"Today I just wasn't mentally prepared for it," Kiesenhofer said in the media zone in Bruges.
"I was a bit distracted, I had some issues beforehand. My strength is my mental game, but I couldn't pull that off."
The mental stress continued down the start ramp, as she wasn't even certain her bike would remain in one piece before the finish line.
"The mechanic who built the bike apparently didn't tighten the expander, and it came loose twice," she said, explaining the story in full. "At first, two days ago, I thought it was just the stem that wasn't tightened properly, but then it came loose again. It was really bad. I almost crashed. It damaged my fork a bit so I wasn't sure if my fork would still hold up.
"In the end, my federation joined forces with the German mechanics and they had an expander for me. During the race I was a bit scared my bike would not hold up, but it did… temporarily - I will need a new fork in the long run."
The result wasn't there, sadly, nor was Kiesenhofer really able to enjoy the experience of riding Worlds as the Olympic road race champion.
"I wasn't so friendly to people today because I was so stressed out with the last-minute problems," she admitted. "People were asking me for photos and I was like 'no don't talk to me!'"
Olympic aftermath and the future
Kiesenhofer rode the European Championships time trial a fortnight ago but the Worlds marked her return to the global stage following that day in Tokyo that transformed her from mathematician into a sporting sensation.
For the 30-year-old, who still works as a postdoc researcher at the prestigious EPFL institute in Lausanne, life has finally calmed down, but only a little.
"I have fewer media requests now, but at the same time, I have lots of stuff to finish. I just get a bit further down the to-do list but never to the bottom," she said.
"I have other things to do now, away from riding, in terms of management, sponsors and so on. So it's other stuff I have to do instead of maths, which is a pity. I reduced my commitment a bit for this semester but I still have stuff to do there."
As for riding her bike, not a great deal has changed. She is still the same independent, anti-authoritarian force, and has so far dismissed any temptation to use her Olympic title as a platform to re-launch a racing career in the professional ranks.
"After this, I'm actually looking forward to some local races in Switzerland. There are some time trials that I'll do with my boyfriend. Then I will do the Chrono des Nations as my last UCI race," she said.
"I'll do some things for my secret project - or not so secret - and maybe some hobby races. I really like gran fondos. I take it as a race. People take it very seriously, it's just a different kind of race. It's more the legs that count, not fighting with your elbows for position."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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