Liane Lippert couldn’t have started this year any better after winning the opening Women’s WorldTour round at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and pulling on the prestigious series’ leader’s jersey. In an interview with Cyclingnews following the launch of her newly-named Team DSM, Lippert reminisced on a breakout year and looked ahead to next season where she hopes to bring more of her fighting spirit to the top-tier of women’s racing.
"Australia was really great and totally different because we didn’t start with the coronavirus, yet, at this time and so it was a totally different mind-set than the other races later in the year. We were going fully in for it and it was great to win my first WorldTour race. I didn’t expect that," Lippert said.
Upon her return to Europe, the racing season resumed at the opening weekend of the Classics – Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Omloop van het Hageland – before coming to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. She wouldn't have the opportunity to wear the Women’s WorldTour leader’s jersey again until the series resumed at Strade Bianche on August 1.
"When the lockdown came in Germany, we could still do our training and was really good because I could stay at home, get some energy and stay motivated about what was next, even if I didn’t know what was next. I was able to make myself stronger and came out of lockdown stronger. I had a really good [revised] season, kept the level consistent the whole year, until the end, and I’m really happy about that," Lippert said.
Sixteenth place in the results don’t adequately show her performance at Strade Bianche, where an untimely mechanical knocked her out of contention just when the racing really kicked off with 50km to go. Mavi Garcia (Ale) was off in a solo breakaway with a group of 11 select contenders in pursuit. Lippert managed to catch the remnants of the fragmented field, set her own pace and finish in 16th place, 6:27 behind the day's winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott), but it was just enough to retain the series lead.
Included in her season successes were also a second overall at the Women’s Tour Down Under, 10th at La Course, five top-10 finishes and 13th overall at the Giro Rosa, fifth in the road race at the World Championships, top 10s at Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and second at Brabantse Pijl. She would end up losing the series lead, later won by Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo).
"I would call this a breakout year for me," she said. "I feel that other riders are noticing me and really looking at me, and ready to follow, whenever I move. The other riders know my level now and they don’t underestimate me anymore. I can feel the difference in the bunch, and I had some good results, and was consistent all year which was special."
Even with the COVID-19 shutdown, Lippert said she doesn’t have disappointments about this season but said that she’s come out the other side of an uncertain year smarter, knowing more about herself as a rider and learning from her few mistakes. "There was no real big regret, it’s good to learn from the small things, and nothing that I would change. I gave it all, all the time," she said.
Indeed Lippert has been noticed among the peloton, even before this breakout year, with Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) telling Cyclingnews in a 2019 interview too watch out for the German rider in stage races and one-day races. Niewiadoma said that she recognised a 'fighting spirit' in Lippert.
"Yes, I have a fighting spirit and I never give up until the end," Lippert agreed. "I can really motivate myself and I need competition to be that good, and to push myself to the limit. I am also mentally strong, and so yes, having a fighting spirit is a good description of me."
Lippert will take that fighting spirit into next season as she looks to the Ardennes Classics and in her pursuit of being selected to the German team competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games - her two main goals of 2021.
"I’m really excited with the new team and we are aiming to be the best team in the world again. Personally, I want to be good at the Ardennes Classics, and these races suit me well. I also love uphill finishes and really hilly races. I don’t know my plan but the hilly Classics fit me very well," Lippert said.
"I think that I’m one of the good cards to play for the [German] team and I’m confident for the Olympics Games. It’s always a dream to go to the Olympics and I think that when I look at our German team that I am one of the strongest climbers, so it’s a good option for me to go."
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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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