Marlen Reusser has been one of the fastest rising talents on the women's professional racing circuit and one of the favourites to watch for a medal in the time trial on September 20 at the upcoming UCI Road World Championships held in Flanders, Belgium.
Over the last two seasons, Reusser has made a name for herself as a powerful time triallist and an opportunist in some of the biggest road races. In an interview with Cyclingnews, Reusser said that she's aiming for peak performance at Worlds, but that this season's overall success is only just the beginning, no matter the outcome.
"The preparation towards the Olympic Games was difficult," said Reusser, regarding a whirlwind year that included her first-ever participation at the Olympic Games where she won the silver medal in the individual time trial in Tokyo.
"After a good winter and start of the season, I was often sick and had a problem with my back. For a moment, it was really difficult. Still, we stuck to the plan: I went to altitude and then to the heat to prepare for Tokyo. In the last few training sessions before we left for Japan, I started to feel better again. After Tokyo, I had a lot of hard races, and I have the feeling that my form is only coming to a maximum now. So, I hope I'll find myself still in peak performance in Belgium."
Reusser has always been a powerful performer in the time trial; a multiple-time Swiss champion, silver medallist at the Imola World Championships, silver medallist at the Olympic Games, and gold medallist at the European Championships.
Asked if she feels capable of winning the world title in the individual time trial at Flanders, Reusser said, "I think it is possible. In the end, you need to be the best of yourself that day. I feel ready."
Reusser will be up against contenders such as former world champions Annemiek van Vleuten and Ellen van Dijk (both Netherlands), Lisa Brennauer (Germany) and Amber Neben (USA), to name a few. She believes the Dutch will be the most competitive nation.
The elite women will race 30.3km and an elevation gain of 54 metres with a start at Knokke-Heist, upon the North Sea coast by the Dutch border, and a finish in the centre of the historic city of Bruges. Reusser has previewed the time trial route and said,
"Apart from the first corners, it's all long, flat straights, with probably a lot of wind. So, pretty perfect for my constitution."
Reusser celebrates her 30th birthday on the day of the individual time trial, September 20, and said a victory would be extra special.
"It would mean very much to me. The day of the time trial will be my birthday. I couldn't offer myself something bigger than this World Championship title."
Rising through the ranks
Reusser started her career with the World Cycling Centre (WCC) programme in 2019, where she won time trials at the Ljubljana-Domžale-Ljubljana, European Games and Swiss National Championships. She also won the Swiss road race title that same year and placed sixth in the time trial at the World Championships in Yorkshire. She spent last season racing with Equipe Paule Ka and this year with Ale BTC Ljubljana, and her trajectory in the professional peloton has skyrocketed during these two seasons.
Last year, Reusser successfully defended her time trial title at the Swiss National Championships, took the bronze medal in the time trial and silver in the mixed relay at the European Championships. She secured the silver medal in the time trial at the World Championships in Imola. On the road racing calendar, Reusser was fifth overall at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and seventh at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and 10th in the hilly road race at the 2020 World Championships.
This season, she has won stages and worn leader's jerseys at Simac Ladies Tour and the Challenge by la Vuelta, and secured the silver medal at the Olympic Games and the gold at European Championships, both in the time trial.
Asked if she foresaw such accomplishments when she first started racing, Reusser said, "No. But also, maybe if you would have asked me back then, I wouldn't have excluded it to 100 per cent. I always said I wanna see how far I can go and could not know where it would end."
She said competing in the Olympic Games was remarkable on its own, but performing well in the time trial was unforgettable. Although Reusser was happy to have the opportunity to compete at, arguably, the biggest sporting event in the world, she believes there are some practical downsides to consider about it.
"I felt very honoured to represent my country. The myth around the Games is huge, and it feels really special to be there. To win a medal made it even crazier. Most of all, it made me think about my family and friends. My home and the people I love and who take care of me in my life, it was hard not to be able to share this moment with them," Reusser said.
"On the other hand, I am not infected to 100 per cent with the Olympic virus: For me, it still is a competition among others. It's marketing that makes it that 'big' in the head of people. The idea to unite the world through sport is great. But maybe nowadays the Olympic Games has become too big, unecological and too expensive."
Reusser has signed a two-year contract to compete with trade team SD Worx from 2022 through 2023. Depending on the style of race, she believes she can grow into an overall contender for the stage races, particularly with the support of the number one ranked team in the world. Reigning double World Champion Anna van der Breggen and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak are set to retire from the sport and become directors in 2022. Reusser is looking forward to learning from both riders in the coming years.
"[Anna van der Breggen's] style and calmness on the bike are unique. She moves and anticipates the race and thereby saves energy. She provides pure power on the pedals without moving one unnecessary muscle. Next to the bike, she speaks up and engages herself in the future of our sport. She is an idol," Reusser said.
"Anna, and also Chantal, raced with me as competitors. They know exactly where my weak spots are and what I need to improve. To have them as directors will be a great opportunity. SD Worx also has a very strong roster and is highly professional. This is what I was looking for in a team."
Asked where she sees her future in professional cycling, Reusser said, "To take some more great wins as long as I enjoy it. But it's not only about winning. I wanna spend a really good time, experience some adventures and get to know nice people."
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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