Anna Kiesenhofer won a sensational gold: "Not good at riding in the peloton"
Photo: Michael Steele / Getty Images
Anna Kiesenhofer was at the end of her tether.
The 30-year-old lay on the asphalt of the Fuji Speedway, gasping for air.
Then she sat up, sweat and maybe a few tears on her face.
She had just sensationally won the Olympic road bike race.
The first gold medal for Austria at summer games since Athens 2004.
Kiesenhofer, who works full-time as a mathematician, is not a professional cyclist at all.
The amateur's victory was one of those special Olympic moments, it was her Olympic moment.
“It feels incredible,” she said, according to ORF: “Even when I crossed the finish line, I thought to myself: Is it really over?
Do I have to go on? "
The 30-year-old wasn't even considered an outsider before the race.
It was simply not included in the plans of their competition.
The top Dutch women around the Olympic champion from London, Marianne Vos, and the former world champion Annemiek van Vleuten were the favorites.
“I don't think anyone copied them off.
I don't even know her, ”said Anna van der Breggen from the Netherlands after the race.
"How much can you do wrong if you don't know someone at all?"
Early on, the Austrian had pulled away from the peloton on the 137-kilometer-long and hilly route with an escape group.
While her companions were caught up again, the 30-year-old set out on a 41-kilometer solo ride to gold.
The courage paid off - also because their pursuers apparently didn't even know, because of the lack of radio, that there was a lonely runaway up ahead.
Kiesenhofer is a four-time Austrian champion.
But of course that cannot be compared with Olympic gold, the greatest success of her career.
If you can call it a career.
In 2017 she tried a professional career with the Belgian team Lotto Soudal Ladies.
But that wasn't for her, after a year the contract ended.
"I noticed that professional sport is too much physical and psychological stress for me and that I prefer to only do hobby sport," Kiesenhofer had said before the games in Tokyo.
With math to gold
After the professional year, Kiesenhofer put the bike in the corner and focused on her job.
Today, the mathematician who completed her master's degree in Cambridge works at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland.
There she mainly deals with partial differential equations.
Kiesenhofer found connections between mathematics and cycling. For example, she works on the technology of her bike herself. And: "It's really easy to calculate how many watts you have to pedal to overcome the forces of cycling - primarily air resistance and gravity," she told ORF: "When I drive up a mountain, I work against gravity . These are various terms that can be summed up to form a total force - and you have to overcome them. "
In Tokyo, Kiesenhofer apparently correctly calculated the wattage she needed.
But maybe she had no choice but to go into the escape group and never be caught again.
Since she has little experience with big bike races, she doesn't feel so comfortable in the peloton with more than a hundred riders.
Before the official start, she preferred to roll a little behind the crowd.
“I had planned the attack at zero kilometer and was happy to be able to take the lead.
I couldn't assume that because I'm not good at riding in the peloton, ”she said loudly“ Kleine Zeitung ”.
From behind she then rolled past everyone.
The favorites may not have had time to memorize their faces.
But they now know her name: Anna Kiesenhofer, gold medalist from Tokyo.