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Anna Kiesenhofer: A bittersweet year taught me that not winning is normal

'There were some near-misses that hurt in the moment, but I learned that this is normal because there’s only one winner,' Olympic road champion tells VeloNews.

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Women’s Olympic road race champion Anna Kiesenhofer closed out her season with 13th place in the Chrono des Nations in France last week.

On the face of it, the result was nothing to write home about, but like many of the 31-year-old’s race days in 2022, the results only told one side of the story.

Kiesenhofer may not have come away with a win this year but the Austrian took a number of top placings as she focused more on the road following her breakthrough in Tokyo last year.

“I took a bit of time to settle in this year, and I did a few races with real focus,” she told VeloNews in a recent interview.

“This year maybe that wasn’t the best strategy as I tried to peak for a few events but I had some bad luck and didn’t really have the results that I wanted. Overall though, I’m really happy with my performances. I think I have a good base to build on.”

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Kiesenhofer targeted the road race and time trial at the national championships in June. She missed out to Christina Schweinberger in the time trial by less than a second, and then took the same result in the road race three days later.

Coming so close to the double was a blow for the Olympic champion but she has drawn on the positive aspects of her experiences.

At the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta later in the year, she went on a 158km solo break and came within a kilometer of another jaw-dropping win before the bunch overhauled her before the line. Just like at nationals, she missed out on the victory but came away with positive aspects to her performance.

“My goal was to win both the national road race and time trial championships. I thought it would be nice to have both titles for the year to go with being the Olympic champion but I lost by a fraction of a second in the time trial and then came close in the road race. They were races I really built up for and I left with a feeling of emptiness after leaving empty-handed,” she said.

“Then I built up for the Vuelta and there wasn’t really a mountain stage but there was a queen stage and I didn’t feel good. I was 31st. Then there was the day I did the long break away and was caught with 1km to go. That doesn’t show in the results. It was a bittersweet feeling in that the performances were there but the results were missing.”

At the Chrono des Nations, bad luck struck again.

“I felt great, and I was second at the intermediate but then I dropped my chain, and then the race was basically over for me.”

Kiesenhofer has yet to announce her plans for next season and is currently taking a short break after what has been a year of learning and development.

“It was a great experience with lots of learning. I got to see how it all works with sponsors and being Olympic champion opened up many new doors when it came to being able to ride the best equipment. I learned a lot about myself, and what I want to do,” she said.

“I think that the biggest lesson that I learned was that not winning was normal. There were some near-misses that hurt in the moment, but I learned that this is normal because there’s only one winner. It taught me that I need to cherish the victories when they come.”