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Marlen Reusser has surprised even herself in 2021.
The Swiss powerhouse only started racing professionally with the World Cycling Center in 2019, just two years after cutting back on her work as a doctor to focus on cycling, but she has quickly become one of the women to beat in the bunch.
In just her third pro season this year, Reusser finished sixth in the world rankings after taking the European time trial title and scoring silver medals in the same discipline at the Olympic Games and world championships.
“I don’t really understand what is going on because everything is going so fast. I never dreamed of becoming a pro cyclist and winning an Olympic medal,” she told VeloNews. “I started doing it and worked hard and got better and now I’m here and it’s like, ‘whoa.’ I’ve overwhelmed myself.
“When I started in 2017, my goal was to see how far I can go because I felt I was not at my physical limit. I was sure I could go much faster, but I didn’t know where it would lead to because I was far from all the results I have. I had no idea it would really be enough to have an Olympic medal.”
Reusser’s success is a source of some amusement among her friends as she didn’t naturally take to sport in her younger years. She didn’t take to any sports in her early years of school and was distraught when she and her classmates were sent on a run in high school.
While her initial reaction was to be angry, that run sparked a big interest in physical activity for Reusser.
“I couldn’t do one crunch. One friend tried to get me to do crunches and I could not do them,” she said with a laugh. “We had to do a run in high school, it was not even 5k. You could choose that run or you had to do roller skating. I never did sports before in school, and I was really angry that we had to do this.”
“It’s a funny story across my friends. I still have some friends from that time that love that story because I was the last to do sports. I had so much fun with that run that from that moment my heart was really interested in sport. I tried a lot of university sports, so I tried running, rowing, gymnastics. I tried everything.
“I started also doing competitions… I was doing all kinds of things and I was very strong compared to the effort others put into training and the effort I was putting in. I was three times as strong as anyone a lot of people always told me I should do it more professionally. It was only in 2017 that I started with training really for the first time.”
Improving as a road racer
Reusser has really excelled in the time trial discipline in her short career, but she has also shown some big promise in road stages and took top-five finishes at Challenge by La Vuelta, the Simac Ladies Tour, and the Ladies Tour of Norway this season.
Though she might be mopping up some big results, there was a time when Reusser would have gladly never done a road race.
“In 2017 I did my first road race. I hated it a bit, and I was really not into it,” Reusser told VeloNews. “Time trialing is so much easier in terms of doing your own thing. You don’t have to bother about peloton or tactics and techniques. I actually said that I don’t want to do road races, forever. I just wanted to be a time trialist. Then, I was convinced to participate in the Swiss championships and that is how it evolved.
“Honestly, this year was the first year I found some races very fun. Even if it was difficult, it was a pleasure to be in the bunch. But then also, for example, in [the Simac Ladies Tour] I was just horrified. For most of the stages, I was just in panic. I think was not the only one at least. This part of cycling I really don’t like. We are just so close to crashing like 100 times each race. It’s not fun.”
Now that she doesn’t completely hate road races, Reusser is actually looking forward to honing her skills and doing more of what she did in 2021. She will get the chance to do that after she signed with the SD Worx squad for next year.
“I want to become a better road racer, I want to be able to use my physical strength, more smartly, and be better in a race,” she said.
“For this, you need people that can teach you, people that have a good plan of the race, maybe how they want to race the races, but also a strong team. In this team, we will have lots of cards to play so it is a very different situation from the one that I find myself in. It’s something I’m really looking forward to learning how to race like this.”
After being the big star rider at Alé BTC Ljubljana over the last year, Reusser is also looking forward to sharing responsibilities at SD Worx and expanding her tactical abilities.
“I see myself as one of the leaders but at SD Worx we are going to be many leaders. I don’t like the idea that they are five girls working for one and it doesn’t work out. It’s much more fun to play a game in the race and not let the others know what you are going to do,” she said.
“That is really one of the many reasons to change to that team because you can play the game. If I’m working and a teammate makes the results I am also happy. I’m not the kind of person that needs to win everything. I’m super happy with other people winning.”