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Marlen Reusser wants a rainbow-colored birthday present.
The Swiss time trialist’s 30th birthday falls exactly on the day of the elite women’s time trial in Flanders next Monday, and she would like to celebrate the new decade with a rainbow jersey.
“I think it would mean most of all to me. I have had a lot of second places, and now I have some firsts, but I have a lot of second places. It’s my 30th birthday and the course is perfect so it would mean very much to me,” Reusser told VeloNews in a phone call.
“For sure, the worlds is a very big goal for me. This course in Flanders fits me perfectly well and I’m very strong at the moment.”
Reusser sees the 30km TT course, which stretches from Knokke-Heist to Bruges, as parcours of two parts. There is the short technical section as the race loops its way out of Knokke-Heist, and another as the route passes through Dudzele just after the intermediate check, but then there are long sections of straight road where power will make the difference.
For Reusser, it’s about managing her losses in the corners before she can rely on her watt output to make a difference. It is there that she believes she can gain time on her rivals, and she is confident that her overall power is more than those she’s racing against next Tuesday.
“I have to get out of this technical bit. The technical part is the only part that doesn’t suit me. I have to manage not to lose time there too much,” she explained. “Once you’re out of this part you have mainly long and flat straights with possibly some wind, which is good for me.
“I think when you look at the course, Ellen van Dijk is this kind of power rider. She is strong and I think it will be about absolute watts there, like how much can you push. She’s always very strong in these conditions, but at that moment, and maybe I’m wrong, but I feel a bit stronger.
“I took some time on her in the same kind of course thing Holland [at the Simac Ladies Tour, -ed]. Let’s see, but I think she is very strong on this course and then Annemiek [van Vleuten] is definitely in form and she is very strong, but I think she has a disadvantage on that course. She doesn’t have as much power as I can bring on the bike, so I think the cards are on my side.”
Reusser spoke to VeloNews as she traveled to the European championships in Trentino last week, where she won the time trial title ahead of van Dijk by 19 seconds. Van Dijk is clearly on very good form, and she went on to win the road race — while Reusser took seventh in a chasing group behind.
A swift rise
Reusser has enjoyed a swift rise in cycling after winning the Swiss national title in 2017. She joined the World Cycling Centre in 2019, becoming European time trial champion ahead of Chantal van den Broek-Blaak later that year and finishing sixth in the event at the Yorkshire worlds.
Last year, she finished second to Anna van der Breggen in the time trial at the worlds in Imola and followed it up with a top 10 in the road race.
She was snapped up by the Alé BTC Ljubljana for 2021 after her Paule Ka squad folded at the end of 2020 and she has continued her rise to the top. On top of her European TT title, Reusser has taken a silver medal behind van Vleuten at the Olympic Games, she finished second overall at the recent Challenge by La Vuelta — also behind van Vleuten — and was the runner up at the Simac Ladies Tour after winning the time trial.
While she might have some big ambitions, she’s also finding it hard to come to terms with what she has achieved already.
“I don’t know, I don’t really understand what is going on,” Reusser told VeloNews. “Everything is going so fast. I mean, I have never dreamed to become a pro cyclist and to win an Olympic medal or something. I started doing [cycling] and worked really good and I got better and better. Now I’m here and it’s like, whoa. I’m overwhelmed.”
At 29, Reusser’s introduction to the professional peloton may have come later than most but, like many latecomers to the sport, she was athletic for many years before that. During her teens and then at college, Reusser took up running, swimming and any other sport she could have a go at.
The years of sports have stood her in good stead, but she’s still been surprised with just what her own body is capable of.
“It’s not a long time that I’m in the pro peloton but also before I was doing sports, so I was already in good shape before. Then I started working on more professional training,” Reusser said. “Honestly, I think I have the best physical condition that I can ever have. My body is just taking every effort, every pain, and brings it to a better space. Whatever I do, I’m getting stronger.
“Sometimes I am thinking what the hell, what body do I have? It’s crazy. I can do this or that and I’m getting stronger, stronger, stronger. I’m also interested in learning new things, trying new things. I like a bit of adrenaline.”
Reusser might like the occasional adrenaline rush, but she says she’s not an adrenaline junky or thrill seeker.
“My threshold is quite low,” she laughed. “I would not do a bungee jump or something.”