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Road Culture

Liane Lippert: I’m really myself and not the next Annemiek

The German champion is the next big thing in women’s cycling, just don’t compare her to her teammate.

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At the end of 2022 a then-24-year-old Liane Lippert waved goodbye to her team of six years, DSM, as she moved on to Movistar alongside her friend and teammate Floortje Mackaij. 

It was during her years on the Dutch-based team that the German rider developed into one of the most exciting prospects in the women’s peloton, winning her first Women’s WorldTour race in 2020 at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and going on to podium at Amstel Gold Race, win the national championships, and animate the worlds road race in 2022 before placing 4th. 

The winner of that world championship race, Annemiek van Vleuten, is now Lippert’s teammate at Movistar, where the German has signed a contract until 2025. Now, a few months into her first season, the 24-year-old has already impressed, particularly in the Ardennes; at Flèche Wallonne she was the only rider able to live with Demi Vollering’s pace up the Mur de Huy even briefly and rode to second. 

“It’s been a big change for me. And now it’s already really natural. Because I’m working with the team already a while and I’m really happy actually how everything is going. It’s a good environment. And I’m feeling good, like it’s my new home. I’m happy here,” Lippert tells me from her hotel room ahead of the Vuelta Femenina. 

(Image: Getty Images)

“I’d say especially to be in a team with the world champion. It’s also special in the race, everybody always looks to her of course. And also out of the race, everybody is always recognising her. I never experienced it before to have a teammate like that, so famous, let’s say like this. But yeah, she’s doing really well in sharing her knowledge with me and also with other riders and wants to make us better together. So yeah I’m profiting from that and also the other girls.”

Anyone who watched the Classics will have seen Lippert, who was a regular fixture at the front of races, launching attacks or policing moves for Van Vleuten. The result sheet, however, belies both her individual and her team’s potential.  

“The spring can be a bit more like ups and downs. For me personally, but also for the whole team, I think. I would also say we had a lot of bad luck in the early races like Het Niuwsblad and Flanders we didn’t have the results. Often, we had a really good team but the results didn’t really come. Also because of a combination of, a lot of times, really bad luck,” she explains. 

“I think all riders we crashed a lot this year, and yes, some other problems. I had the feeling towards the Ardennes it got a bit better and we also found each other a bit more, to race as a team and play our cards a bit better. I think before it was not a problem. We had to find each other a bit I think before, but now I think it’s really good.”

“And how we raced I’m really happy actually from Amstel onwards. Again, there we don’t have the result we deserve I think but I think we showed as a team that we are good at riding together and we are really aiming for it and we are not giving up too until we get a big win together. And I think from then on I’m confident that we will keep on winning together.”

After the road race in Wollongong, where the group behind hesitated after Van Vleuten launched her winning move, Lippert expressed her frustration at the lack of cooperation and cohesion from other riders when it came to chasing down lone attackers. After a spring that was defined by the very same hesitation – this time in the face of SD Worx attacks – her exasperation continues. 

Liane Lippert movistar(Image: Getty Images)

“This spring was a bit frustrating, because SD Worx is obviously just the strongest team, especially in this spring…they won almost everything. And they are always there with the numbers and they play their cards really good. That’s fair enough. And that’s totally fine. But I think that the other teams, we have to work with them all together and don’t race for the second place. I really don’t like it to race for second place. I really like to try everything to bring them back. A lot of times I noticed that the riders kind of give up because anyway, there’s Marlen [Reusser] up the road or Demi [Vollering],” she says.  

“I think that’s something we already tried as a team a bit in Flèche, we surprised SD Worx once. So I like this example. And I hope that we are going to do more also that other teams try to do this a bit more and it gets a bit more equal. I think it’s also more exciting for everybody who follows women’s cycling if other teams also get in a break and get a chance for a win.” 

Becoming teammates with Van Vleuten, who is set to retire at the end of the year, has also come with its own set of pressures as many look to Lippert to replace the outgoing Movistar leader at the end of the season. The younger rider, though, is keen to dispel any ideas that she may be the next in line.  

“I get this question a lot of times, of stepping in her shoes. But I think I’m really a completely different rider and also a different person than her. I mean if you just look to the races that she’s good, and she’s winning. I think she’s just really strong. That’s why she’s also good in the races that I’m good in because she can do anything,” she says.

“But yeah I’m not really thinking that I’m going to be able to be like a GC rider like her. I think I’m really good at what I’m doing now. And now I’m happy to be good in the Ardennes classics. And this is what I’m focusing on now. And yeah, that’s also with the team. For sure when she stops, maybe there’s more times that I’m also going to see in a stage race like let’s give it a try. But yeah, otherwise I’m not. I feel that a lot of people are questioning this. But for me, personally, I’m really myself and not the next Annemiek.”

(Image: Getty Images)

Van Vleuten herself has been struggling to achieve her usual results so far this season, and the question has been raised of whether her form is not quite there or the rest of the peloton’s level has simply risen to meet her. With the increasingly-professional environment in women’s cycling, more riders are able to contest deeper into races as their level improves thanks to being able to focus full-time on racing and training. Has Lippert felt this growing depth within the women’s field? 

“I also feel this and I also felt this year especially sometimes, when I think ‘wow, it’s really on the limit, or really hard right now’ there are for sure more girls than usually are there in the bunch. So it’s good to see that the level is rising. Also what Annemiek is saying [is] that she’s actually not riding so much slower when she’s comparing for example the times. And then it’s just the bunch has a really, really high level at the moment. And I have the same feeling that they are now. I’m curious about now first stage race, but I think also in these long climbs that there are more girls, there than usual,” she explains.

“I think it’s good to see and also for other girls that they get stronger and better. In the men’s you have this way more that you have one climb there are still a lot of riders and women’s cycling sometimes only five and I think it’s better if it’s more. I mean, then you have maybe more teammates that can be tactically also more exciting.”

At the Vuelta Femenina, Lippert played a crucial role in supporting Van Vleuten to her eventual (and somewhat controversial) victory. Whereas, in previous seasons, the Dutchwoman has been able to survive without much teamwork, the growing level of other riders means she must lean on her teammates more. 

“Yeah, I think for sure it’s getting more and more important, and also, for her to have more riders and not be alone. She did a lot of times solo attacks and went away solo but I think now the level is rising. And if there’s then two or three SD Worx, it’s better to also have more of us with her or, set her up or just help her in the way that we can do the best,” Lippert explained.

After the Vuelta Lippert will race the three-day Itzulia Women, where Van Vleuten will face Demi Vollering once more. As for Lippert’s own goals, she says she is aiming for consistency, rather than one particular target. 

Despite a series of podium places at prestigious races, Lippert has not taken a win since that Cadel Evans victory in 2020 – with the exception of her national title last year. From her recent performances, it seems only a matter of time before she stands on top of a podium again, but does she feel the pressure to break the cycle? 

“I want to win. I would love to win, I would love to win an Ardennes Classic or whatever. Any race. I know this inside that I want it but I also know that it’s not happening if I put any pressure on it, because I’m anyway going to give it all in every race,” she says. 

“If I’m going for the win, I go for it. And so I always want to win and everybody wants to, but yeah, I’m not putting too much pressure on myself because I think having solid results for sure. Not the win so many times it’s also not so easy.”

“I don’t have particularly one goal. I just want to have a really high level and do a big reset and then start in June with a really, really good level. And then I want to be stable, in the Grand Tours. And have a good season until the end,” she says.

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