Meet Lisa Brennauer
All photos © VeloFocus
Time trial and stage race specialist Lisa Brennauer of Germany is one of the most accomplished women in the WorldTour today. With an ITT World Championship title (2014), three TTT World Champion titles (2013, 2014, 2015), and an Aviva Tour GC win (2015) to her name; Brennauer is a driving force within the CANYON//SRAM Racing team. We caught up with Lisa at her team’s training camp in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Who inspires you, in the sport or outside the sport?
Inside the sport, it was a teammate of mine who made me have this feeling that I want to win. She had that winning mood inside her, everything she was thinking about was how to win the next race. At one point she really transmitted that to me. Then I also had this deep will to win bike races.
Brennauer (left) with Chantal Blaak (center).
What’s her name?
…It’s Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans).
People must think that it has always been part of me; I do think it was there but from this point on, I really changed everything, training, racing… and it was kind of waking me up, revealing myself. The time I spent with her in the Netherlands was the most important step in my career. She really inspired me a lot. She was always saying we will make each other World Champions. And in 2014 when I became World Champion, I sent her a card to thank her and said ‘you knew it, that you’ll make me World Champion with all what we talked about, getting better, training harder’.
Outside the sport, it’s my parents. I’m so thankful for everything they give me in life. To me it’s the greatest thing. No matter the problem I have or we have as a family, they always find a solution. I really hope that one day I can also be like that to my children. To me it’s inspiring.
When and how did you start riding?
I started riding in 2001 because my brother (who is three years older) started cycling before. I think that when you are the younger sister you kind of always look up to him and maybe want to follow his path. I went to his races, watching him. I liked it so much that I also wanted to do it. First I only started in the little club race where you can start racing without a license when you are a child. Then, the next year my parents allowed me to get a license and try to race. At the same time I was also playing tennis and table tennis. So at the beginning I was doing all three, up to the point I couldn’t do everything and I chose cycling. Cycling was the sport I liked the most, I could see that I was making progress and I enjoyed the races and the competition.
Is your brother still riding?
He stopped last year. He never made it out of National class, like A amateur. For about two years he was in a kind of small Conti team where they also raced abroad. Also as a junior in the Bavarian team. Due to his job and everything he decided to quit cycling. Now he goes training with me. It’s quite fun.
Now he follows you instead of you following him…
He was in London when I raced the Olympics on the track. This year he was in Rio as well. At the beginning he never really accepted me as pro cyclist as a real job. He was always asking me, ‘When will you do something real, have a proper job?’ Even though he was a cyclist he never did it as a job, always next to his job. That was until, I will never forget this…, the day we were in London on the track. I bought him the tickets, last minute; it was very expensive for such short period on the track. I wanted him so bad to come because he only knew the girls races in Bavaria, which are pretty boring. I will never forget this moment when after the race I went to talk to him and he said, ‘...when you have your time-trial suit and helmet on you are a totally different person. And I’m so impressed and so proud of you and what you are actually doing.’ I can still cry when I talked about that. Before he always made me feel I didn’t know what to do with my life. This was such a special moment. This year he came to Rio. He represents a lot to me. He is one of the most important persons in my life. Having him by my side means a lot to me. It’s the same the other way around, I’m really proud of what he is achieving in his job.
Let’s talk about equipment. You have been riding on SRAM RED® eTap® for almost two years now, what do you like most about it?
I like many things about it. First, it’s really logical to me. The way it shifts, if you push right, on the back the chain goes on the right side, if you push left the chain goes left. So the whole process of shifting is logical to me, way more than everything I have ever been riding in the past. It’s actually always running smooth. If I start mentioning everything it’s going to take a lot of time (laugh)!
For female hands, it’s really cool because the hoods are not tall and quite narrow. Also with reach adjust, it allows us to reach the levers really well. As we ride a lot in the drops it’s really helps us to reach the shifters and the brakes more easily. It’s comfortable and practical.
I like the extra buttons (Blips) that you can place in the places that suit you best personally. At the end there are a lot of things you can adjust to suit your body and your needs the best. It’s a very personal product.
Which Zipp wheels do you prefer to ride?
As I love time-trial, I really like the combination Super-9 Disc wheel in the rear with the 808 front. If possible, you know that I’m also riding the 808s a lot in flat races. I love everything about those wheels! I like the sound, I like the look, the handling, the stiffness, the stability. Also the special model we got in Richmond (808 NSW), the braking was awesome.
What do you like about your Quarq power meter?
I train and race with a power meter. I like the fact that it’s easy to calibrate and to pair with whatever device you want to use. It’s really accurate. So I have confidence in the data. In training rides when I want to do intervals, for me it’s easy, I do the calibration, pedaling backwards and I know the data will be accurate. Not too much to say about it. Actually the less you think about, the better it is. Oh and the battery change, this is really important. It’s so easy.
Besides your riding gear, is there something you always take with you when you travel for races/camps?
My pillow, because I don’t like pillows in the hotels. They are always wrong, too soft or too hard, too high or too small. It doesn’t take too much space. It’s not too big and I can roll it in my travel case. I have it here at the camp. If I don’t have it with me, it drives me crazy.
What is your favorite food? Favorite drink?
My favorite drink is lemon soda. It’s Italian. My favorite food I would say is pizza or maybe sushi.
You have been a member of the team for a long time. Of course the team has changed names over the years, but the staff and a lot of riders are the same. What do you like about the CANYON//SRAM Racing Team?
I like pretty much everything about it. Of course I like my teammates a lot as well as the staff. I also think that we have a very unique team. The way we work with our partners, what they see in this team, how enthusiastic they are about working with us, trying to create something better and also different. This is really something I love so much about this team. Also people are amazed about how easily they can approach us and be kind of part of this family. It is all these things that make this team so special.
What’s been your biggest achievement in your cycling career? Would you say Worlds 2014 (ITT & TTT World Champion, silver medalist in the road race)?
World Championships in Ponferrada (Spain – 2014) was really the most outstanding moment in my career. What I will also never forget, was in Richmond (USA – 2015) when we won the team-time-trial. Because it was so unexpected and so close as well. You can see on the images and photos how much we suffered, especially after the finish line where everybody was total empty. It was such impressive teamwork. We all wanted to win this race so much. It was also a very special moment in my career.
Tell us about your best attack or sprint you’ve ever made in a race.
Oy! Definitely not the Ponferrada sprint where I made Pauline do her first triple Champion title (laugh). My best attack was, actually it was also my first UCI win in 2014, in Tour of Overijssel. I was in the breakaway in a group of four riders for a long time. But in the peloton there was Kristen Wild and some of her teammates. So I was sure they would try to catch us in the end. When we got closer to the finish, the gap was getting smaller, I started to make several attacks until the point my attack worked and I could ride away and be solo. Having Kristen and her whole team behind chasing, I had to push really hard, I won by under 10 seconds. On photos you can see them very close in the background, trying to catch me. It was a special victory for me because it was a solo victory. I was away all day and I took the risk to attack my breakaway companions. It was also special because it was my first big victory, it wasn’t a World Cup victory but still a significant race.
What is your favorite race on the calendar?
I still really like Thüringen Rundfahrt (Germany). It gives me a lot of pain because I also have this yellow jersey and last time I lost it on the very last day. I really would like to win this race once. I’ve been so close so many times.
Now with Aviva Tour (UK) with the big crowds on the side of the roads cheering for us it’s unbelievable. This year there were people from school holding flags with my name written on them as I won the tour last year. They were screaming my name. It’s real special with such a big crowd and so much enthusiasm. I really, really like to race the Aviva Tour because it’s amazing how they support women’s cycling there. I think they have created one of the biggest tours in women’s cycling in such a short period of time.
What are your biggest goals for the 2017 season?
I would really like to win a WorldTour race, a one-day race. I won several stage-races but one-day races, it’s really something I have to work on. Trying to be more spontaneous. I think that over the year I sometimes lost this intuitive, not-thinking too much thing. Sometimes I think too much about what would happen if I do this move, and when it’s at key decisive moments, it’s not good to think too much. I want to get rid of that because I used to be a really intuitive type of rider. I think the more and more successful you get and the more and more people will react to any move you are making because they know you are strong and they cannot let you go. So things are not as easy as before. Over time you lose the spontaneous attitude. I think if I stop thinking too much about my moves I am a rider who can win one-day races. This is something I want to work on and this is my goal for this season.