Marlen Reusser nearly found herself without a team after the abrupt end of Equipe Paule Ka last October. The Swiss champion said that in a competitive market it was her top time trial results that helped her find a last-minute contract with Alé BTC Ljubljana in 2021.
“My results helped me and they gave me confidence,” Reusser told Cyclingnews from the Alé BTC Ljubljana team training camp in January. “I know that, for any team, I am a good rider because I help a lot in the races. I’m also a time triallist and a good helper, so I was confident that I could find a spot somewhere. At the same time, if you look at the team we had at Equipe Paule Ka, we had a lot of strong riders, not just one or two, who were all looking for a new team.”
Reusser signed with Equipe Paule Ka (formerly Bigla-Katusha) in 2020 and expected to stay with the team, while other riders such as Lizzy Banks, Mikayla Harvey and Leah Thomas had already signed multiple-year extensions. However, Equipe Paule Ka announced in October that they would fold immediately after they had not received the agreed upon sponsorship funding from financial backer Paule Ka.
“I was quite sure to go on with the team and I was shocked when it folded. It was a surprise for everyone and we were not prepared at all. We were informed at almost the same time as the rest of the world, so it was a shocking moment,” Reusser said. “You can imagine that the whole team had to sign a new contract immediately, there was quite a rush within the team, and it was the same for me.”
Banks ended up signing with Ceratizit-WNT, Harvey along with Elise Chabbey signed with Canyon-SRAM and Thomas with Movistar. Reusser said that a previous connection along with her strong performances last year helped her find a new contract with Alé BTC Ljubljana.
“I had talks with Alé the year before when they showed an interest in me, so we had a good chat since a year ago for the 2020 season, and so I knew that I still had a good option there,” said Reusser, who met her new teammates such as Marta Bastianelli and Mavi Garcia at a recent team camp.
“It’s been really good,” she said. “You never know coming into a new team but so far I’m really happy with cool teammates, good staff and well-organised.”
Reusser is a general physician and entered the sport in her late twenties. She was set back after a crash in 2017 where she broke her pelvic bone, sacrum and the first vertebra (L5), but recovered and found an opportunity to further develop at the World Cycling Centre programme in 2019.
“It took me months to recover and that interrupted my steady improvement. First, I had an emergency surgery because there was blood around the spinal cord and I had lost some sensations, but then I recovered quite quickly, as a young and healthy person,” she said. “I made a steady improvement and got stronger in 2019 and then in 2020 I knew that I had a super strong engine and I was happy to see the results.”
Last year, Reusser placed fifth overall at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and seventh at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. She excelled in the time trials with victory at the Swiss Championships, podium performances in both individual and team time trials at the European Championships. At the Imola Road World Championships, she was second in the time trial and 10th in the road race.
This year she will focus on the time trials at the Tokyo Olympic Games and UCI Road World Championships in Flanders, where she will celebrate her 30th birthday.
“I’m the strongest at time trialling and it suits me well mentally and physically because I’m tall, strong and have the power to push those higher speeds. It’s the perfect discipline for me, and that is my focus,” she said.
“The big events that hopefully we will have such as the Olympic Games and the World Championships, where the time trial will be on my 30th birthday. I’m going to offer myself a nice birthday gift in Flanders.”