In only six short years 2021 Olympic gold medalist Anna Kiesenhofer has advanced from gran fondo rider to elite amateur champion to an Olympic Gold Medalist who outrode, outwitted and outlasted the best professional riders in the world – smiling all along the way.
She entered her first gran fondo in 2015 and climbed to victory on the slopes of France’s Mont Ventoux. It was GFNY Mont Ventoux with over 1000 participants, where she not only dominated the Women’s race, distancing second place finisher Betty Kals from Belgium by 45 minutes, but also finished 12th place overall.
Boris Odenhall, who finished 25th, rode with Kiesenhofer in the front group till the base of Mont Ventoux, but was quickly dropped “like-a-rock” by Kiesenhofer when the road went up. By the summit he had lost over 20 minutes to her on the classic 21.4 kilometre climb from Bédoin.
Her GFNY performance caught the attention of PEZ Cycling which wrote, “Look out for her in pro races very soon.”
In 2016 Keisenhofer used her climbing abilities once again to win atop Mont Ventoux as elite amateur at Tour de l’Ardèche.
In 2018 she won the week-long TOUR TransAlp gran fondo stage race as part of a two-person mixed team with fellow Austrian Günther Flatscher.
In September of the same year she finished second at Austria’s world famous 237 kilometre 5500 vertical metre Ötztaler Radmarathon, only bested by five times Women’s Champion Laila Orenas. For comparison, Kiesenhofer won Olympic gold on a course about half as long and difficult – 137 kilometres and 2700 metres vertical.
At Mondsee Radmarathon in 2019 she became Austrian National Champion after driving a five rider break for most of the race and then soloing to victory.
While to many in the cycling world Anna Kiesenhofer’s Olympics victory might have been a surprise, amateur riders who have ridden with her at cyclosportives, gran fondos and radmarathons know she is a determined rider never to be underestimated.
The rest of the Women’s pro peloton now knows that too.
PHOTOS: Bettini, CORVOS, GFNY, TOUR TRANSALP, Eisenbauer