Swiss Bike Cup Basel, 28 August
Ariane: 11th place
The 2016 Swiss Bike Cup in Basel was always going to feature red-hot racing of the highest order. A number high profile athletes were fresh from the Rio Olympics, including Ariane Kleinhans’ Swiss compatriots Jolanda Neff and Linda Indergand as well as international stars such as Australia’s Rebecca Henderson and Russia’s Irina Kalentyeva.
But it wasn’t just the incredibly stacked field making temperatures rise. Unlike in previous years, which have typically featured rain and muddy conditions, riders pitched up to a hot and dry course on race day. This would allow the high profile riders to push the pace and fly through each of the 6km laps.
A frantic start by the younger riders resulted in Ariane being dropped from the lead bunch as they entered the first climb of the day. Ariane would have to call on all her skills to close down this gap. Knowing her limits, Ariane timed her efforts to perfection in first minimizing the gap and then keeping enough in the tank for a strong finish. “Riding with Elisabeth Brandau, I was feeling strong and felt I could hold her wheel to the line,” said Ariane.
Catching the lead bunch required a team effort from a group of individual riders, something never easy to organise. Ariane fought hard to claw back time but the leaders had bolted and she found herself in seventh. “I tried a few different scenarios on each lap depending on how the racing changed,” said Ariane. But as the race entered the final laps Ariane’s chain slipped off and, in the time it took to remount it, she lost sight of her group.
The frustration of having to make up lost time proved a powerful motivator and Ariane joined the wheel of German rider Nadine Rieder. The pair worked together and were able to close down the time gaps. As the finish line loomed riders ramped up their effort to close out a tight top 10. Ariane just missed the sprint for the line and finished a respectable 11th. “It was definitely a good race for me,” she said afterwards. “But I would have liked more intensity in my legs to fight up the climbs”.