Upon completing secondary education in 2018, Ricarda Bauernfeind joined an elite women’s cycling team in Germany. Participation in national races soon revealed a disparity in her performance levels, prompting a re-evaluation of her commitment to competitive cycling. This ushered in a decision to pursue university studies with the ambition to specialise in nutrition and home economics education. By the end of 2019, racing was shelved in favour of leisure cycling, a decision fortuitously compatible with constraints imposed by the pandemic. Indoor cycling on Zwift became a preferred and efficient training method during this period. However, participation in the German National Championships, initially for recreational purposes, marked her unexpected return to competitive cycling.
Embracing a Change in Mindset
She attributed her renewed success in cycling to a shift in perspective. The distance from competitive stress allowed her to mature and manage pre-race nerves more effectively while maintaining her love for the sport through continued engagement with Zwift and outdoor cycling with her brother. The essence of pushing oneself to the limit remained a joy for her. Zwift, the online cycling and training platform, played a pivotal role in her training regime. She advocated for its use year-round, including during the summer, and highlighted a personal record of a five-hour indoor session. The winter of 2021-22 was spent entirely on Zwift, illustrating the platform’s significant contribution to her training.
Joining Canyon-SRAM and Advancing to the WorldTour
Her entry into the Canyon-SRAM Generation team came about following a conversation with team manager Ronny Lauke at the 2021 European Championships. She regarded joining the team, with its emphasis on learning and growth, as a transformative career choice. It enabled her to acquire valuable skills such as racing in larger pelotons and participating without succumbing to undue pressure.
Earlier achievements such as third place in a Vuelta stage and fifth in the general classification were significant, but the Tour de France stage win in Albi was an extraordinary moment. Following an unexpected directive to attack during a climb, she launched into a 40-kilometre solo breakaway, buoyed by the philosophy that the mind’s strength supersedes the body’s limitations. Her parents, who were supporting her from a campervan, shared her astonishment at the victory. Notwithstanding their initial apprehensions about cycling’s dangers, the parental concern now took on a more benign form, with her father commenting on the high speeds she reached during the race.
Instinct and Strategy in Racing
Confessing to occasional self-doubt, she credited her team’s encouragement as a driving force behind her aggressive racing style. She acknowledged the need to cultivate greater self-confidence to complement her reliance on team directives during races. Looking back on her quick ascent in professional cycling, which culminated in a Tour stage win within just 18 months, she expressed disbelief at the pace of her development. Participation in the Canyon-Sram Generation team, initially with modest expectations, had spurred on her growth from one race to the next.
Her sights are now set on the 2024 Paris Olympics, along with the broader objective of continuing to develop as a cyclist. As for winding down, plans include quality time with family and friends, a trip to Hamburg with her mother to enjoy a musical, and attending Oktoberfest—albeit without indulging in beer, preferring a gin and tonic instead.
At the age of 23 and with a burgeoning list of accolades, including impressive finishes at La Vuelta Femenina and the Tour de France Femmes, her journey reflects a trajectory defined by passion, versatility, and a refreshing openness to growth and learning.