Anna Kiesenhofer won the Tokyo 2020 women’s Olympic Road Race in a shock solo victory. Plenty of riders came out after the race and said they didn’t know who she was and underestimated her. Some riders had already raced with her though, including her breakaway companion Anna Plichta who had been in another breakaway with Anna Kiesenhofer 5 years beforehand.
She came to cycling fairly late, switching from running after repeat injuries. Kiesenhofer finished last in a British Universities time trial whilst studying in Cambridge during 2012. But she continued to train and race and whilst studying in Catalonia, she won the overall competition of the Spanish National Cup in 2016. That earned her another entry into the Tour de l’Ardeche that year, after being a DNF in the 2015 race. During the 2016 race, Kiesenhofer bridged across to a breakaway at the bottom of the infamous Mount Ventoux. She attacked the group and crested the major climb 3:53 ahead of anyone else to take the race lead. She crashed the next day but still finished 2nd Overall.
That got her noticed and Lotto Soudal Ladies signed her for the 2017 season. That year was tough though with 5 DNFs from 5 races and her contract wasn’t renewed. She took a year out of the sport in 2018 before returning in 2019. That year she raced almost exclusively in time trials. The only road race she did was her Austrian National RR. She won both her national races, whilst also finishing 5th in the European Championships and 20th at the World Championships.
She returned to the Tour de l’Ardeche during the COVID-affected 2020 season having already retained her Austrian national TT title. In the preview for that race, I tipped her to finish 3rd Overall. She had a week-long battle against Mavi Garcia, who she’d raced against when winning the Spanish National Cup in 2015 and TIBCO’s Lauren Stephens. Kiesenhofer finished 3rd in GC with a best finish of 2nd on the stage finishing at the summit of the Col de la Chaudiere. She then went to the Worlds in Imola, finishing 18th in the TT and 44th in the road race.
2021 saw a 3rd Austrian time trial championship in a row before the infamous result in the Tokyo Olympics.
Anna Kiesenhofer’s Mathematical Studies
Kiesenhofer has a PhD in Mathematics, which even in the largely degree-educated women’s peloton is a rare feat. Her studies began at the Technical University of Vienna with degrees in Mathematics in Science and Technology and Technical Physics, She then transferred to Cambridge University to complete her Masters. She completed her doctorate at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in 2016 with a thesis on ‘Integrable systems on b symplectic manifolds’. She is currently based at the University of Lausanne where she combines teaching with research.