Even if she hadn’t had a few results to show for it, the conviction and clarity of purpose with which Liane Lippert speaks would be enough to convince us she was going to succeed in the sport.
At just 22 years old, Sunweb’s German rider has already identified her specific strengths and is able to articulate precisely the kind of rider she’s going to be. “My biggest quality is my explosiveness,” she says. “For three minutes I have really good values and I can really keep going.”
The terrain that suits her best are the short, springy hills of southern Holland and East Belgium, though she also picks out Yorkshire as another favoured playground.
Before “one thing and another” – our euphemism of choice – caused the best laid plans of 2020 to go awry, Lippert had her sights set on the Ardennes Classics. Far from thinking a few years down the road, she picks out this year’s Flèche Wallonne, and its infamous Mur de Huy, as a race in which she could have delivered a result for her team. “If the finish is one K or two K uphill then I think I’m already one of the best,” she says.
Even before the season was put on pause, Lippert managed to make the most of what little racing there’s been. While some riders might like to ease themselves into the season, Lippert trained hard over the winter to target the Australian races.
Of the six days of competition she completed, she finished in a podium position on half of them. That included a second overall at the Tour Down Under ahead of home favourite and three-time winner Amanda Spratt, and the biggest result of her career to-date: victory in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.
That win was the result of meticulous planning. Having ridden so well in the TDU, the team had no hesitation in handing her leadership responsibilities. Before the race, between them they picked out the final Challambra Crescent climb, with gradients north of 20 per cent in its final few hundred metres, as the place to seize control. As the reduced final group approached the foot of the hill, Lippert looked around at her rivals. “I’m feeling really good and not even suffering,” she thought to herself. “Everyone else looks like they’re already on the limit.” She attacked right from the bottom and didn’t look back. Ruthless.
I ask Lippert where she sees herself in five years’ time. Her response is as matter-of-fact as I would expect: “I see myself as world class. One of the best riders.” Who could argue with that?
Originally published in Rouleur issue 20.4, on sale now