2021 will be the final season for Trek-Segafredo's unsung hero
If there was a lifetime achievement award in pro cycling, Trixi Worrack’s name would be on it.
Twenty-one years of racing amongst the best cyclists in the world is coming to a quiet end for the reticent German.
“From the beginning of the year, I had my retirement in my head. I knew it would be my last year; I am just not someone who is telling everything to everyone,” she smiled.
That’s so Trixi.
Trixi Worrack is a unique story. A rider who, after years of riding at the top of Elite Women’s Cycling and accumulating top successes, made a 180-degree turn and began supporting her teammates in the twilight of her career. There are not many champion-pedigrees who can, or are willing, to change roles from team leader to team worker. But Trixi did.
Her career palmarès is something to behold. When nudged, she points out some of her best achievements as winning the silver medal in the 2006 World Championships, her victory in the final edition of the women’s Milano-Sanremo (Primavera Rosa) in 2005, and “a few stage races.”
A few stage races?
We know that Trixi is not one to toot her own horn. So we will help.
Without a doubt, Trixi’s best years were from 2004-2009. Her name can be found consistently at the top of results for most of the big races on the UCI calendar. At the top of her game, she was a complete rider who could climb, sprint, and time trial.
During this time there existed a multi-day race, Tour de l’Aude, the biggest and most prestigious stage race for women held in the south-central region of France. It did not carry a namesake like Giro or Le Tour, but it was a well-organized 10-day race that ran from 1985 to 2010 with a list of winners – a historical collection – of the best of women’s cycling: Maria Canins, Jeannie Longo, Leontien van Moorsel, Catherine Marsal, Fabiana Luperini, and Judith Arndt to list a few.
And, in 2004, Trixi Worrack. “Ah Tour de l’Aude,” recalled Trixi. “Yeah, I forgot about that.”
Trixi not only won the most prevalent stage race for women of its time, in the following years, from 2005-2009, she never missed the final podium – second, third, second, third, and again second. Her string of podiums ended in 2010, the last year of the race. Along the way, she tallied five stage victories.
Trixi also owns five World Championship gold medals in the team time trial (replaced by the mixed relay in 2019) and holds a particular fondness for the discipline. “I like that you fight together and you win together. Yes, you fight together in a race, but a TTT is different. It’s hard to explain. You are all fighting for the win, not fighting for the win for one teammate. You are a unit – this is special.”
It’s the only road cycling discipline that truly reflects a team sport, and Trixi is a team-first type of rider.
We cannot exhaust the complete list of Trixi’s accolades, but other notable achievements include winning the Amgen Tour of California (2015) and Tour of Qatar (2016), plus numerous road and time trial national titles.
In 2016, a life-threatening crash changed Trixi’s career path.
“I think my mentality switched after my big crash in 2016. I had a good start that year – I won Tour of Qatar and was third in the WorldTour race in Drenthe, and then I crashed in Trofeo Binda in Italy. I think I never found back my big performance after this – maybe this sounds stupid, but I am not strong enough to win a race anymore – maybe a race but not a big race.”
The crash was nothing special, but the outcome was nearly fatal.
I had been bleeding inside, and they said that another 30 minutes laying there, I would not have made it.
“It wasn’t a bad crash. I stood up and did not have that much [road rash], but I felt that I had something really, really bad, but I could not explain what I had. They took me to the local hospital in Italy, and I was lying on the floor for 3.5 hours waiting for an X-ray. After I got an X-ray, they could not see anything broken, so they put me back on the floor. And then I was really in a lot of pain in my abdomen area. They gave me painkillers. I couldn’t say what it was, but they also saw nothing.”
Then she threw up blood. And panic ensued.
Trixi was immediately placed into an MRI scan, then rushed to another hospital, where she went straight into surgery. “That’s the last thing I remember, and when I woke up, I had no kidney anymore. I had been bleeding inside, and they said that another 30 minutes laying there, I would not have made it.”
The twilight years
Trixi did come back that season. “I was a bit in a rush because I wanted to go to the Olympics,” she explained. “The only way to make the team was at the Nationals, so I prepared for the time trial because the road race was flat, and it would be hard for me to get a spot in a bunch sprint. I won [the TT], so I got a spot.”
Mentally it only took a few races for Trixi to find back her comfort zone in the bunch, but physically she was never the same. It seemed logical that being one kidney down was to blame.
“I would not say yes, and I would not say no,” offered Trixi. “Honestly, I have no idea. It’s hard to tell, and it could also be the age. I am 40; I am not like I was at 25. This is kind of normal, I would say. I am still strong, but I am not confident of winning a big race anymore.”
Trixi understood winning a big race would likely never happen again, but it never crossed her mind to stop.
When I come to the finish late and hear that we've won, it's something that I really, really enjoy. It's why I signed with Trek-Segafredo.
Instead, she switched gears. She took on new roles as mentor and domestique. “I knew [I was not strong enough anymore], and for me, this is nothing bad. I also love to mentor my teammates. I just like it. For me, what is important is that I can contribute something, do my job in the race, to my teammates – then, for me, I am happy.”
In 2019, she joined the new Trek-Segafredo team. “When I heard what names were coming to the team, it was an easy decision because I was very motivated to work for them,” she said. “When I come to the finish late and hear that we’ve won, it’s something that I really, really enjoy. It’s why I signed with Trek-Segafredo.”
The evolution continues
And now, after three rewarding years with Trek-Segafredo, Trixi is calling it quits on an illustrious career. She has ridden through two decades of elite women’s cycling and witnessed significant changes.
“My first professional year was 2004 with Equipe Nürnberger, and there were maybe two other teams like that, but that was all. Maybe 20 women could live [as a pro cyclist], and now if you go to a professional team, that’s your job, and you don’t have to work beside that. That’s a big change. That has made a significant difference in women’s cycling to not have to work a job and race. So the level has increased. A lot. I can see this also in my numbers. I have data from 2005 to now, and it’s a big difference – a big, big difference.”
Trek came on-board to help grow women’s cycling in 2019 with the creation of the women’s Trek-Segafredo team. With the women and men sharing equal resources and Trek upping the level of the women’s salaries the critics cried it was too much too soon. But Trixi saw it differently.
People have been saying for 10 years we need to raise up women's cycling, and not much had happened.
“It has to start somewhere,” said Trixi. “People have been saying for 10 years we need to raise up women’s cycling, and not much had happened. So Trek took it in their hands, and it’s working. I think it’s good. They are helping bring us to the same level as the men. I just hope that women’s cycling is continuing to grow, which we saw in the past years.”
Trixi is retiring when women’s cycling is seeing more positive changes in its fight for equality. For the first time, a women’s edition of Paris-Roubaix will be raced. Trixi will be on the start line for this significant moment in one of her last races, doing what she loves best.
There is no doubt, Trixi will be on the front early in the race. When the cobblestones come, she will be giving all her energy in the big fight to position the team leaders into the sectors first. She will go back for bottles. She will grab food for teammates and collect or offer more clothing if needed. She will delegate tasks, drawing upon years of experience as she captains the team, making critical, timely decisions for the team’s director, who cannot know everything from the car.
Trixi may not make it to the finish line of this historic edition of Paris-Roubaix, but there will be no smile bigger than hers if a Trek-Segafredo teammate gets there first.
Farewell, Trixi. We’ll miss you.