Laura Sweet Milk had to wait a long time for this feeling. Most recently, she sat on her FES track bike at the Nations Cup in Glasgow in April 2022. On Tuesday of this week, the 2021 World and European Champion in the team pursuit was finally able to do a few laps with her sports equipment again on the 250-meter track in Frankfurt (Oder).
A little unsure at first, later in training with Olympic champion Franziska Brauße & Co almost as if nothing had happened. “I had a bit of respect at first, because I’m already driving very close to the rear wheel of the woman in front. It took one or two units, but then I found my position again,” reports Laura üßmilch. Between the victory back then in Scotland and the return to the slopes in the Brandenburg province, the 25-year-old experienced the hardest time of her life.
“I’ve been through hell for the past few days. Thank god I’m alive and will be 100% healthy again in a few weeks. I’ll come back stronger!” This is an Instagram post by Laura üßmilch from August 1, 2022 on her profile (lorietta_97). Just a week earlier, the young woman was involved in one of the most serious accidents in women’s cycling in recent history. On the second stage of the Tour de France Femmes, the revived women’s Tour of France, üßmilch went down at about 60 km/h. And doesn’t get up anymore. “When I was lying on the street, I knew immediately something was broken,” she says later. She should be right. The devastating diagnosis: a fracture in the back of the head, a broken cervical vertebra and two broken thoracic vertebrae, as well as a cracked rib.
After that, cycling, let alone competitions on the road or track, is out of the question. The cyclist from Zollenreute near Ravensburg has just persistently worked her way up to the German and international top. In 2021, üßmilch made the leap into the Olympic squad as a reserve driver. When in Izu Lisa Brennauer, Lisa Klein, Mieke Kröger and Franziska Brauße triumphantly raced to gold in the team pursuit against Great Britain, üßemilch is already back home, but her hour has come at the European Championships in Grenchen and the World Championships in Roubaix. Two gold medals and later the “Team of the Year” award are her well-deserved reward.
In 2022, süssmilch followed on from her achievements by winning the Nations Cup in Glasgow, is also driving an ambitious road program with the Belgian team Plantur-Pura (today Fenix-Deceuninck) – and after her serious fall, she is practically on the brakes. »I had a lot of support from those around me, who helped me up again. I wasn’t alone in the hospital for a single day. Everyone was there for me – I really appreciate that,” süssmilch recalls. “I never had a choice to quit. It was always clear that I would try again.«
After almost three months of being banned from sports, Laura üßmilch can return to her racing bike in mid-October 2022. The fracture on the head has already healed and can no longer be seen. Only the muscles in the neck need a little more training after three months of wearing a neck brace. »At the beginning I didn’t have complete freedom of movement, it was very difficult for me to turn my head to the right and left. I’m still doing a lot of exercises for my neck and I’m noticing how the muscles and stability are coming back,” reports üßmilch.
The European Track Cycling Championships next week in Grenchen, Switzerland (February 8th to 12th) will be the first competition since the fall last summer. The plan is to compete in the team pursuit, and there may also be an individual start for the 25-year-old cyclist. In November, December and January, üßmilch collected a lot of training kilometers with her team and the national team. »It was probably also good for the body to have a longer period of rest. I’m doing very well at the moment, I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made. In terms of shape, it also fits quite well, I set some best values in the training camp on Mallorca,” says Laura üßmilch.
Laura üßmilch has almost completely overcome the physical effects of her horror crash in France. Even if she is therefore confident about the future, the psychological consequences remain. She is also working on this with a mental trainer. “I’ve changed a lot since the accident. I don’t have the feeling that I’m more anxious, but I appreciate life more since my accident and I think about many things very differently,” says the 25-year-old, for whom July 22, 2022 is burned into her memory: “My The accident could have ended differently.«