Who is Giro Donne stage winner Antonia Niedermaier?

From mountain runner and ski mountaineer to one of road cycling's most exciting new talents.

Niedermaier on her way to winning stage 5 of the 2023 Giro Donne.

Matt de Neef
by Matt de Neef 05.07.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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On Tuesday’s stage 5 of the 2023 Giro d’Italia Donne, Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) extended her overall lead and continued her march towards a fourth Giro title. But despite kickstarting the day’s action with an attack on the first climb, and despite a late surge that got within nine seconds of the stage victory, Van Vleuten didn’t win that stage. That honour went to rising star Antonia Niedermaier (Canyon-SRAM).

Niedermaier was in the chase group behind Van Vleuten’s earlier move and bridged to the front with around 35 km left to race. After a flurry of attacks from within the lead group, Niedermaier punched clear of her rivals to lead solo with 25 km to go. The 20-year-old German led over the top of the day’s final climb, down the descent that followed, then powered up to the line in Ceres to take her first WorldTour victory in her first season in the big leagues.

So who is Antonia Niedermaier? And how did she manage to become Giro Donne stage winner?

Antonia Niedermaier was born in 2003 in Rosenheim, Bavaria, south-east Germany, not far from the Austrian border. While she’s now making a name for herself as a talented bike racer, particularly uphill, the 20-year-old only came to cycling in the past few years, after several years in other endurance sports.

Niedermaier started out as a mountain runner at the age of 15 and showed considerable promise. But a knee injury in 2019 forced her into surgery and ultimately saw her step away from the sport. It wasn’t long until she pivoted into another alpine endurance sport: ski mountaineering, also known as skimo.

As the name suggests, ski mountaineering is a sport that involves climbing and descending mountains, in the snow. The sport is divided into three disciplines – in Vertical races, competitors start in a valley and finish atop a mountain; on Individual and Sprint races, racers combine climbing and descending efforts of varying lengths. With descents proving difficult on her still-recovering knee, Niedermaier initially focused her energy on Vertical races, and did well immediately.

In her first major event, she finished third in the junior women’s Vertical race at the 2019 ISMF World Championships. In the years that followed she would have further success across all three disciplines, winning a handful of U20 Skimo World Cups in 2020 and 2021, and becoming the 2020-2021 U20 world champion in both the Vertical and Individual Races.

While skimo was Niedermaier’s main focus in the winter, cycling started taking up more of her time in the summer months. In 2021 she joined a local junior women’s team, Mangertseder Bayern, and enjoyed immediate success: a gold medal in the junior women’s ITT at the German national championships, a silver medal in the same event at the European Championships, and then a bronze medal in the junior women’s ITT at the Road World Championships in Flanders. It was clear Niedermaier had considerable potential for someone so new to the sport.

Niedermaier (right) after taking third in the junior women’s ITT at the Flanders Worlds in 2021, behind Alena Ivanchenko (centre), and Zoe Backstedt.

In 2022, Niedermaier stepped up to the Continental ranks with Canyon-SRAM Generation, the development team attached to the Canyon-SRAM WorldTour outfit. Niedermaier didn’t race for the team for the first half of the year, instead focusing her energy on completing her high school diploma, but when she did start racing, she again found immediate success.

She took second at the Classica de l’Arros in Spain – her debut race with the team – second in the U23 women’s road race at the German championships, and fifth in the elite road race at the German Nationals. But it was at the Tour de l’Ardeche in September, a seven-day French stage race, that Niedermaier truly put herself on the map.

On a lumpy stage 4, at just 19 years old, Niedermaier attacked solo more than 80 km from the finish in a field containing many riders with far greater experience. Against the odds, she held on to win the stage by more than a minute and take the overall lead.

The following day, a hillier stage ending with a 6.5 km climb, Niedermaier again went on the attack and again won solo, this time by more than 30 seconds, in the yellow jersey. It was enough to win the tour overall, in her first-ever stage race of that length, having done less than 20 UCI race days in her career, not long after recovering from COVID.

Niedermaier’s results at the Tour de l’Ardeche earned her a promotion to the Canyon-SRAM WorldTour team for the 2023 season. But her first year at the highest level didn’t start off as planned.

In mid February Niedermaier had another round of knee surgery, forcing her off the bike for the best part of a month. She’d been hoping to compete in Skimo Worlds in early 2023 before turning her attention back to the bike, but instead found herself focusing on rehab.

Niedermaier did her first training ride outdoors in March 2023 and didn’t race with Canyon-SRAM until the Thüringen Ladies Tour on home soil in May. That didn’t go as planned either. After a strong first day – in which she led four classifications, including the best young rider – Niedermaier crashed heavily on stage 3 and pulled out of the Tour.

Her next race, the Tour of the Pyrenees in early June, was far more successful. On the second and final stage, which finished atop the legendary Hautacam climb, Niedermaier rode her way to a very impressive third place. Only Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez) and Ashleigh Moolman (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) beat her (just five and two seconds ahead, respectively), and she finished ahead of other experienced WorldTour riders like Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Grace Brown (both FDJ-Suez), and her teammate and noted climber Pauliene Rooijakkers. Niedermaier finished the tour in third overall, winning the Queen of the Mountains and youth classifications along the way.

Niedermaier returned to Germany’s National Championships in late June, winning the U23 women’s ITT by more than two minutes, and finished sixth in the elite road race. And then it was off to the Giro Donne – her first-ever WorldTour race.

Niedermaier (center) after winning the German U23 ITT title ahead of Linda Riedmann (left) and teammate Justyna Czapla.

A commendable 13th place in the Giro’s opening road stage helped Niedermaier to 14th overall on the morning of stage 5. Later that day she’d ride away from a group containing many of the world’s strongest climbers and solo to the biggest victory of her fledgling cycling career.

“I can’t really believe it!” Niedermaier said afterwards. “The pace on the first climb was really hard, and I dropped from the leaders. Luckily, we had a good group and worked to catch the leaders. I knew if I wanted to try something, I just needed to go for it.

“I felt really strong until the final 1.5 km, which hurt like hell. I had the sport directors in the car pushing me and giving me a lot of motivation. I was so done in the end I didn’t hear anything from the crowd in the final few hundred metres; I just wanted to cross the line.”

When Niedermaier did cross that line, she didn’t have the energy to salute. But her effort was duly rewarded: she didn’t just win the stage, she now leads the best young rider classification and has jumped up to second overall, 2:07 behind Van Vleuten.

Niedermaier winning stage 5 of the 2023 Giro Donne.

Niedermaier’s Giro stage win is a significant result not just for the 20-year-old, but also for her Canyon-SRAM team.

For several seasons the German outfit has struggled for success at the highest level, with the team unable to take a WorldTour win between 2019 and 2023. But this year, the setup appears to have turned a corner.

Emerging talents like Maike van der Duin and Niedermaier’s compatriot (and fellow Canyon-SRAM Generation alumna) Ricarda Bauernfeind have stepped up in 2023, while more established riders like Elise Chabbey and Soraya Paladin have also impressed. And with Chloe Dygert starting to live up to her immense potential – taking the team’s first WorldTour win in four years at RideLondon – things are looking up for Canyon-SRAM. Niedermaier’s rise only strengthens the team’s prospects in the years ahead.

German cycling, too, has much to be excited about. With Niedermaier and Bauernfeind proving themselves at the highest level, the future is bright. Both will be in contention to represent Germany at the 2024 Olympics in Paris next year. And with ski mountaineering joining the Winter Olympics for the first time in 2026, perhaps Niedermaier is on track to join the exclusive club of those who have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics. 

For now though, Niedermaier will be focused on her more immediate future – finishing strongly at the Giro Donne and whatever else her neo-pro season has in store. She’s currently contracted with Canyon-SRAM through to the end of 2024. Based on her current trajectory, who knows what heights she will have ascended to by then.

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