Interview | Berghof Group

Six questions to Franziska Brauße

September 30, 2022

Talent. Passion. Team spirit. More than anything else, these are the qualities that Franziska Brauße and Berghof are connected by. How Franziska – who, like our company, is rooted in Eningen – fought her way to be number one in the world together with her team, why for her success is even more fun as part of a team, and what keeps her motivated in tough times, the successful professional athlete and face of the Berghof DNA “Moving Forward“ shares with us in the following interview.

Since 2017, you have been part of the so-called track cycling foursome of the German national team, which many also call the “flagship“ of women's cycling in reference to the eight in rowing. What is so special about this discipline?

The crucial thing is: a track foursome can only be successful if the team members understand and trust each other blindly, if they consistently work together towards one goal – to make the best possible use of the individual potentials and combine them as a team in competition.

That’s why you need athletes who are true team players, who motivate each other to give their maximum performance both in training and in competition, who dedicate themselves completely and utterly to the service of the team.

After all, an individual performance is only as good as it contributes to success as part of the whole. This is exactly what makes it so appealing to me personally: If you want to be a winner, the whole team has to be in perfect harmony – and that’s why success is even more fun here than winning as an individual rider.

The principle of a track bike quartet is quickly explained: In the competition, two teams of four compete against each other on the same track. These tracks consist of two longer straights and two steep curves. This allows both teams to start at the same time, each starting on one of the two straights.

This is what makes the competition so thrilling for spectators at the track or in front of the TV: both teams race around the track against each other, fighting for every hundredth of a second. That’s why it‘s officially called team pursuit.

The battle for victory is extremely close. Often, both teams, after a race distance of 4,000 meters, are only a blink of an eye apart.

It sounds like, in a team pursuit, literally every single detail counts to be that decisive step ahead?

Yeah, absolutely. That’s why we’re not only constantly optimizing our training and the accompanying measures, such as physiotherapy, but are also tinkering with technical details again and again.

For example, we regularly try out new, even more streamlined bike components, clothing or helmets.

In this respect, our motto is the same as Berghof’s: “Moving Forward“ is our DNA – we are always on the move, resting on our successes is completely out of the question for us and the team around us, such as trainers and technical consultants.

Talking of success, you and your team have enjoyed an unbelievable string of successes over the past few years. Olympic victory, gold medals at the World and European championships, victory in the “Team of the Year“ poll. Have you and your three teammates always been the squad you had to beat?

No, on the contrary. In fact, my first competition as part of the track bike quartet in 2017 was a complete disaster.

As a young athlete, I was of course incredibly proud to be nominated by the national team for the first time for one of the prestigious competitions in the team pursuit – and then even at a world championship. So, motivated and full of anticipation as I was, I went to Hong Kong.

But then I was disillusioned. We had no chance against the best teams, we were miles away from the top results. Of course, that made us all pretty frustrated, especially me as the youngest driver and a newcomer. After all, which athlete would want to run at the back of the pack?

Today, just a few years later, the situation is quite the opposite: You and your team colleagues are the measure of all things in the team pursuit, and just a few weeks ago you won gold again in front of your home crowd at the European championships in Munich. How did you manage to achieve this tremendous development?

The key factor from my point of view was that we sat down together as a team and analyzed the situation in detail – without placing blame solely on individual persons.

We asked one another: What are the individual strengths, but also the respective weaknesses of each of us? How can we enhance these individual strengths and then, as a team, make the best possible use of them for our joint success?

From that moment on, we just kept looking forward. We trained hard and pushed each other again and again. Every little success, every little advancement was celebrated together.

And before long, there were more and more occasions for us to celebrate. Because, from competition to competition, we were getting better and better.

At some point, an avalanche started rolling in the positive sense: It’s just fun to be successful – and you get an incredible amount of positive energy and the motivation to work even harder on yourself to get better and better.

Nevertheless, the victory at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, which started the current string of successes, was a big surprise. For you as a team as well?

Of course, we all had this grand dream of winning an Olympic medal. This dream encouraged us, even during the long competition break due to corona, to continue working hard on ourselves day after day. As an athlete, you need such a great dream to fight your way through tough times, to never give up.

In retrospect, being forced to take a break was a blessing for us as a team. Because we have all been conditioned in such a way that we always want to become better, constantly optimize existing things and also enjoy breaking new ground. The long period without competitions gave us more opportunity than ever to do so, and we were at liberty to test and change a lot of things. As you correctly said earlier: In a track biking quartet, every detail, no matter how small, matters.

So, bit by bit, we advanced and became an even more harmonious team. And that paid off: our lap times got better and better.

So, even before the Olympic Games, we knew that we had worked well and were in good trim. But of course, we also knew that our competitors had certainly also used the time effectively.

Then, in Tokyo, everything just worked out perfectly. Already in the qualifiers, we set a new world record. From then on, things almost just went automatically, we drove like we had been unleashed and improved our own world record three times in a row. To be honest, even in our wildest dreams we had not imagined this to occur.

Of course, the victory at the Olympics really gave us wings and enormous self-confidence. And so we were able to carry on from there in the following major competitions and have won all the competitions since then.

As I see it, we are now reaping what we have sown as a team over the years. But of course we must not slack off now, but have to continue along this successful path.

So I am committed 100 percent to the Berghof DNA – and am therefore happy and proud to be representing this concept to the public as an ambassador.

For all your professionalism, you seem to be very relaxed and at ease. And this even though, after all these great successes, you certainly feel the pressure of expectations growing higher and higher. How do you manage to keep cool despite this pressure?

(Laughs) Sometimes our coach throws his hands up in horror when we crack jokes right before the competition or start singing our current favorite hit together.

But I think keeping cool and having fun together is one of the secrets of our success. We all work hard and highly professionally every day to be in top shape when it comes to the important competitions. But we also like being together beyond training and competitions, and we enjoy celebrating our success together.

To me, that's an indispensable factor when forming a team that’s meant to be invincible. This is another reason for me to be happy with being a part of the large, international “Berghof family“ now, because Berghof also puts a lot of emphasis on fostering the team’s pride in their joint success. The “Berghof Oktoberfest“ is a good example of this culture.

But my relaxed nature does not come by mere chance. After all, being relaxed requires the proper prerequisites. In my opinion, you can only be relaxed if you, as a team, feel that you are on the right track, that you are getting better and better. And that's definitely what I feel at the Berghof company: there’s not only great dynamics and a lot of positive energy around here, but also an openness towards other opinions and new ideas, as well as the will to find, as a team, the best solutions for the customers.

There is another parallel between Berghof and our competitions: In the end, it is only the result achieved as a team by combining individual strengths and skills that counts – in our case the jointly achieved victory, at Berghof the jointly achieved top position in the respective markets.

Given these many parallels, I'm convinced that Berghof and I are a perfect match – and I'm really looking forward to our successful cooperation.