Wednesday, October 27, 2021
HomeInterviewsMarianne Berglund - "Winning the Worlds really launched me in the USA"

Marianne Berglund – “Winning the Worlds really launched me in the USA”

-

She only started cycling to connect with a cute guy… that never happened but she did go on to win a World Road Race Championship and more than 100 races. Swedish-born but now a resident of the USA, Ms. Marianne Berglund took time recently to speak to us.

You were a skier Marianne, how did you get into cycling?

“Yes, I was a skier in my teenage years, up there at the Arctic Circle.

“I had a crush on this guy who played ice hockey, the hockey players used to train on the bike in the summer, I took up cycling so I could see more of him – but actually nothing came of it…”

How did you get into racing? 

“I was the only girl in the club but I had a good coach who could see something in me that I didn’t know was there, he paid attention to me, encouraged me and believed in me.” 

Marianne Berglund
Marianne Berglund loved racing in America. Photo©James Mason

Why the USA and not Europe for your career?

“I’d heard about the Coors Classic and Tour of Texas which were premier quality races for ladies, there was nothing like them in Europe.

“I wrote to Connie Carpenter, asked if I could join her team and was invited over.

“I met Greg Demgen who was a pro with the 7-Eleven team and then Levis – we became an ‘item’ for years.”

Why chose San Diego for your base?

“North San Diego was phenomenal for training, the climate was great; you could train on the flat lands on the coast or go inland into the mountains.

“It was a lovely place and there were lots of guys to train with, not just cyclists, there were a lot of triathletes too, people like Mark Allen, the six time Ironman winner.”

You were top 15 four times in the race before you won the ladies’ Worlds.

“I always aspired to win, to be the best, I was committed to getting there – goal orientation has always been part of my life.

“It was what got me out on the bike when the weather was bad, I always had to dangle a carrot for myself – the fact that I had great coaches and training partners helped too, obviously.”

Marianne Berglund
Marianne Berglund riding next to Maria Canins and in front of Mandy Jones and Rebecca Twigg at the World Championships in Switzerland.

You were World Champion at just 20 years-of-age in 1983, your recollections of that day?

“The Worlds were in Altenrhein, Switzerland and my accommodation was in the cloisters of a convent which was quiet and beautiful but close to the parcours.

“We were there for two weeks before the race, I rode the course in training and liked it.

“The accommodation was perfect, the calm and lack of external noise meant I could be really focused on the race.

“On my warm up ride on the race morning my legs felt light and I was very calm.

“I made sure I was at the front on the first climb to be clear of the scuffle for position, I didn’t want to be stressed, if you get stressed your heart rate goes up and your focus slides.

“I was following Maria Canins the Italian rider, she attacked with maybe two kilometres to go but I chased her and it was going to come down to a small group sprint with Canins, Mandy Jones, the English girl who was defending champion and the US girl, Rebecca Twigg who I knew would be most challenging in a sprint.

“I remember that at 500 metres to go I had acute awareness of the fact I couldn’t see Twigg but she passed me with 400 metres to go and latched on to her.

“She looked right to see where I was and I went left – she took silver with Canins third and Jones fourth.”

Marianne Berglund
Marianne Berglund resplendent in the Rainbow Jersey.

The ’84 Los Angeles Games the first time the ladies got their Olympic chance – but a disappointment for you?

“In ’84 I was so stubborn, over-trained…

“People smarter and wiser than me told me that I was training too much but I didn’t listen and ended up with health problems and anaemia.

“The Olympics weren’t good for me, I was involved in a crash in Seoul in ’88 – but that was my fault, I should have been further up the bunch.”

As a lady racer in the 80’s in the US what was it like getting support?

“It was a good time in the US but not so much in Europe.

“In the US there were strong promoters, men like Richard Degarmo who organised the Tour of Texas and just loved the sport.

“And there were good ladies’ teams like 7-Eleven and Levis so we got a lot of attention, it was a great time to be in the sport, a lot of fun, I was lucky to be around in that era.”

Is the figure of 100 criterium wins correct?

“Yes, they were my passion, I loved riding crits, in the 80’s through the early 90’s they were a big thing in the US they attracted the media.

“They were fast, loud, dangerous and great for a sprinter like me.”

Marianne Berglund
Marianne Berglund (r) and team mates in the Swedish team Skellefteå AIK.

And you won the famous ‘Philly’ race in ’94?

“Yes, the ‘Liberty Classic,’ the unofficial ladies’ US pro championship which was on the same parcours as the men’s race, climbing the famous ‘Manayunk Wall’ in front of a huge crowd who were all there to party.

“I owe that one to the amazing team support I had that day from my Bodywise team – they were great that day.”

Your finest hour?

“That would have to be the Worlds, it really launched me in the USA and enabled me to embark upon a career racing against girls like Connie Carpenter and all the other top riders of the day.

“I had years of fun racing; and whilst Philly was pretty special there were lots of other great races along the way.

“But I was lucky, I had great team mates, when I was tired, feeling flat and didn’t have great legs they were there for me, lifted me and I’d ‘click’ again.”

Marianne Berglund
Marianne Berglund takes the sprint victory at the 1983 World Championships.

You had a long career, wins from the Swedish junior championships in ’78 through to McLane Pacific Classic stages in ’95.

“I always had great support from sponsors and team mates and had so much fun along the way, that was one thing but I was also lucky in that I didn’t get injured too much.

“Sure, I had crashes and ended up with road rash but no really bad ones – and I was also lucky that I didn’t get sick too often.”

What was it like the first day you weren’t a ‘racer’ anymore?

“I transitioned without any problems, I was ready to be done with my racing career.

“My last race was at Long Beach; I remember putting my shoes in their bag and thinking that was the end of one chapter and the start of another.

“I flew up to San Francisco the next day and started my new career as a management consultant – a great new career, traveling all over the world, Denmark, Spain, Japan… and working with executives, using the experience I gained in cycling when it comes to team dynamics and leadership. It seemed like a natural transition.

“It’s a career which was as challenging and dynamic as being a bike racer so I had no problems at all with retirement from racing.”

Marianne Berglund
Marianne Berglund, still on the bike in Bend, Oregon. Photo©Christian Heeb

With special thanks to James Mason in Alaska for permission to use his photograph of Marianne as the lead image.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Marion Clignet – “It was a period when there were was a high standard in ladies’ racing”

Rejected by the US system, Marion Clignet said ‘ciao’ to Chicago Illinois and ‘bonjour’ to Brittany. The US Federation’s loss was the French Federation’s gain with the girl who the USCF thought was ‘too much of a risk to have on the team, as an epileptic,’ bringing home six world titles and two Olympic silver medals to the land of her parents’ birth – she still enjoys dual US/French citizenship – but is now firmly rooted in La Republique.

World Road Championships 2011 – Day 1

Food poisoning; it's no fun. Vik and I were meant to fly to the Beauvais last Wednesday, take in the Championship of Flanders, the GP Isbergues, a handful of kermises then meet up with Hamish Haynes, Dan Patten, James Spragg - 'our boys,' no chance. I was so weak I couldn't leave the house - on a positive note, my North Face jacket fits me again.

World Road Championships – Controversy at the U23 Men Road Race as Nils Eeekhoff DQ’d

There was controversy today; none of us – including Pidcock – knew that the ‘jury was out’ on big Dutchman, Nils Eeekhoff’s ‘victory.’

Alejandro Valverde reaches seventh heaven

After six times finishing on the podium of the Men Elite Road World Championship, Alejandro Valverde claimed the gold medal for Spain for the first time at the age of 38. He rode away up the Höll, the gruelling climb at the end of the race, along with France’s Romain Bardet and Canada’s Michael Woods to beat them in a four-man sprint after the return of the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin. The final event crowned a wonderful week of sport in Innsbruck-Tirol.

Jennifer George – Scottish Ladies’ Road Champion 2019

Whilst we reported the men’s race, VeloVeritas didn’t make it up to Alyth in time for the Scottish Ladies Road race Championship on Saturday – ‘real life’ stuff got in the way. Sorry ladies. But we did catch up with winner for the second year, Jennifer George (Torelli-Assure-Madison) a day or two after the race; here’s what she had to say to us.

Catriona MacGillivray – Taking Each Race as it Comes

The weekend after she’d annexed the Scottish ‘25’ title at Forfar with a sparkling 55:02 ride, just 10 seconds off competition record, Catriona MacGillivray (RT23) sliced 1:06 off the oldest ladies record on the books, Andrea Pogson’s 1998 ‘50’ time of 1:58:33 with a cracking 1:57:27 on the Invergordon course.

At Random

The Volta ao Algarve

So I'm home now after the Volta ao Algarve, which, like always, proved to be very hard. The stages were all mammoth 200k slogs on twisty-turny roads through the hills. The stage finishes were a bit sketchy and the whole thing was topped off by a 35km TT through the hills on bad roads which were wet for the first half of the race.

Le Tour de France 2014 – Stage 5; Ypres – Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, 156 km. Boom Wins and Nibali Extends

When you’re in the Tour village, the sun is shining and the riders’ kit is so clean it almost glows, their tans are the colour of mahogany and the smiles for the pretty girls are a mile wide, who wouldn’t want to be a professional cyclist? But when you see men like Sagan and Cancellara on their knees today, sodden, crash scarred and with the prospect of having to do it all again, tomorrow then you remember that it can also be a long ways from ‘ice cream and fairies’ on le Tour.

John Purser – Tales from the Six Days

We thought that you might like to hear what it was like to be a Six Day runner back in a time when the Sixes meant more than they do now. The big road stars were in action and it was full houses all across Europe – particularly in Germany. John Purser is the man’s name and here’s his tale.

The Escape Artist by Matt Seaton

"The Escape Artist" by Matt Seaton, the critically acclaimed memoir about his obsession for cycling and how that obsession was tamed. For a time there were four bikes in Matt Seaton's life. His evenings were spent 'doing the miles' on the roads out of south London and into the hills of the North Downs and Kent Weald.

Scottish National Hill Climb Championship 2012

On a beautiful Scottish Borders Sunday morning, Boardman Elite’s versatile mountain biker, Grant Ferguson turned around a 10 second deficit at the top of the steep section of the Stow climb to win the Scottish Hill Climb Championship by three seconds from up and coming Steve Lawley (thebicycleworks.com), with the bronze going to Jamie Kennedy (Glasgow Couriers).

Frank Quinn – Manager to Roche and Kelly Talks Wheeling and Dealing

The Irish duo of Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche won virtually every major race on the calendar: The Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a Espana, Tour of Romandie, Tour de Suisse, Paris-Nice – Kelly an impossible seven consecutive times - Pais Vasco, Catalunya, Criterium International, World Road Race Championship, Tour of Lombardy, Milan-Sanremo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix... Apart from the nation of their birth and talent, the two men have another common denominator; they were both managed by Dubliner, Mr. Frank Quinn.