ALL ROADS TO LEAD TO… VI­ENNA

Work­ing in the shadow of the tour de france

Procycling - - Prologue - Ur­sula Riha

Like many race or­gan­is­ers, I came to the job almost by ac­ci­dent. In 1987, when they awarded the World Cham­pi­onships to Aus­tria, the prob­lem was that the road races were in Vil­lach but the track cham­pi­onships were 350 kilo­me­tres away in Vi­enna. I was 23 at the time and al­ready work­ing in man­ag­ing and or­gan­is­ing events in Vi­enna, so they brought me on board to help for the fi­nal two months. Some­how I have been around the sport ever since...

After the cham­pi­onships they asked me to help with Vi­enna-Gresten-Vi­enna, a four-day stage race held in May. At first I just did it part-time but, three years later, I took over the man­age­ment of the race. It grew nicely be­cause it was popular with the teams, as was the Tour of Aus­tria it­self. That’s be­cause along­side good in­fra­struc­ture, Aus­tria also has good roads, ho­tels and food. Yet while the teams liked to come, the sched­ules were al­ways very dif­fi­cult for them. They started ask­ing if we’d con­sider mov­ing the Tour of Aus­tria to July, when their non-Tour de France rid­ers were ef­fec­tively re­dun­dant. I spoke to the Aus­trian Fed­er­a­tion, the own­ers of the race, but they didn’t want to do it. rid­ing the Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse to pre­pare for the Tour de France.

Then the ProTour started and the teams had to have big­ger ros­ters. Since only nine of them could ride the Tour de France, other rid­ers want­ing to ride the Vuelta and the Worlds needed races to im­prove their form. So ul­ti­mately, we de­cided to stop Vi­enna-Gresten-Vi­enna al­to­gether and to con­sol­i­date the two events by mov­ing the Tour of Aus­tria to July. In 2005 we did just that and I was given the full-time job of or­gan­is­ing it. That’s prob­a­bly more than any other nonWorldTour race.

Of course, like all race or­gan­is­ers, I’m am­bi­tious and my in­stinct is to try to make the race grow as much as pos­si­ble. By the same to­ken there’s a very del­i­cate bal­ance to be struck be­cause our re­mit is to pro­mote Aus­trian cy­cling. We need to give as many young Aus­trian rid­ers as pos­si­ble the chance to com­pete against the best rid­ers in the world but we don’t have any ProCon­ti­nen­tal teams in this coun­try. This year we had seven home-based Con­ti­nen­tal teams com­pet­ing, which we’d never be able to do if we were in the WorldTour. So for now we’re bet­ter served be­ing a 1.HC race, although the flip-side of that is that we have very lit­tle in­flu­ence. If we had three or four ProCon­ti­nen­tal teams in Aus­tria, we could con­sider try­ing to make the step up. But the fact is that we don’t and so we can’t.

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