ALL ROADS TO LEAD TO… VIENNA
Working in the shadow of the tour de france
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.