First-year under-23 Mattie Dodd is one of our journal contributors in 2023. Riding for the UCI Continental Tirol-KTM development team, he is supported by the Rayner Foundation. In his latest post, he looks back on a drenching at the Austrian Radliga…
Imagine the average UK road racing fan knows very little about the Austrian domestic scene, so I figured I’d give a flavour of what a Radliga – the term used fo for the Austrian National Road Series – race is like. It is an important series for the team’s Austrian sponsors, arguably more so than our UCI calendar for some of them.
The last weekend of August saw the penultimate round of the Radliga in Branau am Inn. Branau itself, while being a very pleasant, quintessential Austrian rural settlement, is known for something far darker than hosting bike races. Wikipedia can fill you in if you don’t know.
The skies were looking menacing as a highly excitable Austrian man with a microphone started the race
Anyway, as with many of these Austrian domestic races, there is a crit the evening before that offers extraordinary amounts of prize money for relatively short races. This one was slightly shorter than usual though. The skies were looking menacing as a highly excitable Austrian man with a microphone started the race.
With 3 out of 50 laps done, the first raindrops started to fall. That very quickly progressed into the craziest thunderstorm I’ve ever seen that saw the last lap being announced far sooner than anticipated. The race lasted eight and a half minutes. When we tentatively emerged from our alleyway hiding place as the storm slowed, the finish area looked like a bit of a warzone. Deflated finish arches, barriers everywhere, puddles big enough to swim in – the right call was probably made.
I tend to like these types of conditions, though it did mean picking bits out of my eyes for the next six hours post-race
The rainy theme continued overnight. And into the next morning. And the next afternoon. Not that it particularly annoyed me. In fact, I tend to like these types of conditions, though it did mean picking bits out of my eyes for the next six hours post-race. The belief in the stereotype of Britain always being rainy is alive and well here in Austria, so I’ve just decided to accept that and the fact that I’m also likely dissuading any of them from ever visiting England in the process.
The race itself was 140km taking in 13 laps of a roughly 10 and a bit kilometre circuit. The only slight lump on the course came in the form of a sharp 30-second kick to the line. The thing with the Radliga races is that they largely become a number game between the five Austrian Continental teams – Tirol, Felbmayer, Hrinkow, Vorarlberg and WSA – all of which have riders with which to win each race in a number of ways. That makes it pretty difficult for a rider racing as an individual to win, as I’m sure many a competitor in this year’s National Road Series will understand. It also means that each team is very much at panic stations if they miss a crucial move.
The race started fairly fast with the usual flurry of attacks. Nothing stuck for the first hour and a half with every break that got a gap either having the wrong combination of teams and being chased down, or riders working poorly together.
With seven laps to go, I followed an attack over the top of the climb, acting upon team orders to try and be in every substantial move. Alas, this didn’t turn out to be substantial, and I found myself one of two riders up the road as the bunch looked at each other. In for a penny, in for a pound though. We kept at this fairly doomed mission, dodging the standing water in the road and hoping a larger group would bridge up. That wasn’t to be, and we were brought back with the gap only ever getting to 40 seconds, but many a photo opportunity being taken.
Finally, with just under 20km to go, a group of four went just past the top of the climb. We had two guys in it, accompanied by one each from Felbmayer and Vorarlberg. WSA not having many riders entered and Hrinkow being the only team to chase, the escape quickly gained a gap as we made a nuisance of ourselves behind the chase.
That break was to be the decisive one, eventually making it to the line with just under a minute on the riders behind. Meanwhile in the bunch, with around five kilometres left, I jumped on an attack to mark it and found myself in a group of three. With the knowledge we didn’t have enough time to catch those in front, there was no harm in me working and we quickly lost sight of the bunch.
We ended up holding off all but one rider from the bunch as the inevitable looking at each other occurred in the final kilometre
We ended up holding off all but one rider from the bunch as the inevitable looking at each other occurred in the final kilometre. With three riders in the top 10, it was a reasonably successful day out for the team, albeit even if the lack of the win did leave a slightly bitter taste [Ed: Mattie finished 8th].
It was then back to Innsbruck, my fingers slowly un-wrinkling as we drove, to rest up before heading south for the Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia (the name’s a bit of a mouthful – Giro del Friuli for short).
Featured image: Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com
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