There’s one really big race starting this weekend-- with all the grand tour contenders you can shake a stick at in attendance. Here’s the thing though-- unless you have a heart boner for sprinting and team time trials, that first week until the cobbles on Stage 9 is going to be pretty boring. And don’t tell me that Stages 5 and 6, which imitate the most derided and dull one day races on the calendar-- Liege and Fleche, are going to make it interesting. So, if you want to see some interesting bike racing over the next 8 days or if you are protesting the Tour based upon the latest Froome news, have I got an SSR for you! As an ignorant ‘merican, that race is the intriguingly-named International Ostrich Round Fart, aka the Tour of Austria!
Speaking of intriguing names, here’s a list of my top 5 favorite names out of the prior winners of the Tour of Austria:
5. Beat Zberg - everyone’s favorite beat-boxing, zombie cyborg!
4. Geir Digerud - Primoz Roglic ski-jumping factoid: would always carry a didgeridoo in his gear.
3. Franz Deutsch - can you get any more stereotypically German? Good friends with Juan Mexico.
2. Hans Furian - would make a great villain name in Die Hard 49: Die Furiously.
and the number 1 funny name……. Riccardo Ricco, aka Italian Ice (ok, maybe just an excuse to post this pic):
Who can join the pantheon of funnily-named winners this year? Take your pick: Hermann Pernsteiner, Huub Duijn, or Sven Burger would make worthy additions. One thing’s for certain, though. The winner will have to be a pretty good climber as this edition of the Ö contains a metric Huub of climbing with over 23,000 meters of altitude gain across 8 stages. Let’s take a look at those stages.
Shit Small Stage Preview
Stage 1: Feldkirch to Feldkirch (152.8 km) - A Maybe-Maybe Not Sprint
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 1 of the Tour: Stage 1 of the Tour is crepe-flat and has a categorized “mountain” that is 700 meters at 4.2%. Stage 1 of Austria has 4 circuits that includes the scratch n’ Schnifis climb of 1.7 km at 6.9% and the Schwarzer See climb of 1.8 km at 4.6 % and a quick descent to the finish. It’s not a difficult choice.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): “They also favored the development that made Feldkirch what it is today, a place where everyone can find their niche: cultural enthusiasts and hikers, transients and returning visitors….” Feldkirch: loved by cultural enthusiasts and railroad hobos alike!
Stage 2: Feldkirch to Fulpmes/Telfes (181.5 km) - Hilly
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 2 of the Tour: In Austria, the finale to the stage involves a 7.2 km, 4.3% gradient climb and then 5 kilometers of flat to the finish- a perfect stage for a strong sprinter, except all the sprinters are at the Tour. Without a Matthews or Sagan-type, look for a wide open stage. Meanwhile, the Tour has another category 4 mountain within the first 30 kilometers-- a chamois-wetting 1 kilometer at 3.9%. Unless you enjoy Phil Liggett’s monologues on French chateaus, this is an easy choice.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): “[T]he ice grotto Stubai Glacier provides exciting insights into the world of eternal ice.” For when your philately hobby gets your heart racing a little too much....
Stage 3: The Kitzbüheler Horn! (133.6 km) - Monoclimb summit finish
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 3 of the Tour: A proper alpine summit finish that was won by Superman Lopez last year vs. a team time trial. Sure, the TTT will have an effect on the outcome of the race, but it still doesn’t mean it will be any more exciting than insights into the world of eternal ice.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): “It is Kitzbühel to feel, to experience!” No one has ever had such passion about a TTT.
Stage 4: Kitzbühel to Pagraten (143 km) - Mountains
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 4 of the Tour: After a welcome break with the TTT at the Tour, it’s now back to business as usual in the first week with the Phil Liggett-on-chateaus lecture series and a chocolate-chip cookie flat stage. In Austria, it’s just another hideous mountain village and steep climb in the Alps.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): Sorry, too busy ogling this pic provided by the organizers to read any words:
Stage 5: Matrei to Grosssglockner (92.9 km) - summit finish
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 5 of the Tour: It doesn’t get any more Austrian than this, a summit finish on Austria’s highest mountain with three sequential s’s in its name, finishing at 2,403 meters, with the winner crowned the Glocknerkönig. A Tour stage that is slightly more interesting than average for the first week and has the profile of a typical Tour de Yorkshire stage is going to struggle to compete.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): If you win the Grosssglockner stage, you will become a Glocknerkönig. You win the stage more than once, you are a Mehrfachglocknerkönig. Somehow, you can also become a Glocknerkaiser. However, you will never have as cool as an alliterative name as the rider that has the fastest ascent time of the Grossglockner— Glocknerkönig Gerrit Glomser. And in case you were wondering, yes, Felix Grosschartner has conquered the Grossglockner.
Stage 6: Knittelfeld to Wenigzell (167.4 km) - Medium Mountains
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 6 of the Tour: This is a slightly-closer call, as Stage 6 of the Tour has the Mur de Bretagne. However, when it comes to the possibility of an all-out action packed stage, Austria definitely comes out ahead. Just make sure to switch over for the final 3 minutes of the stage in France.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): “Spiked with excellent inns and their regional specialties, award-winning restaurants, such as the inn for rats in rats and coffee houses, the region is perfect for combining culinary and natural enjoyment.” An inn for rats, built inside of rats was the most successful Austrian Kickstarter campaign ever.
Stage 7: Waidhofen/Ybbs to Sonntagberg (129.3 km) - Hilly
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 7 of the Tour: With another sprint stage at the Tour, Phil Liggett is now reading Airbnb reviews of chateaus to fill the air time. Meanwhile, Austria will have the riders doing multiple laps up the 3.7 kilometer, 9.2% average gradient Sonntagberg and finishing on the 5th ascent of the climb. Every time the Sonntagberg has been used, it has produced an exciting stage, with Brendan Canty winning solo in 2016 and Peter Kennaugh doing the same in 2014.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): “Since both young and old like to swing on the “bike”, the range of bikes in Lower Austria is particularly extensive....” The ten-year-old me is lmfao at this, as for some reason, “bike” was used as a euphemism for penis amongst the New Jersey elementary school set in the 1980s.
Stage 8: Scheibbs to Wels (163.2 km) - Finally, a sprint stage!
Why it’s going to be more interesting than Stage 8 of the Tour: Finally, the Tour wins, which seems only fair on Bastille Day. Both will have sprint stages, but the competition in Austria might be slightly-below the level of sprinters at the Tour- with Dan McLay and Marko Kump fighting for the spoils in Wels.
What the race organizers have to say (by way of the Google gnomes): “Without spicy sprints it tastes like nothing!... [T]here are sharp sprints in the stage destinations... such as the pepperoni mustard for sausages.” How didn’t Americans invent meat flavored condiments for meat first?
THE SHIT-SMALL CONTENDERS
Bah-Meh will be fielding a secretly-strong team. Hermann Pernsteiner recently took a win at GP Citta di Lugano. Giovanni Visconti looked great in the Italian natty champs. Kanstantsin Siutsou won the Tour of Croatia and is back racing after fracturing a vertebrae reconning the 1st stage of the Giro. That’s quite the impressive shit small race resume!
Team Ef’d have Hugh Carthy and Brendan Canty, either of whom could use a breakout win.
Alexey Lutsenko will be trying to lose the title of biggest FSA-DS disappointment after winning Oman and then doing absolutely nothing else this year,
Ben Hermans will also be trying to outride the curse of Oman, after he finished 1st last year and has been slightly disappointing since.
Louis Meintjes star has fallen rapidly, after being demoted from the Tour to Austria, and will hopefully use that demotion to hate-pedal his bike across Austria to victory.
Xandro Meurisse has a name worthy to add to the winner role in this race, and you wouldn’t blink if his name showed up in the top 10.
Since being demoted to the continental level, former winner of this race, Riccardo Zoidl, has been throwing his weight around in lesser races and just won Le Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc.
Javier Moreno has finished well here in the past and might have a little bit left in the tank and can slide into the top 10.
The reports of former Glocknerkönig Pieter Weening’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and he had a 6th place recently at the new Adriatica Ionica Race.
Last year’s winner, Stefan Denifl, may or may not be starting after suffering a concussion during a training crash.
Also, for some reason Wout Van Aert is here.
Shit Small Prediction
I would go with a Bah-Meh’er, but after seeing them get outwitted and outmuscled in a two-on-one situation by Viviani in a not-super-sprinter-friendly Italian nats course, I’ll go with Meintjes getting his groove back in Austria.
Shit Small Viewing
It looks like there will be a live stream on the organizer’s website, but have your VPN ready as I don’t know whether it will be geo-restricted.