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01-05-2023 | Ralph Ornelis

Neusiedler See Radmarathon, an unusual ride along the lake

I'll be honest: I had never been to Austria before. I left without expectations for the hosting town of Morbisch am See, which is about seventy kilometers from the capital Vienna. Morbisch is a city of less than 3,000 inhabitants which lies on the Neusiedler See, from which the gran fondo also takes its name.

Photo: with colleague Wouter (R)

As soon as I arrive, I head out for a recon after I will pick up my start number. This is all well taken care of and soon I start exploring the course. I will be riding both the time trial and the gran fondo; both share the same first kilometers. I know it goes straight up from the start, so being attentive will be key. After the recon, I have dinner with Wouter Fioole, my colleague at CycloWorld and go to bed early.

ITT first

Saturday afternoon my start time for the optional time trial is set at 15h12. The course is fairly simple to summarize: a two-kilometer climb right after the start, then a fast descent and a flat section. Five kilometers before the end there is another short climb of 1.5 km and then it's full speed to the finish.

I start in good spirits. The climb goes smoothly and the descent also goes without any problems. The flat part is different. With my 1m72 and 63 kg it turns out to be tough to fight against strong gusts of wind for twenty kilometers on the flat. Soon the heavier men catch up to me and ride away from me smoothly. I then quickly decide to make it a regular training ride and come in safely. A 52nd place is the verdict. On to tomorrow's race!

Sunday gran fondo day

Sunday's race starts at 9:00 am. 1600 enthusiasts are eager to race. Wouter and I start to warm up beforehand and twenty minutes before the start we go to our starting box to get the best possible position. Three, two, one and start! Off we go. Left, then two right and then left again. I immediately shift down a bit because there is now a 300 meter stretch at 10%. But you have to work hard right away if you want to keep up. This works out well! I am with the leading group and I can keep up. In the descent I just managed to avoid a crash and I thought I would be okay. Nothing is less true. A little later there is a crash just in front of me and this time I can't avoid it. I go over the top and end up in the gravel. I quickly get back up, jump on my bike and ride the road again. Scrapes aren't going to stop me from finishing. After about ten minutes I have recovered a bit and am able to follow a group. Together we ride the flat 80 km stretch until the next climb. We really need the group to come in at a decent time. Piece by piece we overtake groups. My second race hour is covered at 44km/h, so then you know it's going fast.

No food

I do have a problem, however. Due to my crash, I lost my supply of bananas and I have only eaten an energy bar for the past two hours. But stopping is not an option because I don't want to let the little group go. After 105 km we arrive at the second climb of the day. I'm feeling empty and have to let the group go. The last 17 km I ride on character. At one point I meet Gerda Hoogerland (the wife of) who gives me another encouragement but I can't follow her anymore. The tank was empty. Exhausted, battered but satisfied I arrive in Mörbisch. I still arrive in a decent time. After the ride I hand in my chip and get a coupon for a drink. That tastes great!

Overall, it was a successful weekend. Other than my crash, everything went nicely. The organization was top, there was more than enough attention to the dangerous points on the course. Everything was clearly briefed beforehand including pictures. I will definitely come back, but preferably without any falls. Auf wiedersehen, Morbisch am See!

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